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Pastor of Black Church Sent to Jail Because His Church Praises God Way Too Loud

While it sounds like far-right scaremongering, this time it is real.

A South Carolina pastor has been sentenced to two weeks behind bars because he and his parishioners were simply praising God (really loud).

It all started back in 2012, when the church’s neighbors started filing complaints about the noise.

Tim Ellis and Sherri Callahan live right next to the church and made it clear that God would be fine with them fussing about the noise at the predominately African American church.

“I am fine with how they choose to praise; God is absolutely fine with me,” Sherri said, back in 2012 saying it is the noise not the sentiment that bugged her.

She also said this is not a matter of their faith.

“This is not a religion issue, it is truly, we want the noise to stop and there is an ordinance that requires them to do that.”

Pastor Johnnie Clark said when the complaints started rolling in, he immediately felt like the folks next door needed to practice loving their neighbors a little more and stop trying to bother them.

“I feel that this is harassment now, they feel like they can do what they want to do, say what they want to say,” he told the news.

Since then, over 50 complaints about the noise have been filed by the neighbors culminating in at three-day trial of the pastor for the noise violations in Columbia.

In the end, Clark was ordered to pay the accumulated fines as well as serve two-weeks in jail.

“I can’t believe it, jail time, for serving God, what’s next,” Harriet Clark, the pastor’s wife said.

While the pastor is away and locked up, his wife will lead the services.

In the long-run, though, the church is facing a dilemma especially since the law is so vague on what a ‘noise nuisance’ is and they can’t afford to soundproof the building.

“It’s up to the neighbors to say if its irritating to them or a nuisance to them,” Thomas Borders, who has been praising God loudly at the church for 20 years, said. “Well, you can get a weed eater and go outside and if someone complains nothing will be done, but when it comes to worshiping God its now a problem.”

Photo Credit: Police File Photo

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.

  • blkgurl

    Just sad that blk people can’t go to church and praise God loudly without being sent to jail.

  • Cathryn Sykes

    I think I’d have to take a listen before I decided which side to support. How loud is the noise? How early in the morning does it start? How long does it last? Can someone donate some insulation to this church? So the noise problem is solved and everyone is happy? And yes, I’d feel the same way if it was an Anglican church or a mosque or a Jewish temple or just a bunch of people getting together to sing anything!

    • Tamar Auber

      Actually, I like the way you are thinking. If it was re-framed as a community issue and the community got together to work on a solution (rather than blame), then a fundraiser to have the church soundproofed seems like a reasonable solution for everyone that would value both sides of the issue.