African Governments to Churches: Quiet Down or Pay Up
Update (Mar. 4): New noise regulations in Kigali will punish loud preaching on public buses and street corners with fines, reports East African Business Week.
The central business district of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is also having trouble with noise from churches that meet in office buildings during the work day.
Government officials in Rwanda and Uganda are cracking down on noise pollution, telling church leaders that they must reduce worship-related noise levels or face penalties–including the risk of being shut down.
Noise pollution penalties in Kigali, the East African nation's capital, apply not only to churches, but also to nightclubs and other venues. But mayor Fidele Ndayisaba said the city lately has received "overwhelming complaints" of "deafening noise from churches."
Rwanda is not the only African country to enforce noise pollution penalties against churches. Uganda's capital city Kampala recently drafted legislation to reduce noise levels in the city, prompting churches to protest the new restrictions. Other churches are pursuing measures, such as sound proofing their buildings, in order to comply.
In Namibia, a hotel owner in Khorixas recently filed a complaint alleging that noise from a nearby Pentecostal church has caused a drop in tourism, forcing the owner to lay off hotel staff.
"The Bible is clear in Psalm 150 that we must praise the Lord with loud music and just because Oosthuizen is losing clients, must our religious ways of doing things be restricted?" responded one local Pentecostal pastor.
Similarly, some Rwandan church leaders say they are being unfairly targeted. But others support the regulation: After all, Ezekiel Mpyisi of Kigali English Adventist Church says, "God is not deaf."
"I am quite sure that even God would not be pleased when church activities disrupt other people's wellbeing," he said.