Neighbors sue US pastor and church for unbearable noise

(Rehoboth United Assemblies website)

Rehoboth United Assemblies poster.

Neighbors of a Pentecostal Church in Columbia, the capital of U.S. state of South Carolina, are suing the pastor after a three-year dispute about noise that resulted in the minister spending a short spell in jail.

The row between Rehoboth United Assemblies and its neighbors led to the brief time in jail for the pastor being followed by a civil lawsuit.

Three years ago, a couple moved into a house that's just 10 feet (2.5 meters) away from the Rehoboth church.

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Tim Ellis and his partner Sheri Callahan soon found that the church services were so loud their house shook with the amplified shouting and singing.

Complainants told WLTX 19 News on September 24 that what used to be a quiet place to live in became noisy and that really bothered them.

"I have to sometimes make phone calls inside of our walk-in closet in the bedroom because it's that loud," Callahan revealed.

"We'd go away on Sundays, we'd go away on Wednesdays and then all of a sudden services were on Tuesdays and Thursdays," she added.

The couple has their civil suit against Rehoboth United Assemblies, Pastor Johnnie Clark and his wife, and Hallmark Homes International, the company that built their home.

They say that they tried everything before pursuing legal action.

The couple said that they were even willing to pay half of the soundproofing expense of the church.

Aside from the noise, signed affidavits by the couple also include complaints on trespassing, trash thrown on their property, and tense verbal arguments from church members.

"This is not about the content of what they're doing, this is not about their religion, this is not about how they choose to worship; it's truly about the noise that comes into our home," Callahan said.

South Carolina newspaper The State said that Pastor Clark was released from jail after serving 11 days at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. He was taken into custody on September 11.

"He has thumbed his nose at us, at the mayor and at the city," Ellis said. "I think the judge thought he had to bring the hammer down."

About 30 years ago, the Pentecostal church purchased what had been a Baptist church on Laurel Street. Clark has led the congregation since 1996.

The church is working to soundproof the windows and walls with the help of a pastor in Maryland, WLTX reported.

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