The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota has a noise control ordinance that prohibits the “playing of any electronic device used for the amplification of sound… which measures five (5) dB(A) or more above ambient levels on adjacent properties…” Which is a fancy way of saying you can’t be too loud in public spaces.
There are exceptions to the rule, though. You can obtain a permit, for example, if you’re throwing a block party or some other one-off event.
And yet last week, the Dar al-Hijrah mosque received permission to blast an adhan — a call to prayer — five times a day during the month of Ramadan, which ends May 23. (Those prayers begin before 5:00a, as one resident found out the hard way.) An imam allegedly made the request to discourage Muslims from coming to the mosque in person.
That seems like a clear-cut violation of the ordinance, which is why the Freedom From Religion Foundation has written a letter to Mayor Jacob Frey warning him against this blatant violation of church/state separation.
While FFRF certainly supports the city’s desire to provide comfort for Minneapolis’ Muslim community during this time of crisis, the exemption from the city’s noise control ordinance impermissibly favors Islam over all other religions. Allowing one religious group to blast its religious message very early in the morning onward violates Minneapolis’ noise ordinance, which is a reasonable restriction meant to foster a peaceful, quiet community with a well-rested population, FFRF emphasizes.
Many religious groups would likely relish the opportunity to broadcast their religious message onto the public at large. By allowing Muslim worshippers this privilege, while denying it to all others, the city is unconstitutionally favoring one religion, FFRF concludes.
Keep in mind that if the goal is discouraging people from worshiping in person, there are other ways to accomplish that: Put a sign on the door, or send out an email, or just lock the place up. You don’t need to blast a loud prayer. There’s no reason one religious group should be allowed to disturb the peace with the help of the government.
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