South Carolina pastors, take heed: Praising the Lord to your fullest capabilities might gain you favor in heaven, but it probably won't on Earth.
According to WLTX, Pastor Johnnie Clark of the Rehoboth United Assemblies Church in Columbia, S.C., was sentenced to two weeks in jail following a ruling over a long-standing dispute between neighbors and the church about the noise coming from the house of worship.
Neighbors have long complained about the loud services, which they claimed violated the city's noise ordinance, WLTX notes. This week the almost-two-year-old clash came to an end after Clark was found guilty of unlawful sound amplification and sentenced.
"I can't believe it—jail time for serving God. What's next?" Harriet Clark, the pastor's wife and the church's co-pastor, told WLTX.
According to the report, law-enforcement officials have been sent to the church more than 50 times because of the noise. Neighbors complained about the musical instruments and equipment that could be heard late in the evening and early in the morning.
A June injunction forbade the church from using equipment like drums or microphones between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., but the church reportedly ignored the warnings.
"They are trying to tell us how not to worship," Harriet Clark said. "We have church at 7:30, so what does that mean? We only have 30 minutes to worship?"
Rehoboth United had reportedly paid several fines for the repeated violations, but now, on top of the income lost, they have to do without their pastor for two weeks. According to WLTX, for the first time in 30 years, Harriet Clark had service without her husband.
According to WLTX, some worshippers are outraged and believe that their rights have been violated because they are unable to worship as they like. The news station notes that the church has owned the property it's on for years, but some think it is being unjustly punished because of how close it is to its neighbors. The ultimate solution may be a costly one.
"Everyone is just praying that this will be settled, but the only way I know is to go through a lot of expenses to soundproof the church," Harriet Clark said.
Read more at USA Today.