Street preacher succeeds in his suit against noise ordinance

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Hampsmire v. City of Santa Cruz(ND CA, Sept. 28, 2012), a California federal district court, in a suit by a Christian street preacher, struck down as void for vagueness the city of Santa Cruz’s noise ordinance which provides:

No person shall make, cause, suffer or permit to be made any noises or sounds (a) which are unreasonably disturbing or physically annoying to people of ordinary sensitiveness or which are so harsh or so prolonged or unnatural or unusual in their use, time or place as to cause physical discomfort to any person, and (b) which are not necessary in connection with an activity which is otherwise lawfully conducted.

The court said, in enjoining enforcement of the ordinance in its present form, said: “While the prohibition on ‘unreasonably disturbing’ noises establishes an objective standard, the ‘necessary’ exemption is not similarly tethered to any identifiable criteria.”