Religion Out Loud
Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
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It turns out that when you write a book about noise, everyone has a story for you. Over the several years that I worked on this project, I gathered anec-dotes from what seemed like nearly everyone I met. At conferences and wed-dings, reunions and dinner parties, family gatherings and children’s birthday celebrations, I listened as old friends and new acquaintances told me about ...
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It should have been a mere formality. In 2006, Steve Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America, planned to convert an existing office building in Warren, Michigan, into a mosque and education center, but he first had to obtain a variance from the city’s zoning board of appeals. What should have been a relatively straightforward process dragged on for ...
PART I: THE SOUNDS OF POWER
1. From Sacred Noise to Public Nuisance
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The gods were probably the first to complain about human noise. “The land had grown numerous,” we read in the ancient Akkadian epic poem Atraha-sis, “the peoples had increased, / The land was bellowing like a bull. / The god was disturbed by their uproar. / He said to the great gods, / ‘The clamor of mankind has become burdensome to me, / I am losing sleep for their uproar. ...
2. Church Bells in the Industrial City
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Philadelphians inaugurated America’s centennial year of 1876 with noise. On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1875, they rang bells, blew whistles, lit fire-crackers, and played musical instruments in the streets. One visitor to the city described the celebration as the “most extraordinary noise ever heard.” On May 10, 1876, every bell in the city rang again to signal the opening of the ...
PART II: THE SOUNDS OF DISSENT
3. A New Regulatory Regime
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For years, Beaufort’s business owners and residents had not been able to do anything about the noise. A picturesque town located on South Carolina’s coast, Beaufort boasted a revitalized downtown that featured boutique shops, antique stores, art galleries, and ice cream parlors. The city had become a popular destination for tourists and retirees alike. But there was one prob-...
4. Sound Car Religion and the Right to Be Left Alone
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On four consecutive Sunday afternoons in September 1946, Samuel Saia parked his 1935 Studebaker at the edge of a public park in Lockport, New York, affixed electro-acoustic loudspeakers to its roof, and broadcast ser-mons espousing the truth of God’s word to unsuspecting picnickers. A Jeho-vah’s Witness, Saia had been using his “sound car” in this way for well over a ...
PART III: THE SOUNDS OF DIFFERENCE
5. A New Constitutional World and the Illusory Ideal of Neutrality
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The Supreme Court’s decision in Saia v. New York, along with the other Jeho-vah’s Witness cases of the 1930s and 1940s, ushered in a new constitutional world. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, noise had pri-marily been regulated as a public or private nuisance. Complainants had to demonstrate that an offending sound interfered materially with their reason-...
6. Calling Muslims—and Christians—to Pray
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Caroline Zaworski was upset. “Muslims are allowed to pray in their mosque,” this eighty-one-year-old, Polish Catholic lifetime resident of Hamtramck, Michigan, declared at a contentious city council meeting in April 2004. “They are allowed to pray in their mosque, they can have their [call to prayer] in their mosque, . . . that’s their right. But why is the loudspeaker so important? ...
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The Grand Rabbi Meshulam Feish Segal-Loewy, known to his followers as the Tasher Rebbe, leads one of the largest sects of Hassidic Judaism in the world. Born in Hungary in 1921, he immigrated to Montreal at the age of thirty, after having survived the Holocaust. There, he reconstituted his community, even-tually moving with them to the suburban municipality of Boisbriand, eigh-...
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About the Author
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Isaac Weiner is Assistant Professor of Religion and Culture in the Depart-...
Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013