A church in London says its ability to praise God has been taken away after the local council subjected it to noise restrictions following a complaint from a Muslim neighbour.
Immanuel International Christian Centre has seen congregation numbers dwindle from 100 to 30 since the restrictions on amplified music and sermons were enforced.
On Tuesday the church lost a court appeal to lift the noise ban imposed after a complaint from Baha Uddin who lives nearby.
Mr Uddin claims that noise from the church prevented him from using his garden at weekends and disturbed his one-year-old daughter.
He said: “It’s been a nightmare. I’ve not been able to use my garden or living room on a Sunday because of the church services.
“The amplified music, drums and the loud sermons made having a conversation impossible.
“The noise made me depressed”, he added.
Waltham Forest Magistrates Court ordered the church to pay £2,250 costs and it is only allowed to play music for 20 minutes on Sundays between 11.30am and 11.50am.
Other neighbours say the noise is not a problem, but church leaders claim that a council official told them “this is a Muslim borough, you have to tread carefully”.
The church secretary said that the church spent £10,000 on sound-reducing when it moved into its current premises in 2007.
Mr Ade Ajike said: “After moving in we invited Environmental Officers to visit the premises and we got the OK. We also visited neighbours and took them potted plants, and had no problem until the occupant made his official complaint in August 2008.
Mr Ajike says a council Environmental health enforcement officer informed the church pastor that “the church had to keep the noise down so as not to offend the Muslims living in the area”.
He added: “He told us ‘this is a Muslim borough, you have to tread carefully’.”
The church responded by reducing the duration of Sunday services and restricting the playing of music to 45 minutes. Mid-week services are held without music and Sunday evening services reduced to one per month.
Church premises are no longer hired out for events in case noise would aggravate Mr Uddin, a move which has cost the church additional revenue.
However, the Council issued a Noise Abatement Notice in May. The church lost the appeal hearing which took place on 5 and 6 October.
The church is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC).
CLC Director Andrea Minichiello Williams said: “Worship in a Church is to be expected. The Environmental Health Officers do not seem to have taken this fact into account.”
Representing the church at the appeal hearing, solicitor Paul Diamond said: “There is something ugly in this case.”
The Council denies any religious motive behind the restrictions.
A spokesman said: “‘All attempts at mediation have failed and we regrettably were forced to issue the church with a noise abatement notice.”
Mr Ajike said: “Has the council considered our need – the need to worship?
“The noise abatement notice is unreasonable and takes away the ability for us to praise God.”