Can You Quiet a Religious Ceremony?

(WSVN) - Voodoo is a religion celebrated in South Florida, but it can also be noisy when it’s occurring in your neighbor’s backyard. Can you ask them to keep their religious ceremony quiet? That’s why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Voodoo is a religion that originated in Africa is common in Haiti and celebrated in South Florida.

Earl Hinds, Noisy Voodoo Celebration: “And I respect their religion, but still, they have to respect the neighbors and the neighborhood.”

Earl Hinds has become familiar with voodoo in his North Miami Beach neighborhood. A place he grew up in.

Earl Hinds: “I know everyone in this neighborhood, and it’s a very calm, quiet community.”

Then a few years ago, Earl got a new neighbor who practices voodoo.

Earl Hinds: “Freedom of religion, do whatever you like.”

The religion was fine with Earl.

The noise was not.

Earl Hinds: “They are beating drums. They are chanting. They are singing, and it’s a constant, ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,’ and it’s beating and beating nonstop, nonstop.”

Several times over the years, they come to a voodoo celebration at his neighbor’s, filling the house and the backyard.

Earl Hinds: “The parking situation is, they’re blocking your driveway, so you can’t even pull into your driveway.”

When the voodoo ceremony ends, Earl says he has to clean up what’s left behind.

Earl Hinds: “Bottles, glass, broken bottles, cans, and they were leaving it by the vehicles after they drove off.”

Typical trash, and then a few things that aren’t so common on his street.

Earl Hinds: “Pentagrams with eggs and chickens in the middle of the street.”

Earl has called the police a few times about the ceremony going on in the backyard, asking for peace and quiet at 1, 2 in the morning.

Earl Hinds: “If it’s a noise ordinance, you are breaking the law after 11 o’clock.”

Well Howard, because it’s a religious ceremony, can the followers be told to tone it down?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The law gives religions enormous rights, but there are limits. The followers of voodoo can celebrate loudly, but not after 11 o’clock or before 7 in the morning in a residential neighborhood. They also cannot block driveways or litter because the law says that does not have anything to do with a religious ceremony.”

We spoke to North Miami Beach Police, and they went to talk to the homeowner about the neighbors concerns.

That appears to have worked.

The owner of the house where the voodoo celebrations take place told us she has what they call “spiritual parties where people come to pray, enjoy and praise the spirit. Just people having a good time.”

She said after talking to the cops, she will now only have parties in the daytime and try to keep the drums to a minimum. She may even see if she can rent space for parking somewhere else.

She also told us she did not sacrifice any chickens and doesn’t know who did that.

Earl Hinds: “And 11 to 7, knock it off. That’s all I’m asking.”

Earl is now happy that his neighbors say they’ll celebrate legally.

Earl Hinds: “I don’t want them to stop. Just respect the noise ordinance and just turn it down.”

What would happen if a religion required something a government prohibited? In most cases, the government would win, but not in every case, which is why a court would have to settle it. When it comes to religions, the courts and the government have to be careful.

Feel like you have no prayer of solving a problem? Still religiously seeking a solution? Park it with us and see if we can leave you celebrating.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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