2012-08-29 / Front Page

The Bells of Nelsonville

Religious freedom at issue, pastor says
By Catherine Garnsey & Douglas Cunningham

The Church on the Hill is ready to defend itself against complaints that the chimes at the historic landmark church should be silenced, Pastor Tim Greco says, calling it a matter of religious freedom.

The issue, a perennial topic for some months, came up again at last week’s Nelsonville Village Board meeting. Cold Spring resident Anita Desai, who resides on Parsonage Street, spoke with board members about her concerns with the chimes at the Church on the Hill.

She accused Greco of increasing the volume of the chimes at the church, near her home but located in Nelsonville. She also was upset that the chimes sounded “every hour on the hour” and stated “no other church does this.”

Desai has had a long-running dialogue with the pastor, Rev. Greco, over the church sign as well as the chimes, and has in the past successfully petitioned the board to have the sign removed.

Greco said the volume has, in fact, been lowered, and that the chimes sound only from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Greco stated that since he has become that pastor, he has put up with a “barrage of telephone calls from Mrs. Desai,” as well as many letters to him over the past few years over various complaints regarding the church. But recently, Desai’s letters have become “increasingly insulting.” De- sai wrote in one letter about the messages on the sign that they were “an insult to human intelligence.”

Greco said: “We believe in living in peace as much as possible, but this is beyond the pale. This whole matter is becoming more and more about staunching our religious freedoms and our right to exist as a church.”

Desai is requesting the board test the decibel level of the chimes and said, in part, “visitors come to Cold Spring for its vaunted peace and quiet…”

Greco said, “We have turned down the volume of the chimes. After her last letter, we even moved up the time when they are played from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. as she requested. I truly believe the chimes are not the issue at all with her, it is the fact that we even exist, which is the heart of the matter, and I consider it religious bigotry and I take the matter very seriously.”

Greco feels it is his duty to defend the Church: “We will not be bullied and we will do whatever is within our legal right, to defend our constitutional right to practice our religion as we please.”

Greco stated the church will “continue to pray for Mrs. Desai and be kind to her, but I personally feel she is crossing the line.”

Trustee Ande Merante asked that the letters be entered into the record and afterward said, he had no comment.

Mayor Tom Corless said the issue of jurisdiction is complicated, but he will consult with the building inspectors of both Cold Spring and Nelsonville.

The Church on the Hill is the oldest church building in Philipstown, and has been in use continually since its 1832 construction.

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