Two weeks ago I visited the local police department. I wanted to know what my rights are in dealing with a local church whose members continue to knock on our door despite repeated (and increasingly rude) requests to leave our property and stay away. On the last visit one of the men even had the nerve to say, “We know we have it listed in our book not to visit you but…” That was as far as he got before my husband blasted him and then had the wherewithal to take photos of him, his partner and their vehicle.
My question to the sympathetic receptionist at the police station was how I can legally stop them from harassing us. I was disappointed to learn that trespass notices can only be issued to individuals, not a whole group. This church is smart in that they never send the same people so even if we issue a notice to one a different person will show up the next time.
So why am I angry about this?
I am a political person. I love discussions and debates about most things political. And I’m a great believer in democracy which means I believe we have to discuss and debate issues to ensure our input through voting is informed. It’s not always an easy system to support. We are all happy when lawmakers and the laws they pass are in line with our personal beliefs but what if they’re not?
For me, the best laws allow differing personal beliefs to coincide side by side. I may not belong to the trespassing church’s congregation but I believe they have every right to meet and celebrate their beliefs.
What makes me angry about the trespassing church members is 1) they come uninvited to my home/invade my personal privacy, and 2) they continue to do so after repeated requests to stay away.
There is another local church whose members stand on the Main Street for five minutes in the middle of the day, reading aloud quotes from the Bible. And they have every right to do so. By choice people can stop to listen or continue to walk on past. Expressing your political or religious beliefs in public is a fundamental right in any democracy.
Many groups are pushing the privacy boundaries. On principle I hang up on anyone ringing me at home to solicit funds for their organisation, complete a survey or to use whatever service their business is providing. My right to privacy is important to me. I prefer to donate to causes I support by making a donation or buying raffle tickets when they’re set up in town at public venues. In that setting I choose if and when I want to support their cause or organisation.
Where does that leave me with the local church group? I’m going to put a “No Trespass” notice at our gate, I have a stack of trespass notices to hand out to anyone who ignores it, and I will be taking photos and recording their names to turn in to the local police.
I’m glad I live in a democracy where I have the right to disagree with others.