For anyone gearing up to deliver a speech to an audience, there’s always a chance they’re going to be rudely interrupted by someone’s mobile device going off. Ever since phones landed in the hands of the masses, there’ve been stories of theater actors pausing mid-performance to have a go at someone whose phone started sounding at a crucial moment of the proceedings.
With this in mind, it may not come as too much of a surprise to learn that priests, too, have been having a hard time of it while delivering sermons in their churches.
One such man of the cloth, Father Michele Madonna, became so incensed by phones going off during services at his church in Naples, Italy that he ended up installing a jamming device to shut them up.
The priest told the Daily Mail that at first he put up posters asking people to turn off their phones, but when the buzzing and jingles continued – even during some funerals – he bought a $60 jamming device and installed it after local police gave him the go ahead.
“What really annoyed me is that when it first started people would switch off their phones in embarrassment; now they are cupping their hands over the receiver and carrying on talking,” Father Madonna said.
Although the services are a lot quieter these days, the priest’s actions have inadvertently caused problems for other members of the community.
According to the Mail, some local stores are complaining that the jammer is so powerful that it’s affecting the operation of their card payment machines, preventing transactions.
One irate retailer said, “Since Father Madonna started using the jammer, I’ve had real problems using my card swiper for payments. It just doesn’t work and I’m losing money. Others are in the same position – I understand how he feels but what about us? This is our busiest time of the year.”
It’s not clear if Father Madonna will remove the device and once again put up with having his services interrupted by noisy cell phones, or continue using it in the face of objections from local businesses.
While such jammers are relatively easy to get hold of in the U.S., their use is actually prohibited.
Once incident earlier this year saw the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) slap a Florida man with a $48,000 fine for using such a device. Jason Humphreys reportedly spent two years driving to and from work with a jammer in his car to prevent commuters from using their phone behind the wheel.
The FCC at the time described the use of jammers as “generally unlawful,” explaining that the device “can endanger life and property by preventing individuals from making 911 or other emergency calls or disrupting communications essential to aviation and marine safety.”