In an e-mail sent March 3, 2007, titled "City Attempts to Silence BattleCry!" the promoters of Teen Mania's "BattleCry" campaign continued to put forward the recurring theme that San Francisco was somehow "silencing" the gathering by prohibiting the use of amplified music before 10 A.M. on Saturday. This theme was picked up by the website of KFAX, a Christian radio station based in San Francisco, repeating in a headline that "San Francisco attempts to silence BattleCry." The article which appeared on both the KFAX and "BattleCry" websites attacked the city for passing a novel "last minute noise ordinance" that would somehow single them out, and that would only apply to the "BattleCry" event.

While this story might have made for a great urban legend of alleged domestic Christian persecution, it was easily disproven with a few phone calls. Contrary to these claims that can be attributed to Teen Mania and its head, Ron Luce, no such "ordinance" was passed by city government. Nor has Teen Mania's "BattleCry" event been singled out for special treatment or censure. Nor did this decision rest with the city's Board of Supervisors.

The roots of this sound restriction lie in the effect the March 2006 "BattleCry" event had on nearby neighborhoods, when noise complaints were received by the city and police as a result of the event's start in the early hours of Saturday morning. In the process of granting a loudspeaker permit to AT&T Park for this year's event, these complaints were considered - including a specific recommendation from the San Francisco Police Department - and resulted in the permit being granted with the stipulation of a 10 A.M. start time for amplified music, representing, as one city official put it, "two hours over the span of 20 hours of use."

The restriction was only specific to "BattleCry" in that it was part of the required permit specific to the event, and that no other group has ever attempted to use sound equipment in the stadium early on a Saturday morning. City and AT&T Park officials confirmed that any group expecting to use amplified sound in the stadium before 10 A.M., after the complaints received in 2006, would encounter the same restrictions if they were to apply for a permit.

Ron Luce claimed, in a statement posted on both the "BattleCry" and KFAX websites, "The city of San Francisco has imposed a last minute noise ordinance restricting any use of our sound system until 10 AM... This ordinance is directed specifically at our teenagers and our event this weekend." An "Action Sheet" on the BattleCry website issued by Teen Mania alleged that the restriction was due to an "action taken by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors."

An e-mail sent by Teen Mania to registered "BattleCry" participants on March 5 leveled even more serious charges, of governmental interference with religious expression:

Over the past couple of weeks the BattleCry event has come under mass opposition from the local government of San Francisco, WE NEED YOUR HELP. Today we have over 22,000 young people registered to attend the event and experience life-change through the powerful ministry that will take place. Unfortunately, there are many who don't want that ministry to happen.

A completely different picture emerged after a few phone calls to AT&T Park and to the City's Entertainment Commission.

According to Jocelyn Kane, Deputy Director of the Entertainment Commission, when an event, other than a baseball game, that involves sound equipment is planned for AT&T Park, an application must be made to the Commission. According to the meeting minutes, AT&T Park applied on behalf of Teen Mania on February 8, and at the February 20 meeting the application was discussed and approved, with the restriction that no amplified music could be played on Saturday morning before 10 A.M.

The minutes of the meeting show that Sarah Hunt, the director of event production for AT&T Park, "advised them [Teen Mania] to start any musical component after 10:00 A.M. due to complaints last year." When contacted by for clarification, Ms. Hunt confirmed that the issue of noise complaints from surrounding neighborhoods the previous year had been the subject of discussions between AT&T Park and "BattleCry" organizers before the permit application was submitted to the Entertainment Commission, and that she had recommended that amplified music not be used before 10 A.M. on Saturday.

According to Ms. Kane, the Commission received a specific recommendation from the San Francisco Police Department that amplified music not be used before 10 A.M. because of last year's complaints from residents in the Dog Patch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods near the stadium. Acting on that police recommendation, direct complaints from residents to the City and the testimony of Ms. Hunt from AT&T Park, the Commission approved the loudspeaker permit for the "BattleCry" 2007 event with the restriction that no amplified music be used before 10 A.M.

Both Ms. Kane with the Commission and Ms. Hunt at AT&T Park confirmed that, to their knowledge, no other group had ever attempted to use sound equipment at the Park before 10 A.M., and that, given the city's experiences with the 2006 "BattleCry" event, any group seeking to use the stadium early on a Saturday morning would encounter similar restrictions. Ms. Kane also confirmed that only the Entertainment Commission, and not the Board of Supervisors, was involved in the process of granting the permit.

Despite the clear rationale for the sound restriction after the City's experiences with last years' "BattleCry" event, Teen Mania continued to exploit the situation in an apparent effort to demonize the city and to cast its organization as a victim of "spite" and "intimidation." In the "Action Sheet" on the "BattleCry" website this letter was offered, pre-written, ready to be signed and sent to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, all of whom had no direct involvement with this decision:

I want to respectfully express my concern for the action taken by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in unfairly singling out and menacing the peaceful gathering of Christian youth and parents.

The spiteful action of the Board is in reality a subtle jab at one of the core values of our nation. But a free people must not be quiet. They can turn off our mics, unplug our amps, and try to shout us down, but we will not be silent!

Ours is a message of love, of hope, of acceptance and redemption. It's a message for the youth of today, and a message for anyone who is being lied to, exploited and used. You can be certain that this message will be heard. And the action of the Board will be remembered as an ineffective act of intimidation one step removed from prohibiting our Constitutional right to free speech.

Teen Mania was certainly hurling an enormous amount of invective at a city in which they are guests from out of town. And as for Ron Luce's insistence on myth-making about San Francisco, demonizing its people and its government, perhaps it's time he read what he wrote in his own book about integrity, and consider that it applies even when you're dealing with people, cities and even whole countries that don't happen to agree with you.

... we identified five core values: Faith, Relationships, Vision, Excellence, and Integrity... Core values say, "We value this behavior so much that we will abide by these things, no matter what." ...You make an agreement that if someone goes against your core values, anyone can call him or her on it. You should even give them permission to call you on it, if they think you're in violation. (I've done just that here at Teen Mania. Any intern can confront me, or any member of the staff, if they think we're not living up to the code.)

Posted 2007-03-09
Updated 2007-12-20