Bedeviled by jangling cellphones, a Roman Catholic priest in Naples, Italy, has decided to exorcise the electronic interference in high-tech style: he's installed a cell signal jammer, according to London's Daily Express.
The Rev. Michele Madonna, who is parish priest at Santa Maria di Montesanto Church in Naples, Italy, explained earlier measures, such as gentle requests, went unanswered by his congregants.
"I had put signs up asking people to switch off their phones after having services disrupted," Madonna told the Daily Express. "Phones were always going off during Mass and at other events like funerals which just wasn't on."
A $63 electronic phone jammer was apparently the answer to Madonna's prayers, the news story reported.
"I bought the jammer from a local electrical store and asked the police if it was OK and they said it was — it's great, as it has stopped the problem, but some of the local shops aren't happy," Madonna said.
The reason adjacent merchants were less enthused, reports indicated, was that the cellphone jammer is also blocking credit card authorization devices. The church, it turns out, "is located in the heart of the so-called 'Pignasecca,' the downtown area of Naples, (which is) full of shops," Italy's Quotidiano news service reported.
One merchant, quoted in Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper, 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."
While the priest said he has police approval, Quotidiano said Italy's economic development ministry is actually the body charged with granting permission. One complicating issue might be "the right of the citizen" to communicate.
And for those hoping to deploy Madonna's method in the United States, there's no benediction for jammers here. The Federal Communications Commission, which patrols the nation's airwaves, said, "Federal law prohibits the marketing, sale, or use of a transmitter (e.g., a jammer) designed to block, jam, or interfere with wireless communications." Among other things, the devices can block emergency frequencies and endanger public safety.
In April, a Seffner, Florida, man found out the hard way that the FCC means what it says. According to the Tampa Bay Tribune, Jason R. Humphrey used a jammer on his daily commute to prevent other motorists from using their cellphones while driving. Working with Hillsborough County Sheriffs deputies, the feds confiscated the device and proposed a $48,000 fine for the man.
You may also be interested in the following stories: