It's probabaly happened to every church these days. Everyone's bowed in prayer or listening to announcements and suddenly an electronic version of the William Tell Overture begins. Some churches are fighting back:
It was the reporters who noticed first. Unable to call their editors while covering the weddings of the rich and famous, they asked the priest why their cell phones never worked at Sacred Heart. His reply: Israeli counterintelligence.
In four Monterrey churches, Israeli-made cell phone jammers the size of paperbacks have been tucked unobtrusively among paintings of the Madonna and statues of the saints.
The jarring polychromatic din of ringing cell phones is increasingly being thwarted — from religious sanctuaries to India's parliament to Tokyo theaters and commuter trains — by devices originally developed to help security forces avert eavesdropping and thwart phone-triggered bombings.
Well, no pictures of the Madonna (or even Madonna) or saints (although we had several dozen actual saints in attendance yesterday) but we could probably find somewhere to hide one of those. Of course, we won't be getting one any time soon:
Purchased for about $2,000 each, they can be turned on by remote control and emit low-level radio frequencies that thwart cell phone signals within a 100-foot radius.
Users get a "no service" or "signal not available" message on their cell phones.
Although Mexico has no law against the devices, the private use of cell phone blockers is illegal in the United States and most Western countries.
But the tide is turning.
Japan allows public places such as theaters and concert halls to install jammers, provided they obtain a government-issued license. And last week, France's industry minister approved a decision to let cinemas, concert halls and theaters install them — as long as provisions are in place so emergency calls can still be made.
Canada had considered allowing blocking in similar situations. But Industry Canada, which regulates the country's telecommunications, decided against it, saying the devices could infringe on personal freedom and affect public safety by crippling communication with law enforcement and security agencies.
Oh well. Maybe one of these days.