Arrested For Holding a Bible Study
Michael Salman holds weekly Bible studies at his home, which is nothing unusual to many of us, has had the book thrown at him over holding religious gatherings at his home.According to Freedom Post, The Phoenix, AZ man, has been sentenced to two months in jail and ordered to pay over $12,000 in fines because the Bible study group at his home violate the city's building code.
"They're cracking down on religious activities and religious use," Salman told Fox News Radio. "They're attacking what I as a Christian do in the privacy of my home."
Enter Vicki Hill, Phoenix's chief assistant city prosecutor, who that said religious freedom had nothing to do with it and that it was a matter of public safety.
"Any time you are holding a gathering of people continuously, as he does – we have concerns about people being able to exit the facility properly in case there is a fire," Ms. Hill told Fox News Radio. "It came down to zoning and proper permitting."
The battle between Salman and the city of Phoenix is has been going on for quite some time, as the prosecutor has said that Mr. Salman's neighbors have been filing complaints since 2007 because of the amount of traffic in the neighborhood.
The back story is that originally, there were only 15 people who would show up at Mr. Salman's houst, but that number has grown considerably (to what number of people, it is not specified) to where the city of Phoenix sent Mr. Salman a letter saying that his living room gatherings were in violation of the city's building codes.
When he didn't stop hosting the groups, the Phoenix Fire Department broke up a Good Friday gathering Salman was hosting at his home in 2008 in which there were as many as 20 people in the backyard.
Things just didn't get better from there, when Michael Salman applied and recieved a permit to build a 2,000 square foot building in his backyard, where the meetings could be held. But the city has since recanted on that permit, saying that it was to convert a garage into a spare room.
But wait, there's more.
In 2009, a dozen cops raided Salman's home and charged him with 67 code violations for hosting the gatherings. Since then, the courts have sided with the city, saying that Salman was using the building as a church and, therefore, was subject to city zoning laws.
"He built a structure that he said wasn't a church that is, in fact, a church," said Ms. Hill.
"The state is not saying that the Salmans can't run a church or have worship services at the location," read a Jan. 4, 2010, Arizona court ruling. "But the state is saying that if they do so, they must do it properly and in accord with fire and zoning laws."
Salman doesn't buy the court's argument and has claimed that Phoenix officials are discriminating against him for his religious beliefs saying, "If I had people coming to my home on a regular basis for poker night or Monday Night Football, it would be permitted. But when someone says to us we are not allowed to gather because of religious purposes – that is when you have discrimination."
Salman's attorney is appealing the ruling and Salman's sentencing, but unless a federal court intervenes, Mr. Salman began serving his sentence on July 9.