Most Christians in America would likely have never imagined that holding a private Bible study in their home could ever be considered a criminal behavior in their lifetime, but apparently, that time has already come.
Over the last 10 years, Michael Salman and his wife have hosted friends and family (numbering from 15 to 20 people) for such activities as Bible study, prayer, food, and fellowship. Hopefully still to most Americans, these would be seen as the most innocent of all possible private activities. It seems, though, that these activities were viewed as ‘criminal’ by the City of Phoenix, and Mr. Salman has now been sentenced to 60 days in jail and $12,180 in fines.
According to several reports, Michael Salman has been plagued over this issue by the City of Phoenix for years since city code enforcement officials told him that holding worship gatherings on his property would be subject to commercial code regulations, as this would be considered an “occupancy.” Salman’s weekly home Bible study gathering is private and only comprised of invited guests. It’s not open to the public nor publicly advertised, and there is no “church” sign marking the front of his property. His guests do not violate street parking laws as they legally park all their vehicles at a local park about a half of a mile away from the property. In an attempt to comply with city regulations, Mr. Salman erected a building in his back yard, which is sitting on about an acre and a half of personal land with a buffer zone of 3.2 acres behind it. Upon completion of its construction, the building became the new meeting place for the Salmans and their guests. The building was officially designated as an accessory structure to their home that would be used for recreational purposes and was found to be compliant with all relevant city codes.
According to Michael Salman himself, the city then amended their parking codes with consideration toward his structure and weekly gatherings (even though his guests did not park on or near the property) and insisted that the property must feature a designated parking area that included spaces for handicapped parking. He questioned why this was the case when he had previously complied with the then existing codes and when none of his guests were handicapped nor required such parking considerations. Salman indicated that the decision to construct the building was made after firefighters were sent to his home in an attempt to disperse the meetings in 2008, before he ordered them to leave his property. Then in June of 2009, police officers with a search warrant and additional city inspectors raided his home before citing him for 67 code violations.
When Mr. Salman pressed the city for a more specific explanation for their actions, they only stated that having “too many people” was a “safety concern.” When the Salmans then asked them how many people could be hosted in their home according to the city’s regulations, the officials’ response was “two.”
Michael Salman reported for his assigned court hearing on June 28, 2012, where the Judge re-sentenced him to 60 days in jail. He was to start serving his time on July 9, 2012 at 10:00 A.M. The Phoenix City Prosecutor, Aaron J. Carreon-Ainsa, decided to hide behind his Assistant City Prosecutor (John Tutelman) on this matter, authorizing him to file a petition with the 9th Circuit Court to revoke Salman’s probation and turn it into a two-and-a-half-year jail term because he refused to stop worshipping on his property. Tutelman considers Salman to be a “rebel” because of his failure to comply on this matter. Salman will now be filing his appeal in the 9th Circuit Court.
If you might be wondering how this all started in the first place, well, according to Salman, it all began as the result of the complaint of one neighbor to the city that the Salmans were hosting a weekly Bible study in their home that was originally conducted in the family’s living room.
Based on all available information on this matter, the Salman family’s assemblies have been private and peaceful ones in which religious or spiritual practices were among the activities exercised on their own private property. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly permits all these exercises as protected freedoms under all applicable laws of the United States. Prior to this incident, if someone had posed the question of what city would be the first in the U.S. to violate an American’s First Amendment rights, personally, Phoenix, Arizona would not have even made it to the top ten cities that would have first come to mind. Now, though, this incident serves as a “teachable moment” that the most authentically constitutional regions of the American landscape appear as vast, untouched opportunity to the liberal explorers of destruction to the traditional American way of life. Their evil intentions toward our nation’s founding and freedoms can now be found everywhere throughout the nation. They have now placed a peaceful Christian husband and father of five children in jail for their cause, and he has submitted to their punishment for his.
For those whose ideology aligns with the City of Phoenix in believing that all Christians deserve such punishment, you should realize that we are only now discussing the very first and basic Amendment to the Constitution. There are still many others left to violate, just as the complete Bill of Rights has been violated for years. You should remember the news from about a year ago of the “chicken man” from Georgia who simply wanted to retain the right to lawfully use his property as he wished and, after a years’ long fight for his constitutional rights, was driven to suicide.
As for fellow Christians, you should remember that the fiery sermons of childhood, based on the book of Revelation among others, were not simply penned for those living thousands of years ago but were predictions of the future that we are now beginning to see unfolding before our eyes. We should also realize that these infringements of rights are only made possible by the standards put in place by the most powerful forces in our nation’s federal government that then trickle down to the state and local levels. Finally, we should realize that the impending forces of evil will not be satisfied by violating the rights of individual citizens. Incidents such as this provide precedent for the inevitable prohibition of the free practice of faith in various churches across the country. My advice is to know what you believe, believe what’s right, and be willing to pay any price necessary to defend these beliefs.
If you’d like to lawfully and politely express your opinion of the Salman family’s treatment by the City of Phoenix, Arizona to its city officials, please see the contact information provided below:
Mayor’s Office: 602-262-7111
City Councilman Venezuela’s Office: 602-262-7446
City Prosecutor’s Office: 602-262-6461
City Prosecutor’s Office Address:
Phoenix Municipal Courthouse
300 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
Photo Credit: knowhimonline (Creative Commons)