Phoenix Preacher Sentenced for Holding Home Worship Meetings Now in Jail


The preacher in Phoenix, Arizona that was sentenced to 60-days incarceration for holding worship meetings on his private property is now in jail.

“I have spent time with my family this morning praying, crying and saying our goodbye. My heart is broken, but glory to God,” Michael Salman, father of six, wrote on his Facebook page this morning. “Our God wil take care of us and my family. Please pray for us! Until God opens the prison’s door, I will be with you all in prayer and spirit.”

Christian News Network spoke with Michael Salman and his wife Suzanne from their home prior to his reporting to the Maricopa County Jail at 10 a.m. local time to serve his sentence.

Suzanne affirmed that while having her husband incarcerated for two months will be difficult, she believed that the Lord would get them through it.

“Last time it was hard, and we know it will be hard again — being a single mom with six kids,” she stated. “[But], no matter what happens, and no matter what comes, we have to stand for His word.”

Salman had reported to jail on June 17th, but was released three hours later as computers at the facility were not recognizing the code that he had purportedly violated. On June 28th, City Judge Sally Gaines rescheduled Salman’s sentence for June 9th, vowing that the technicality would be corrected by that date.

“Mayor Stanton, please free my dad Michael Salman. I do not want to lose my dad,” wrote the couple’s 11-year-old daughter Rachel to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton on Saturday. “Mayor, if you would have been there when he left [last time], you would have cried too. We were all so torn by what they did to him. I am so scared and to not be able to see my dad for 2 months will be very hard on me and my family. My other 5 sisters were very torn too, even the baby was crying. My mom was the most torn of all.”

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As previously reported, Salman has been incarcerated for holding private worship gatherings on his property without conforming to commercial code, although he asserts that the meetings he hosts each Sunday are not open to the public. He says that only his family and friends meet in a building behind the residence, which is located on an acre and a half of land, with an additional 3.2 acres behind it.

The couple uploaded a video over the weekend outlining the matter in great detail and giving viewers a tour of their property. A neighbor, who is an atheist, also created a video to show that the residence is not problematic to the community.

The Salman’s had originally held the gatherings in their living room, but officials continued to press them that if they were going to host meetings in their home, they would have to convert their house into a church. Correspondence from the city outlined, “…Bible studies are not allowed to be conducted in your residence. The simple and direct answer [as to why] is that the Bible study use requires a change of occupancy.”

In 2009, the couple built a 2,000 square foot game room behind the house, which was permitted by authorities, and was apparently permissible for gatherings as long as it was used for private recreation. Later, the Salman’s moved their personal worship meetings to the building and used it for religious purposes. Once neighbors notified officials that they suspected the family was hosting worship each Sunday in the building, they were raided by police.

In 2010, the city officially pressed criminal charges against Salman, which he has been fighting for two years. They stated that the preacher must facilitate handicapped parking at his home, as well as handicapped bathrooms, although none of his family and friends are handicapped.

The regulations are a result of the city’s adoption of standards imposed by the International Code Council. The organization was founded in 1994 by Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA) of Country Club Hills, Illinois, International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) of Whittier, California and Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. (SBCCI) of Birmingham, Alabama. Since its inception, the International Code Council has been urging cities across America to adopt and enforce its unified codes, many of which are now doing so. Failure to comply can result in criminal penalties for citizens.

Salman has been filing appeals ever since he has been accused of violating these codes, but he states that all legal efforts have been ignored by the courts. An emergency injunction had been filed with District Court Judge James Tielborg, but he has yet to issue a ruling. He had dismissed a legal challenge filed previously by the Salman’s as well. Tielborg has been serving as a federal judge since 2000 after being nominated to the bench by then President Bill Clinton.

The Salman’s explained that if Tielborg denies to issue the injunction and release the pastor from jail, the next step is to file an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, along with a habeus corpus.

“If enough people don’t stand up now, it’s going to be so big and so out of control that no one is going to be able to stop it,” Suzanne Salman stated.

“If I go to jail, I’m ready to preach the Gospel there,” Michael Salman stated to Christian News Network late yesterday.

“I know that God will use him,” Suzanne added. “People will come to Christ in jail.”

Salman has also been fined $12,180, and is facing 3 years probation, which prosecutors are seeking to convert to a 2 1/2-year jail sentence.


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Arizona Preacher Facing Jail Time for Holding Home Worship Meetings


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34 Responses to Phoenix Preacher Sentenced for Holding Home Worship Meetings Now in Jail

  1. As we see that day approaching, what type peiple ought we be? If really believe that we woyld live as Christ requires.rather than looking for loopholes in scripture, to hang on to self and the world.

  2. This is sick and a slap in the face to christianty . In New York they tried to cram a Islamic mosque down everybody’s throats but private worship services for Christ are against the law ? This country is in huge trouble and has lost its way. Selective religous freedom is not what the founding fathers had in mind and this is nothing but discrimination against peaceful christians .

    • It’s a slap in the face for all religions, we should let people from every faith gather where ever they like and worship whoever they like, who should decide what constitutes a Church or a Mosque? let’s have a free for all.

  3. “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him” (Psalms 68:1).

  4. Did everyone notice the “International Code Council”? Failure to comply results in criminal penalties for citizens??? This is called persecution of Christians. We will pray for this family, but our country needs many prayers too. We are on the road to a one world order.

  5. Maybe Zombies have eaten the brains of the city officials. Maybe the heat and sun have gotten to them.

    Or, maybe, just maybe, they have an agenda?

    Perhaps we should start a new movement called “Freedom from Atheism” which is now the enforced state religion.

  6. Is the family going to be in financial hardship because of this? And if so, is there a way the body of Christ can reach out and help meet those needs?

    I am praying for them to be strengthened and sustained, that God’s name be glorified, and that people be drawn to the Lord through it all. And if it be His will, that this travesty will be ended and Michael will be released from jail soon!

  7. Angela Hall Dobbins

    If this can be done in Pheonix, then it can potentially be done in any state in the U.S. Does everyone realize how many home Bible studies are conducted in individual homes across our country? When a family cannot gather in their own home and on their own private propety and study the Word of God together without restriction, that blatantly obstructs our right to freedom of religion and assembly. If there is more to this story, I would sure like to hear it.

  8. Azariah Ellington

    Praise God, this is a good thing! I hope this family receive God’s reward for such faith. This is a signal to each of us to prepare for what is to come.

  9. AS CHRISTIANS WHAT SHOULD WE DO TO SUPPORT OUR CHRISTIAN BROTHER AND THIS FAMILY. ARE WE LIKE PETER IN SUPPORT UNTIL CONFRONTED WITH THE SITUATION. PROBABLY A RALLY BY CHRISTIANS NEAR AND FAR IN ARIZONA. COME TOGETHER IN SUPPORT OF THIS FAMILY. HOW CAN WE SUPPORT THIS FAMILY WHILE THIS IS GOING ON? IF ANY ARE WILLING TO STEP UP TO TAKE THIS BATON AND RUN FOR JESUS ON BEHALF OF THIS FAMILY. SUGGESTIONS ON ANY VOLUNTEERS TO STEP UP IN SUPPORT OF THIS FAMILY. WHERE ARE THE CHRISTIAN LAWYERS? WHERE ARE THE CHURCHES? WHAT CAN WE DO?

  10. This man was convicted in violation of the RLUIPA law that was passed by president Clinton in 2000. This law prohibits any kind of interruption of land use for religious purposes (such as church services) based upon any zoning issues. Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RLUIPA

    This is outrageous! What is our country coming to???

    Jim

    • Jim, the RLUIPA applies to ZONING laws (meaning where in a town/area a certain type of facility can be placed. This individual was convicted of violating BUILDING CODE laws, which are enacted to ensure the safety of a building and all those who may be in in (or even affected by it). I’ve been a Code Enforcement Officer for over 10 years and some of the things I’ve seen have been downright scary and, unfortunately, a number of times it has been religious factions that have tried to circumvent those codes. I personally think he was too harshly punished (a fine and/or requirement to either bring the facility up to code or have it removed would have been more appropriate in my opinion), but as others have said, we need to look at the whole story. He was not prosecuted because of his religion, he was prosecuted for not following the law.

      • But the point is that these laws are discriminatory against the free practice of one’s religion. They (these “international” standards bodies) are using public safety as a means of implementing an anti-religious agenda.

  11. Dennis R. Spinks

    I believe in God, I’ve been innolved with family worship great deal of my life…When Judges/government begins to overrule what you do in your own home as respect to holding pray or worship…then they have stepped over the line. God comes first than man…….what these people do now, they will have to answer to God…it is so written. You wouldn’t realize this if you look deep within our government and what they are trying to do to those who believe in God”s religion.
    In the long run only God and his people shall prevail..
    Dennis R. Spins

    • I agree, we should let Christians and Muslims gather where ever they want to do whatever they want no matter what the law says.

  12. Either the secular liberals are frankly kicked out of the church. Or the Bible believing Christians regardless of denominations come togethet to fight the Liberal/ socialist unholy alliance.Jesus forcefully kicked the money lenders out. So gutless Christians cant play the gentle Jesus card.It that or America is truly finished.

  13. More to this than meets the eye… Large gatherings and a 501c meeting at his $700k home… Him doing jail time for not meeting codes??? I leave that to the reader…

  14. Ok I’m going to post a comment counter to most. By it’s very nature a worship gathering is and should be open to the public. He has not been jailed for having church services in his home but for code violations for a church meeting. Meet the code requirements and you are fine. The issue is holding meetings in a 2000 square foot facility. This is more than a few friends for Bible study. Because we are Chiristians or a “church” does not exempt us from the law. His neighbors did not buy homes next door to a church. They have a right to be concerned about traffic and noise. “Love your neighbor…”

  15. Time for the body of Christ to rise together! A gathering in home as long as its not worship… They should have told them they are having a holy ghost party! Because parties with drinking and hidden drugs don’t get raided. Matter fact we should ask how many of those officers have attuned a home party! And we got the Alabama pastor having services for whites only, and burning crosses , …really?!?! Please stop this mess!

  16. Patricia Bliesner

    Has anyone set up an account to collect money for this man and his family? Those in the know, need to do it!

  17. Maybe Sheriff Joe will use him.
    Maybe Joe will put him on early release.
    Maybe the DA and Judge need to be voted out of office.

  18. I am not saying this is right or fair but he’s been fined over $12k. It sounds like if he’d just invest that in getting his residence up to code this would all go away. This article says he needs to make it handicap friendly. Whether that’s fair or not it would solve the problem. It’s not a religious issue as much as a zoning/code issue. For those of you who are asking about a party… This isn’t a one time party, it’s a meeting every single week at the same time. There is a different. I too am a believer but I feel like we are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Just build the ramps and have your meeting.

  19. This is just more proof that we are living in the end times. These things must happen to set up the world for the New World Order. For Christians, it’s all good news, because it signals Christ’s return very soon. For non-Christians, it’s a dangerous time. They need to make a decision who they will serve. As Christ’s ambassadors on earth, it is our responsibility to be helping them make the right decision for their eternal life. Keep looking up!

  20. Wow! What a strange thing. So, small group meetings in our houses constitute a church? or a prayer meeting and bible study among friends? What a wake-up call to believers everywhere.

  21. I think every church in the area should show up to his house, they can’t arrest the whole Christian community, and it would make GREAT news especially if someone invited them. :)

  22. If my mother were alive today, she would say “Oh Mercy”.
    What has happened to America? If we keep heading in the direction that we are, America is in trouble. I am so grateful that God is a loving God and he cares about us. I will be praying for this man and his family. God bless you for the stand you are taking for out Lord Jesus Christ.

  23. Don Edwards?? But it’s ok for ALCOHOLICS to hold PARTIES, but not have their houses be considered TAVERNS????? Think some people need to get their liquor licenses if you agree with the people who are against Michael and Suzanne Salman, PARENTS OF SIX.

  24. You have got to be kidding!!!! Really? We need to have a huge outcry to this!! Laws like this need to be changed or we will all have our “religious freedom” taken away from us. And if they are not changed, VOTERS WAKE UP AND MAKE SOME CHANGES AS TO WHO IS GETTING INTO OFFICE!!!!!

    • Michael Salman Timeline.

      by Valerie Jacobsen on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 8:13am ·
      .

      I’m setting this to public viewing, so that it can be shared.

      I’m reading incredible things from Christian bloggers and commenters in defense of the City of Phoenix’s tyrannical abuse of the Salmans’ inalienable First Amendment rights, and a lot of it includes unwarranted assumptions about traffic, parking, noise, and other nuisance issues.

      I’ve read the judgments available at justia.law.com, listened to interviews with the defendant, and read the most detailed news articles that I could find. I kept notes as I went and put together the following timeline for the Michael Salman prosecution.

      This might contain errors, but I’ve made it as carefully as I can, using the evidence that I could find. If anyone has additional information or corrections, please let me know.

      December 2005 – The Salmans verified that this property was zoned to permit the construction of a church, bought it, and moved in. They immediately started a home Bible study in their living room, inviting up to 15 family members and friends to join them.

      Early 2007 – Neighbors (who are described as “atheists” in some documents) complained that the Salmans were holding Bible studies. I couldn’t find any record of a complaint about traffic, parking, congestion, or noise. It was just a complaint that their home was being used for religious purposes.

      February 2007 – Councilman Claude Mattox instructed the Salmans to stop their home Bible studies. He told them not only that they would not be permitted to build a church on their property but also that they were not permitted to have any Bible studies in their residence or in their barn, since those buildings do not comply with the commercial contruction code for religious use. Proper permits and construction would be required before the Salmans could again engage in “religious activity” in their home or on their property.

      April 2007 – The Salmans were holding a backyard barbecue for fifteen to twenty guests for Good Friday/Passover. Because their barbecue included religious speech, it was labeled “church use”, and that alone meant that their meeting site was not to code. Firefighters visited the home and ordered the guests to disperse. The barbecue was shut down.

      May 2007 – The Salmans submitted construction plans for a separate building to be used for worship and Bible study, with appropriate parking. Their application for a permit went forward.

      December 2007 – Councilman Claude Mattox made a motion, which passed, to increase the parking requirement for places of worship from one space for each 5 occupants to one space for each 3 occupants. The new parking requirements made the construction of a worship and Bible study building unfeasible on their site and the Salmans withdrew their permit request.

      Early 2008 – While there is no record of a complaint regarding traffic, congestion, or number of occupants, neighbors complained that religious activity was continuing in the Salmans’ home, and the Salmans received a letter from the City of Phoenix telling them that “all religious meeting must cease” or they would be found in violation of commercial construction codes.

      April 2008 – Firefighters again visited the home and ordered guests at a backyard Good Friday/Passover meal to disperse. This time the homeowner asked the firefighters to leave his property, as they had no warrant. They left and did not return.

      November 2008 – The Salmans applied for a permit to build a private, residential, multiple occupancy building for social and recreational use. They promised that they would not use the building as a “public place of worship”. The building and parking for it are not visible from the street.

      April 2009 – The building was built with permits, to the residential code, and certified for occupancy, so the Salmans and their friends, a total of 40-50 people, began to meet there for prayer, praise, and preaching. They have insisted that they are meeting privately, as friends and family. They allegedly have not publicly advertised as a church.

      June 2009 – The City of Phoenix raided the property, detained the Salmans and their children, and found 67 code violations. 55 of these were directly related to the fact that religious activity was taking place, which the authorities declared could only take place in a building built to commercial code standards. According to the City of Phoenix, this type of religious activity cannot legally occur in a private house or any other private building built to residential standards, regardless of the number of people involved. The authorities also found a sign lying face-down in the grass with worship times painted on it.

      2010 – Michael Salman was convicted of 67 building code violations. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 3 years probation, a $12,000 fine, and a judgment that forbids him from having more than 12 people on the property at one time. (The Salmans have 6 daughters.)

      2011 – The Salmans and their friends and family continued to meet for prayer, praise, and preaching. Additional charges were filed, some against Mrs. Salman, which included a charge related to a sign with Bible verses and a small cross on the front lawn.

      July 2012 – The Salmans have continued to meet privately for worship with friends and family. Michael Salman has begun serving his 60-day jail sentence.

      Early on, the Salmans didn’t consistently have a lawyer. Federal appeals have been denied for various reasons–issues not raised at original trial, timeliness, and procedural reasons. A federal examination of the First Amendment issues in the case has been denied, for now.

      Some Christians have declared, in light of this case, that the State’s authority over the church is functionally absolute, that the government can restrict the formation of new churches, home Bible studies, and small group meetings in any way it pleases, and for whatever reason, but this is not what the Bible teaches either in Romans 13 or in any other place.

      All authority in Heaven and on Earth belongs to Christ, and He delegates it as He pleases via written instructions and commands, in the Bible. (The Bible is for all mankind and not for Christians only.)

      No human governor in any sphere may put tyrannical demands upon his subjects or restrict the Gospel endeavor. An authority has his authority not by might or by right, but by the gracious and limited delegation of God. He is obligated to use his power for the benefit of the governed, and only within his proper sphere and to its proper degree. God tells civil authorities what they must do to please Him, and they must do it.

      Tyranny isn’t just unpleasant for the subjects. It’s actually forbidden by Almighty God.

  25. Christian-Charles de Plicque

    Outrageous! What is this world coming to? I have gone to many many Bible studies and home meetings of christians for decades in the States and in Europe and Scandinavia and we have never had such problems. We know that Jesus is coming soon because these things that are happening, in a so-called christian country, are unbelievable yet they are happening before our very eyes and most believers will do nothing. That is what is sad. God help this family (and He will!) God help us all to see that the devil is working overtime and the only way he gets through, is by us, christians, doing nothing until it is too late to do anything. Stand up for Christ! Yes, there is a price to pay. Often we do not hear pastors preach this truth anymore. Jesus GAVE His Life and if we love Him, as we profess, then we too, if need be, give our lives for the Gospels’ sake.
    Pastor/Evangelist/Missionary de Plicque

  26. What would Christians be saying if they were a group of Muslims gathering to worship? or as Christians see it, PLOT.

    The law is the law and applies to everyone, if you want the authorities to decide for themselves which law to enforce and which law not to enforce please tell them, until then why not comply with the law? or vote it out and have a free for all.

  27. Happening in USA? This is unbelievable. I live in a Muslim country in South East Asia and there is no such restriction i.e. in holding home Bible studies. We need to pray!!!

  28. The article failed to mention how many people attended these weekly Bible studies. That make a difference. If a dozen, or so, people showed up, it wouldn’t be much different than a cub scout pack or a tupperware party; activities which are left alone. However, if fifty people showed up weekly, it might affect the character of the neighborhood which neighbors bought into. That is a zoning issue. Zoning can be modified or eliminated if enough voters made that a priority. Meanwhile, my prudent suggestion would be to rotate the Bible study to different houses if everyone could fit into a living room. If not, rent a room in a private school or some other venue.

  29. “A neighbor, who is an atheist, also created a video to show that the residence is not problematic to the community.”

    How cool is that!

    I guess atheists can know the answer to the question…”who is my neighbor?” too.

    Luke 10: (NIV)
    36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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