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.”
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.
Arizona Preacher Facing Jail Time for Holding Home Worship Meetings