Christian fined and sentenced to jail over AZ home Bible studies, screams the Blaze headline.
Jail time for Phoenix man who hosted Bible study at home, says AOL.
Michael Salman, Phoenix-area businessman and pastor, is beginning a sixty-day sentence today for, according to The Blaze, “refusing to stop hosting Bible studies at his home.” And Christians and conservatives on Facebook and in the blogosphere are up in arms about it.
Here’s Salman’s side of the story:
And now, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story:
- Salman purchased a 3,000 square foot house at 7601 N 31st Ave. in Phoenix for $705,000 in December, 2005.
- It sits on 1.4 acres–not almost five, as many reports say. Aerial photos at Google Maps show neighbors close on both sides.
- In 2007, Salman began registering the Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church with the State of Arizona at that address as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization.
- On the church website, he represents himself as being an ordained pastor.
- His front yard holds two large crosses and a reader board similar to what you might see in front of many church buildings:
- In 2009, he built a second 2,000 square foot building right behind his house.
- On his permit applications, he listed the building as a game room.
- He has in fact been using it for weekly religious meetings.
- The city asked him to bring his church building up to code. They want 67 things fixed–lighted exit signs installed, exits on more than one side of the building in case of fire, and so on.
An ordained pastor of an incorporated church holds weekly religious meetings in a separate church building at the church’s listed address. But when the city asks him to bring the building up to code for church buildings, he cries foul and suddenly pleads that he’s just a private individual holding Bible studies at his house.
Salman is the owner of two restaurants in Phoenix–Mighty Mike’s Burgers and More–so he ought to know how to comply with building codes. He lives in a house worth over half a million dollars, so he ought to have the money to install some lighted exit signs, additional fire exits and so on mandated by the city. If he doesn’t, he can pass the plate at the weekly meetings.
But instead of doing that, Salman has chosen to play the persecuted-for-my-faith card.
Gentle reader, Christians are being blown up, beheaded and imprisoned for their faith on a regular basis. (I’ve written about that here and here, among other places.) Let’s save our prayers and righteous indignation for the real deal.
Pastor Salman, if it looks like a church and quacks like a church, the City of Phoenix can be excused for thinking it’s a church. With your schedule clear now for the next couple of months, maybe you can find time to read St. Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. I commend Chapter 13 to your attention:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. . . .5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. . . .
Update: I’ve posted a more detailed timeline of the events in this case here.