Phoenix man jailed for home Bible studies: the rest of the story

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(CCL Ryk Neethling)

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.

Yeah, right.

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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. . . .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.


126 thoughts on “Phoenix man jailed for home Bible studies: the rest of the story

  1. Oh dear.
    If we take Romans 13 to heart, does that mean we, who are standing up against parts of the ACA are misguided?
    I believe that conscience rules the soul in matters of moral disobedience.
    Paul speaks to the government of his times. He doesn’t have to deal with Mr. O. carving away our freedoms.
    Mr. Salman is hiding behind the uproar of those of us who find justice in our land being subverted.

    • J.O., St. Paul’s government was Nero–and we ain’t seen nothin’ yet, compared to Nero! Paul had way fewer freedoms than we do, even now.

      The standing up against the ACA that has been done to date has not been a lack of subjection–or even of simple obedience–to governing powers. Quite the opposite: It has been citizen-rulers fulfilling their duty to speak out on policy matters. But Scripture does not preclude civil disobedience. St. Peter said, when rebuked by the Sanhedrin (ruling council) in Jerusalem for disobeying a command to keep mum about Jesus, “We must obey God rather than men.” And St. Paul himself, of course–the author of Romans 13–was eventually put to death by the government for disobeying it. (Notice that Paul speaks of “subjection” or “submission” to the government, not simply of “obedience.” Slaves are to “obey” their masters. Christians are to “be subject” to the government. Two different Greek words, with two distinct meanings.)

      The biblical rule is pretty clear: in general, obedience to government, even corrupt government (remember Nero). But most rules have exceptions–and that one is no exception! The exception is: When the government tells us to disobey God, then we must obey God rather than the government. But God, as far as I can tell, has no moral objection to exit lights and extra doors. At such time as Mr. Salman gets around to standing up for his faith and is rebuked by the City of Phoenix I’ll commend St. Peter’s speech in the book of Acts to his attention. Until then, he’s still operating in Romans 13 territory.

    • @J.O. – I don’t think you can equate required exit signs in a building where several people regularly gather to Obamacare.

      I always felt there was another side to this story & I’m glad someone pointed it out. I honestly believe if this guy were of another religion – Muslim- the authorities would not even notice what is going on. However, if code says he needs simple things like exit signs then why can’t he just put up the exit signs and stop with his foolishness.

      Every city has building codes public buildings must abide by & this has nothing to do with Obama.

  2. There are certain facts being misrepresented in your article. The property directly behind the one in question and to the north on Belmont, is owned by Suzanne Salman, Mike’s wife. The church is NOT incorporated. The link you provided in your article to the state shows it was dissolved.

    The Scripture and 10 Commandments say, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. ” Exodus 20:16.

    Please remember the Bible also says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Prov. 12:18

    This is a Christian brother you are speaking against. Please state the truth, not innuendo.

    • Thanks for your comment, Norma, and for the additional information. But I don’t believe it materially affects the situation.

      * Mr. Salman is representing himself as being an ordained pastor.
      * He runs a website for Harvest Christian Fellowship.
      * He holds weekly meetings in a large building, not his home–what the City of Phoenix thinks of, and most of the rest of us would think of, as a church building, in other words.

      What of that is innuendo?

      Mr. Salman needs to pick a position and stick with it. Either he’s the ordained pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship holding religious meetings in a building other than his home, or he’s an ordinary joe having a Bible study in his living room. Which is it? When he presents himself online as being the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, the City of Phoenix can hardly be blamed for taking him at his word and asking him to bring his building up to code.

      • You know my garage is not attached to my home either, but it is on my land and still part of my home. To say the additional building on “his” land is not part of his home is not being truthful.

        When does the size of the building or the number of people who attend the bible study make it a church? Is there some limit on the size of a bible study I am not aware of?

        Also why can”t an ordained pastor run a private bible study that is not connected with a church?

        • You’re awfully quick to accuse me of not being truthful, Eddie. There’s no need to impugn my integrity–and I’ll try not to impugn yours! I think it would be more accurate to say that it’s a question on which reasonable minds can differ. My garage is separate from my house, too, and I don’t consider it part of my house or my home. It’s separate. It’s my garage!

          Certainly you can be ordained and run a private Bible study, but the very word “pastor” (etymologically, “shepherd”) indicates one who has the spiritual care of a church. You’re not much of a shepherd if you don’t have sheep, and you’re not much of a pastor if you don’t have a church. And Mr. Salman presents himself, here, as being the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship.

          So, yes, an ordained person can run a Bible study not connected with a church–but a person who presents himself as being the pastor of a church can reasonably be assumed to be connected with that church!

          • I apologize, “truthful” was the wrong word to use, a better word would have been “accurate”. But I still stand by the original thought that it is still part of his home to say it is not is splitting hairs.

            Also, if a pastor either leaves or closes a church he is no longer an ordained pastor? Does that go for retired Pastors too? Just saying.

          • Yet Carolyn, you are defending a bureaucracy as if it is ultimately just, as if only because it is the State who says so. Who is the State, but us? In some instances these rules may very well be needed (to protect other’s rights) and in some instances (eg. perhaps why they have a non incorporated church?) those rules are simply not needed.
            You speak of truth, and integrity (although I agree he could have said the word ‘accurate’, to be less potentially confrontational…as you may not have realized his point.) and so now you have a chance to show us the substance of this. Bottom line, do you prioritize your statism or Leftism over your Americanism? (read my point above) If not, than you’ll agree; we don’t have enough information to make the sort of judgements on this person (and his decency and integrity, etc.) as you have.

            To use force to restrain another and take them away from their family, and home, and lock them in a cage like an animal for two months, is and should be a big deal! There must be a just reason for doing this; especially around one of the foundational issues which helped create this country: freedom of assembly and religion.

          • Of course jailing someone is a big deal, Japes.

            I’m not defending the bureaucracy as being just. I have no idea if this particular one is or not. I have no fondness for bureaucracy, and can’t recall an enjoyable interaction with one! If Mr. Salman ever brings his building into compliance with code, we may find that the City really is trying to snuff out his Bible study. But the City of Phoenix has had not one, not two, but three separate courts review its actions. The first one found that:

            “[T]he State is not saying the Salmans can’t run a church or have worship services at the location, but the State is saying that if they do so, they must do it properly and in accord with the building, fire, and zoning codes.”

            The second one said:

            “Everyone is entitled under the United States Constitution to worship as they please. But there is a reason for these codes and that is for public safety. And that, I believe, is all that the State is asking is that the Code violations be rectified.”

            And the third one found that:

            “[T]he Defendant was engaged in public or church activities, and further that Defendant’s convictions did not violate his Constitutional right to religious freedom.”

            That being the case, the onus is now on Mr. Salman to comply with the law and see if that solves the problem.

            You obviously haven’t read anything else on my blog, Japes, to speak of my “statism and Leftism”! Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re inventing a straw man to rail against there. And I haven’t dealt with Mr. Salman’s decency and integrity one way or the other. What I’ve talked about is his refusal to obey the law–the zoning code of the City of Phoenix. And there’s quite a bit of information out there in the public arena on which to form judgments on that subject.

          • I’ve read your response, and get why they (statists or prosecutors involved) said that buildings need zoning for safety. My point was that some buildings need a certain degree of safety and improvements if they’re to be public, and some do not need as much. The presumption for us here, is to take the side of the State that they were not using their power unjustly, or to take the side of the man, that they were. We don’t know, and you just keep going back to the assumption that since they (the State) said so, it must be true. eg. He won’t fix that pipe, after we told him to!! Well, what if he believes it is nonsense that the pipe needs fixing, and that he’s being harassed? Do you say he should submit to what he believes is harassment by the government, because they are stronger than him? It’s either that, or you believe the State cannot be wrong; which is ridiculous. Fact is, we can’t know enough to judge this man. To claim that he broke the law and put it in a moral context (ie. that he was bad for doing so) by default assumes the law is just. (It is not necessarily just, since as you know power corrupts, and there is *nothing* more powerful in America than the government. And don’t say ‘corporations’. A toothpaste corporation can’t kick down your door and drag you away lock you in a cage. The government can, and has, in this case. )
            Anyway, point being to you. Your implication that he was breaking a just law, without being able to know for sure if it was a just law in this circumstance, was an attack on his character by you, unjustly.

        • Before you think that your detached garage is part of your home, talk to your insurance agent and see what he says. I have a detached building on my lot and it’s insured differently than the house. It’s a legal thing, which is what the code violations are all about. When he got the building permit for his ‘game room’, the permit clearly stated it was not to be used for a commercial structure or church – standard wording on a boilerplate.

      • You’re right Carolyn.

        2 Timothy 4:3-4
        3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

        4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

        Salman is an “ear tickler”.

      • Carolyn, you wrote: “What of that is innuendo?”
        referring to how it is like a ‘church’ as most understand a church to be lie. Yes, yet you’ve missed the point. It is the State which says that a ‘church’ has to comply with its rules. Yet since this church is NOT incorporated, perhaps this effects how those rules (made up and enforced by the State) apply in this instance.
        In other words if you (The State/Government) want to designate this church as incorporated, then the onus is on you. You (the State) serve us, remember?

        • The State didn’t want to designate this church as incorporated, Japes. Mr. Salman did.

          • No, as I understand it was dissolved in 2009. Why was he incorporated and then chose not to be? Perhaps because there was over-reach on the State’s part. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, considering the history of the State, in general. (The last hundred or so years are arguably the worst)

          • Salman did not dissolve his corporation, he let the name lapse and a disgruntled neighbor grabbed the name. Salman re-registered under a new name, “Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church”

            He also filed for tax exemption as a church. The permit he got for the “game room” specifically said it was an extension of his home and the designation notes “Any other occupancy or use (business, commercial, assembly, church, etc.) is expressly prohibited pursuant to the City of Phoenix Building Code and Zoning Ordinances.”

            He simply needs to bring it up to the building codes for the type of structure he himself claimed his property is – a church

          • You do not, in America, forcibly drag someone away from their family and home, throw them in a cage like and animal, and for two months, over this! I can almost guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of people in this thread, eager to side with the bureaucratic State before this man (without knowing all the facts) voted for Obama in the last election. (ie. hold to Leftism in the value system more than to Americanism.) I really would make that bet.

      • No one dragged him out of his house and away from his family and threw him in a cage. This zoning issue has been ongoing since HE HIMSELF claimed the property was a church. When you claim tax-exempt status for your property AS A CHURCH, you are subjecting yourself to the building codes in place FOR A CHURCH. He has been in and out of court and has been deliberately confrontational. He has refused to fix ANY of the code issues, each of which is a misdemeanor. He was convicted in 2010 and has been appealing ever since. His time finally ran out and he was forced to turn himself in.

        He has never changed the designation and when he lost the original corporation name, he simply registered a similar one. He didn’t dissolve the corporation, he simply neglected to pay for it so someone else squatted on the name.
        You can see the tax bill for his property here:
        Take a look at the last year tax was assessed and you can calculate how much he saved with that designation.

        Take a look at the minutes from one of his court cases and you will see the city granted him the designation BECAUSE he was using it as a place of worship (not, as Suzanna Salman now claims, because it was a place where a pastor lives

        When I first heard this story I was up in arms, because this is my neighborhood – and because I don’t want to see ANYONE’S Constitutional rights trampled. More research showed me this isn’t about right but responsibilities. Mr Salman has a responsibility to maintain his property up to the code he chose. You can’t have gatherings with that many people in a building with only one door. You must have “exit” signs. You can’t LIE on your permit application and ignore the clear designation that states the plan were only approved for a small game room and “Any other occupancy or use (business, commercial, assembly, church, etc.) is expressly prohibited pursuant to the City of Phoenix Building Code and Zoning Ordinances.” The prohibition isn’t that NO building can be used for that, just that the plans he submitted wouldn’t be able to be used for (business, commercial, assembly, church, etc.) .

        When we don’t do our due diligence on stories like this, we allow people like the Salmans to give an entire community a bad name. He wants to have the benefits of a church designation without the regulations. He can’t. That is why he has lost every court case on this matter.

        (I don’t know why you keep bringing up Obama. As much as I would love to blame him, the case began before anyone outside of Illinois knew who Barack Obama was)

    • Just checked the Arizona Corporation Commission website, Harvest Christian Fellowship is a valid corporation, not in good standing because the May 2012 report is past due. Michael is President, Suzanne is Treasurer and Suzanne’s father Toby Ramsey is Vice-President. The address given for the corporation is the location of their business National Bureau of Merchant Services (credit card processing) that they recently put in Mike’s sister’s name. Oh a tangled web we weave…

      • Funny I just looked it up also and saw it was marked DISSOLUTION COMPLETED 07/01/2009 It has not existed since then.

        • Yes, I made that point in an earlier comment:

          It’s interesting to note that Mr. Salman, in the video I posted, says the City of Phoenix started harassing his church in 2007. Norma Pescherine pointed out, above, that the church corporation has been dissolved. What she neglected to mention was that it was dissolved in 2009, two years after the City started asking for code compliance. An outsider looking on might wonder if the church didn’t unincorporate to try to avoid having to bring its building up to code.

          • Salmon said the city was buggin him in 2007, and then it dissolved in 09. So what is your point? Perhaps he knew back in 07 that it was not needed or reasonable for the place to incorporated (…perhaps considering the amount of rules by the bureaucracy which did not apply to his place) which is why it dissolved in 09. Since we don’t know enough to conclude certain things, I’m wondering why are you seem so keen on presuming for the State, rather than this citizen?

          • Three courts have had all the facts before them that either side wished to enter into evidence, and three courts have found:

            a) that the City is justified in requiring safety improvements from the Salmans, and
            b) that the Salmans’ First Amendment rights aren’t being violated by the code requirements.

            You and I may not know enough, but the courts know everything the Salmans wished to tell them, and they’ve decided three-zip against the Salmans. That creates a strong presumption in the City’s favor.

  3. Pingback: Holiday At The Sea » Blog Archive » Michael Salman: Is It Really “Religious Discrimination”?

  4. The point is it is still a private residence and you don’t have a right to dictate what a person does on their private residence or to even inquire of it unless it is truly effecting the neighborhood in some detrimental way which it is clearly not if you watched the video you posted. The only people this offends are those who don’t like Christianity and don’t like crosses and bible verses on someone’s front lawn. Now anything this man does is taken as an affront to such people, even having a bbq would be tantamount to a church gathering and no one has a right to apply codes meant for public buildings to this private property and this is in fact residential, he does live on this property, and he is not committing any residential violations. Our pastor holds open house gatherings at his personal residence here in AZ open to the entire public through our church and I know others who have groups that come together weekly in their private residences for home church and worship, some that could even call themselves ordained pastors and still in their own private residences it is their right to do so long as they are not disrupting the neighborhood any more than any other person has the right to do so while holding a gathering for any other purpose.

    • This isn’t in his house, as I understand it. It’s in another 2,000 square foot building.

      Please don’t jump to conclusions about people just because they disagree with you. I’m a Christian, I began a house church almost twenty years ago, and I’ve been part of it ever since. I strongly advocate for freedom of religion, including freedom of house churches to meet unhampered. But it looks to me like this is a different issue.

      This is a man who identifies himself on the web as the pastor of a church. And he’s apparently holding meetings, not in his house but in another building (what would commonly be called a church building). But he then gets all huffy when the city asks him to bring his meeting building up to code for church buildings. If he was a private joe reading the Bible with friends in his living room, I would strongly defend his right to do so. But he himself tells me, via the links I’ve previously posted, that that’s not what’s going on here. He says he’s the pastor of a church. That being the case, he and his church need to pull up their big boy pants and follow the zoning code for churches.

      It’s interesting to note that Mr. Salman, in the video I posted, says the City of Phoenix started harassing his church in 2007. Norma Pescherine pointed out, above, that the church corporation has been dissolved. What she neglected to mention was that it was dissolved in 2009, two years after the City started asking for code compliance. An outsider looking on might wonder if the church didn’t unincorporate to try to avoid having to bring its building up to code.

      • I didn’t jump to any conclusions. I was speaking to the types of people who complained about this in the first place and brought it to the attention of city officials, not you personally. This would never have been an issue otherwise.

        As for the rest, it is their right to dissolve their status if they thought it would serve their fellowship better. It was the right and smart thing to do. It is their right to build additional residential use buildings on their private residential property and use it as such if they so deem appropriate so long as it’s private use and it appears this is the route they’ve chosen. He happens to have the space to hold larger gatherings than your average person and God bless him for using his all for God’s glory. Once again, just because it’s a good size and hosts a good amount of people does not mean it’s anyone’s business if he uses it once a week to hold worship and fellowship period. If this holds, then it does and can extend to any private home church fellowship if authorities ever want to abuse their power. This man’s home was raided with a search warrant over this with no warning. If you want to throw out arbitary details that don’t chance the facts, then lets just say there are a lot more dangerous criminals that need this sort of attention and public resources and to be put in jail and fined for true criminal activity. This is a joke and he is doing a good job pointing it out, even willing to go to jail for it. Can’t say the same for most people. They’ve been harassed and were told in 2007 that they could not even have bible studies in their living room. The building wasn’t even constructed until 2009. Either way it is a private residence and public building codes are being applied specifically because the events held there are of a religious nature. Any other use would be acceptable, so this goes against first amendment rights and could be classified as religious persecution. This family went out of their way to make sure they were not a nuisance to their neighbors. If he operated a church as a pastor under non-profit status, he still reserves the private residential rights of his personal property as he sees fit under private use. If the laws in Phoenix actually do say otherwise, although their use in this situation is clearly up for debate here, then the law is in error and as said by Henry David Thoreau, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Bottom line, this pastor is in JAIL for preaching and worshipping God in a peaceable manner in the privacy of his home in the United States. That is worthy of concern.

        • Again, as I understand it, this is not about him worshiping God in his home. It’s about him leading a church in another building–not his home–that’s not up to code. If he brings the building up to code, and the City is still coming after him, then it will become a First Amendment issue, and I will be solidly in his court. Right now, he’s giving a bad name to Christians who are being jailed for preaching and worshiping God, by refusing, over a period of five years, to bring his building up to code.

        • Again, the Salman’s applied for a building permit to build a detached garage in 2006, since he lied on the building permit and was actually building a church, the building permit was cancelled. He applied for a building permit for a church and spent 2 years declaring that none of the building codes or zoning ordinances applied to him. Small things like the house is on a septic tank, and he would have to hook up to the city sewer system to adequately accommodate a church with 125 people (2400 sq. ft.).

    • You are mistaken. The city/town/whatever certainly does have a right to tell you what “activities” you can have on your property.

  5. Your Home….is zoned for Home Life or living …. not a community gathering place….Where will people park….how many people….How high is the ceiling to accomodate all the people regarding air quality…. I think occasional gatherings would be ok…like youth group or young marrieds group a couple times a year… you have neighbors who want a quite neighborhoods….respect their right to that. Read…..the book….The Gospel Blimp

    • Exactly, You think occasional gathering would be ok a couple times a year and you decide who could come. Who gave you the right to restrict the freedom and liberties of other individuals because of what you think. I understand your thought process, OK. Wait until they come to your door because a neighbor thinks different than you. And, it will happen.

  6. Thank you for this information. From the moment I saw their story, something seemed fishy about all this. As soon as you mentioned the 501c3, I wish I could go back and UN-sign the petition. He signed up for a 501c3 church, and he needs to meet the lawful requirements in the contract. When you sign a contract, that is giving your word that you will do something, and NOT doing what you signed your name to is the same as lying! Ecc 5:4-6 says that God is gonna’ destroy the work of your hands if you don’t do what you say you’re gonna’ do. This is proof that God wasn’t kidding. Thanks again for this information, and though I frown on them not giving us all the information, I honestly believe they don’t know what they signed up for, and they need to go back, give this an educated look, and get out of the 501c3 because we aren’t supposed to get yoked up with the world. (2Cor 6:14)

    1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
    2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
    1 Timothy 2:1-2 (King James Version)
    For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
    Galatians 1:10 (King James Version)
    3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
    4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
    Romans 13:3-4 (King James Version)

  8. So according to your argument, we as believers are to submit to the governing authorities? In all things? So you are content with abortion? Our governing authorities say that it’s a woman right to choose and guess what you condone it by allowing “caesar” to use your tax dollars to do it. The government has no business telling anyone they can not conduct a bible study in their home. It is none of their business who or when anyone has guests in their home. If you want to make a case for the game room, again i say you are wrong. Here is why, it’s a room built for occupancy, if they use it for drunken orgies and ufc fight nights no one would say squat, after all it’s a game room, but because he has friends over for worship and bible reading it’s wrong? It’s a party room! It was constructed for use by persons! Should it sit empty? Get real and some of the smart remarks you made, about the “rest of the story” make you look stupid. He clearly says almost 1.5 acres not 5 acres, which you try to correct by stating its actually 1.4 acres. Here is a news flash for you, one day Uncle Sam is going to knock on your door and tell you to do something you think is wrong and some self righteous “Christian” is going to rain all over your parade.

    • Of course not, James. See my response to J.O., the first commenter:

      . . . Scripture does not preclude civil disobedience. St. Peter said, when rebuked by the Sanhedrin (ruling council) in Jerusalem for disobeying a command to keep mum about Jesus, “We must obey God rather than men.” And St. Paul himself, of course–the author of Romans 13–was eventually put to death by the government for disobeying it. (Notice that Paul speaks of “subjection” or “submission” to the government, not simply of “obedience.” Slaves are to “obey” their masters. Christians are to “be subject” to the government. Two different Greek words, with two distinct meanings.)

      The biblical rule is pretty clear: in general, obedience to government, even corrupt government (remember Nero). But most rules have exceptions–and that one is no exception! The exception is: When the government tells us to disobey God, then we must obey God rather than the government. But God, as far as I can tell, has no moral objection to exit lights and extra doors. At such time as Mr. Salman gets around to standing up for his faith and is rebuked by the City of Phoenix I’ll commend St. Peter’s speech in the book of Acts to his attention. Until then, he’s still operating in Romans 13 territory.

      And if they were to use their game room for drunken orgies and ufc fights, the neighbors would most likely complain (just as I understand they did regarding the Salmans’ meetings) and at that point the city would investigate and might well take action. Your assertion that no one would say squat about the drunken orgies is unlikely, given neighbors’ pretty much universal dislike for noise.

      And I wasn’t correcting his statement about the size of his lot; I was (as I said) correcting reports in several published news accounts.

  9. To the poster: One of the facts you have wrong on the rest of the story is the 1.4 to 5 acre jump. He corrected himself to say 1.5 not 5. Not all that important but it should be corrected I don’t think there are too many houses in that part of phoenix that have more than 1.5 to 2.5 acres.
    I don’t think he was 100% wrong in the fact that he should be allowed to hold a service on private property but the City isn’t 100% wrong in the fact that they have a right to enforce building codes, is it really going to hurt the guy to put up a couple exit lights?
    I know that the guy is in jail but for the rest of the people reading in regards to his comments in the video.
    -about handicapped parking it’s so that he doesn’t get his rear sued by the ADA.
    -If one registers one’s non profit organization as a church that makes one’s group a church. there are also two types of “church” there’s Church which refers to the Body of Christ and then there’s church which refers to the local gathering of believers.
    -Should be mentioned that the parties at the mayor’s house and the councilman’s houses were all non weekly or monthly gatherings they are irregularly scheduled events.
    Oh and by the way he’s definitely bitter. If he wasn’t there wouldn’t be a video and he would either serve his 60 days and move on or bring his building up to code or both.
    and that’s all I got
    Completely unrelated but read my blog.

    • No, as I said in my post, I wasn’t correcting Mr. Salman; I was correcting several published reports which have said their house sits on five acres.

  10. With all due respect and with great appreciation for the concern expressed here for the Word of God and the law of the land and the people involved, please let me add just a little to the conversation. Beginning in 2002, the Salmans began a small group meeting for Bible Study and worship in the living room of their home. A few years later they moved into the present home and continued the practice of meeting with family and some friends of the family. Sometimes there was a meal or games or just visiting, but there was always a conversation going on somewhere concerning the Bible. Occasionally someone new was invited and several people have moved on through the years, but the group is fairly small considering the sizes of the families involved. This is how many people have worshipped together for years, even centuries. Someone decided they did not like this and complained, many times, until the city sent a letter saying it was unlawful to worship in a residence because it was not up to commercial code. The same people could continue to meet for meals or parties or games, but not to study the Bible. The building code that has been adapted by the city is a Universal Building Code that many cities and states have adopted. I humbly suggest this should be reconsidered as this code is ambigous and easily twisted to accomodate whatever the officials desire. Check out the story in San Juan Capistrano, California, where the same thing happened and the city decided to change the code so no one would have this problem again. This is only the beginning. But do not despair, God is in control.

  11. Hey I dont care if the guy is Donald trump he has a right to hold bible studies in his home period. Also just because he has a cross and stuff in his front yard doesn’t make his game room a church and he has a right to invite his friends and family over to enjoy that room in whatever fashion he wants to. So stop beating on Christian people and realize we have rights too.

  12. Maybe I’m misunderstanding all of this but, from what I gather here, Arizona is justified for charging this ordained pastor because he held weekly meetings on his private property in a building that is seperate from his home? So, when a man who is a licensed/certified chef has weekly barbeques and another man who is a card dealer has weekly poker gatherings in their sheds or detached garages do these buildings have to be up to code as well? These appear to be the same instances. It’s understandably a very controversial situation as building codes are enforced to protect both the property owner and the people within the building. However, because 1.) the building is on private property, 2.) property taxes and insurance are (likely) being paid for the building, and 3.) people are entering by their own admission and at their own risk then there should be no standing argument by the Arizona government. One point I’d like to make… this might not be an issue of freedom of religion. It may be more of a monetary issue where the government sees an opportunity to gain a few extra dollars.

    • Additionally, because this man holds weekly “Bible studies” in the building he registered on his building permit as a game room does mean it is not still being used as a game room… there are 6 other days in a week. My church (in Ohio) has a seperate building on it’s premises that was built for it’s larger contemporary worship service and it is also used for youth nights, kids basketball leagues, fellowship events, etc.

      • Most churches do have ‘rooms’ like that, but they still have the required ‘exit’ signs and the life-safety requirements to meet either the BOCA Building Code or what other code that has been embraced by the community. Mr. Salman’s ‘game room’ is set up with over 100 chairs in it, a pulpit, etc., and has only one exit door. Should there ever be a fire, a roof collapse, or another emergency and people would get injured or killed, the VERY first fingers of blame would be pointed at the city. “How could you let this happen?” The people can be in there learning how to speak Dutch to Mickey Mouse, but you can’t have a room that seems to rather comfortably seat 100 people with just one exit!

  13. Pingback: When Religious Persecution Isn’t « Notes from a Small Place

  14. “That being the case, he and his church need to pull up their big boy pants and follow the zoning code for churches.” Love it. Totally agree.

    This is my take. I AM a pastor. I also no the difference between real persecution and someone wanting to be a martyr. When I first read the story, I was immediately indignant. But when I started noticing things like “sign out front” and “chairs for 40 people,” I began to change my mind. We may not have all the facts, but some are pretty clear. This is NOT a genuinely singular case of persecution. This was fueled by a man with with what seems to be an itching for a fight.

  15. 12 Federal Officers have to arrest a man on code violations? I think there is more here than code violations. It does not matter if he owns other business’s. If he wants to conduct a Bible study on his property, what is the problem? If he is teaching the Gospel to others at his Bible study, I don’t have a problem with it. As far as some have posted about noise, have you ever been to a Bible study? They are not loud. If all it is, is a code violation, then they should have gone in with a deputy and locked the doors until it was brought up to code and gave him a fine. 60 days in jail, $12,180 fine and 3 years probation? That is excessive for a code violation, I think the city wants him to stop the Bible studies or at least his neighbors do.

    • Mr. Salman hired a Washington, D.C. lawyer and he brought it into the federal system, the city did not. Federal marshals enforce federal regulations and orders by federal judges.

    • This isn’t just code violations. It’s now 260 weeks of code violations.

      What’s the problem with conducting a Bible study on his property? The problem is that he’s conducting it in a large building not his house. The guy lives in a 3,000 square foot house, for crying out loud! He could easily move his Bible study into his living room and end this whole discussion. Instead, he chooses to continue meeting in the other building. Since he advertises himself as the pastor of a church, the City is not unreasonable in assuming that this other building, not a house, in which they meet is a church building. And, at that point, zoning codes kick into effect.

      Does the City want him to stop the Bible studies? They may well. But at this point we can’t tell because he won’t comply with the zoning codes. As soon as he does, if the City keeps trying to shut him down, then we’ll know! At this point, I think it’s pointless conjecture.

  16. What a person does, within reason of course, on private property is not the concern of any municipality. If this is not religious persecution, it is certainly bureaucracy run amok.

  17. I am a committed Christian but also had the privilege of serving local government for over 25 years, 12 as mayor of our town, which has several churches – one a very well-known mega-church. Large or small, a place of public accommodation must meet certain life-safety codes, and this ‘pastor’ should be enough of a shepherd to realize that those rules are there for the safety of the flock he tends. If you propose to build or operate a church in a residential area, you must apply for a ‘special use permit’ and that allows the authorities to be sure that the local infrastructure can handle the increased use – power, gas, water, sewers, fire-fighting (the local fire department MUST be aware of the kind of occupancy) etc. There is most likely a local sign ordinance, and it must be followed, whether you are a church or not, and sign ordinances in residential areas are MUCH more strict than they are in commercial areas. The Special Use Permit would then allow the additional signage, within proscribed limits. Parking is always an issue with this kind of requested use, and if the cars impinge on the neighbors, they have the right to complain. The Special Use Permit would also address the need for parking accommodation. It doesn’t say you CANNOT park, it does regulate WHERE you can park, especially if it causes an issue for the neighborhood. The whole point here is to see to the safety of the people involved, and to protect the neighbors from intrusion into the reasonable care and use of their own property which is (or should be) protected by a well-crafted zoning and building code. Those codes are not arbitrary, but organized for the benefit and protection of everyone.

        • I think he meant to say that one bristles at them, if ones value system is Americanism rather than Leftism. Yet of course, they may be a good thing, personally I’m not sure. Although knowing that bureaucracy itself is inherently heartless, I’m sure they’ve been enforced unjustly at times, and have ruined the lives of good people. The benefit of the doubt should always be for the citizen.
          “The bigger the government the smaller the citizen.”
          Dennis Prager

          • “Zoning laws are unconstitutional.”

            “I think he meant to say that one bristles at them, if . . . .”

            Actually, words have meaning agreed upon by quite a large group of people, and “zoning laws are unconstitutional” doesn’t mean “I find zoning laws annoying.”

          • I was appealing to the larger value system system encompassed by what could be called Americanism. That is, prioritizing individual liberty over our decent instinct for egalitarianism, because we believe freedom will bring more prosperity for all, from the bottom up, even if not equal. You cannot prioritise equality and freedom, in the governing sense, because they are so often mutually exclusive. In this case, zoning laws may indeed be constitutional to whatever degree they protect other’s liberty and/or safety. The trouble with bureaucracy and the Left’s precious statism is that it paints with too broad a brush, most often choosing their agenda over individual liberty. In other words, for an off cuff, made up example, 8 foot high ceilings may be mandatory for a normal group of 100 or less, but not if the group in question is midgets. A bureaucracy would *not* take that obvious, common sense fact into account. A non-statist, non-Leftist, American would.

          • Your reasoning falls apart on the merit of the argument: Building codes and the kinds of rules about which you speak must and do take into consideration a MUCH longer time frame than the instant moment. Using your example of a room built for Little People not needing to have eight-foot ceilings. That assumes that Little People will always be the occupants of the structure. It also assumes that arriving Public Safety people will all be Little People as well. Not very practical! Building and zoning codes are written for protection – for the current occupant/user of the property, but also for those to come; and also for those who must supply and service the facility, especially in an emergency. One need only recall the Iroquois Theatre fire, with 600+ fatalities, to understand the need for building codes. Those people did not have to die like that. Building and zoning codes work hard to prevent that sort of horror. For those who “don’t like it”, there are places out in the countryside where regulation is minimal, but when you choose to live in close proximity to your neighbors, safety is a prime concern for everyone. To do less for the common man is irresponsible at best, and most would say “criminial”.

      • George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among other founding fathers, would disagree with that statement.

  18. 1) Building codes are building codes, no matter what the structure is for. Though we may not like them, we are mandated to submit to the government, unless they require us to disobey God. Since God’s Word doesn’t tell us to disregard building codes, we need to comply.

    2) BIGGER ISSUE: has anyone noticed what this guy teaches??? His web site: (the section on the Trinity) —– they are oneness modalistic HERETICS. Not Christians. Not redeemed. Not brothers in Christ. False teachers.

    • Thanks, Dave. How did you get to that page? I only found two pages–the home page and the About Pastor Michael Salman page–on the church website.

    • I’ve read their mission statement, and can’t see how you can justify calling these people “heretics”. Can you briefly share where (on the web page) you think it shows they’re ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’., as far as being Christians in name only? I’m curious if I agree or if not, to what degree.

      • “Can’t see how you can justify calling these people ‘heretics.”

        Maybe Dave calls them heretics because they fail to believe in the fundamental pillar of the Christian religion.

        Mission Statement, 3rd paragraph, 6th sentence, Jesus is not coeternal with the Father and the Spirit.

        • re”
          Mission Statement, 3rd paragraph, 6th sentence, Jesus is not coeternal with the Father and the Spirit.”

          The next line reads:
          ‘The divinity of the Son always existed but the son did not exist until he became.’

          It sounds like they’re disagreeing with you and agreeing at the same time., lol.

  19. Pingback: Michael Salman should not be hosting religious meetings in his home | Unsettled Christianity

  20. Thanks for posting this article. I caught a few red flags in the stanard media reports and you have confirmed my suspiscions. As Christians we are to obey all the laws, no matter how mean or stupid, that do not directly go against the word of God. Building codes however over done fall under the obey part. After all even Jesus paid taxes to a brutal goverment and asked us to do the same.

  21. Out of the hundreds of thousands of building code violations by homeowners throughout the country, how many are resolved by a notice, a visit by the bldg inspector, and a letter detailing how to resolve the issue? How many are dealt with by a police force?

    • Totally situational. You start with a routine notice, then a second notice, then a visit, then a second visit, then an appearance before the local magistrate assigned to such cases, then the police go to the site. Believe me, the police do NOT relish those kinds of assignments. That is NOT what they feel they signed on to do when they decided to become police officers. It’s like when they have to ‘accompany’ on an eviction notice, or any of the other court-mandated actions that they are required to ‘stand by’ – ‘assist’ – or ‘execute the order of the court’. They get in, do what they’re assigned to do, and leave. But remember, they do NOT wake up one morning and decide to go raid a property. They are ASSIGNED to do the work and they have exact parameters that they are obligated to meet and abide by. They aren’t the ‘bad guys’ here!

  22. You are correct, and since almost all code enforcement has to do with Life Safety issues, both for the property in question and the surrounding properties, I would expect and hope that a Man of God would put that demand on HIMSELF! Why would he purposely try to dodge Life Safety issues? The property is served by a septic system – those are almost always sized for residential use. If they don’t function properly, the property owner “suffers”, but so do the neighbors! Water mains in residential areas are sized for residential use – not commercial quantities. Solution? THE OWNER pays for a larger “service”. This man really should think about what he is saying to his Bible-study attendees, what he is really saying to his neighbors – “You don’t matter to me!” – and to the law – “I don’t care about the law!” Is that really the message a pastor should be giving? Really?

  23. In my business, (aviation), you run into more regulation when you cross a line. You cross that line when you “hold out” to the public. If you just fly your own airplane around for your own family and friends as a hobby you fall under one set of rules. Increased regulation hits you when you say to Joe Public, “I will fly you from point A to point B.” It doesn’t matter who owns the airplane, how big it is, how often you fly it, or how many people you fly. It doesn’t even matter if you make a profit. If you “hold out” to the public, even a select portion of the general public, you are a commercial operation and are regulated as such.
    If Mr. Salman invites his friends and family to his house for a Bible study, he is having a Bible study and the city needs to back off. If Mr Salman is an ordained pastor and holds out to the public (can’t get much more public than a cross and sign in the yard and a web site) to meet in a building that is not his house, the city has cause to believe that this is a public church building and has a legal requirement to enforce the codes for one.
    It appears to me Mr. Salman is intentionally living in a gray area, attempting to have it both ways. The Federal Aviation Administration sees this all the time. Since private operation is so much cheaper than commercial operation, (regulations always cost money), people frequently try to operate commercially while being regulated under private use rules. It’s called a “subterfuge” and it’s illegal. Worse yet for a Christian, it’s dishonest, and disobedient to God.
    If Mr.Salman applied for a permit to build a garage when he intended to use the building for his Bible study, that’s a subterfuge. Calling a building a “game room” could be the closest label the building department has for what he wants to use it for. But if Mr. Salman’s intent is to hold public worship in the building, and it meets the city’s definition of a public use building, then he’s required to comply with the building codes.
    Maybe the city officials hate Christians. Maybe not. I don’t see how the city’s attitude is relevant, since I don’t see anywhere in here where the city has told Mr. Salman he can’t have a Bible study or worship service on his property. They are only saying his building has to meet the code. That isn’t religious persecution, that’s code enforcement.

  24. This is a judgment call. Is it part of his house or separate? Church in all but name or game room that also hosts Bible studies? It could go either way. And all things being equal, the Christian attitude is to defer to the law and to other people in general, doing everything possible to live at peace with others (Rom 12.18).

    If submitting to some zoning laws for a “church” sounds like being a pushover, how about “if your enemy is hungry, feed him” (Rom 12:20)? As 1 Cor 6.7 put it, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

    Heck, the pastor should have been pro-active to ok his building activities with the city and VOLUNTEER to meet their arbitrary zoning laws rather than sneak around. That would have been a Christian witness to the zoning board, something they probably don’t see very often.

  25. Pingback: The story of Mi… « the world is watching you

  26. You, as many other misinformed Americans, have totally missed the point about this issue. It is not about whether or not Michael Salmon has a cross with a reader board on his property, the size of his property, whether he is ordained or not, or whether he uses his rec room to host his Bible studies. The issue is whether or not the government has the right to designate “zones of worship” This is not an isolated case. The city of Santa Ana is using zoning laws to prevent a church from renting the Galaxy theater on Sundays which holds daily concerts and the county of Rockdale Ga is preventing new churches from starting by requiring any church to have 3 acres of land.
    The issue is very simple. Does the government have the right to regulate worship with zoning laws.

    Let’s see if you can remember your High School civics class.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The city of Phoenix has violated the first amendment specifically states that government cannot make a law hindering the free exercise of religion.

    Or let’s see if you can remember your WWII history

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Martin Niemöller – German Lutheran Pastor taken to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.

    • You’d be right, except at no point has the city tried to prevent Mr. Salman from conducting church at his home. Inspectors have even allowed him to designate his home as a church – something he finds convenient enough when the tax bill on a $750k property comes due, but not so much when the city tells him that he needs to make sure his property is safe to operate.

      This isn’t about “freedom of religion”. No one is saying that this man can’t lead a congregation (except that he claims that it isn’t a congregation since it’s totally not a church, except that he claims it as a church for tax purposes). This is about a city’s job to safely regulate its roads and basic safety services.

    • It is not a peacable assembly when you choose to flout building codes which are supposed to be about the safety of the worshippers. Yes I think the government is too big with some really stupid regulations but we are told to obey and to live at peace as well as we can. Should we take action and try to change stupid laws and oust power tripping politicians? Absolutly but this specific case is not about persecution but of a supposed pastor having a tantrum because he doesn’t want to follow the building codes. Render unto Ceasar still applys here and ceasar was about as ungodly as you can get.

    • So, you’re saying that a church should be totally unregulated? Really? My home church has well over 6,000 members. Acres and acres of parking lots. Almost 900 little kids in Sunday School, etc., etc. Are you saying that a huge multi-building facility like that should not have to follow some life-safety rules? Are you KIDDING me? Sufficient exits, sprinkler systems, sufficient parking lot exits, etc., etc. The point of the Constitutional statement is that we cannot make rules to favor one church over another. I cannot make the Lutherans follow rules the Catholics can ignore. We had folks trying to convince us that their ‘church’ required them to smoke marijuana every day, and that they MUST have a steak dinner every night. We said “I don’t think so” and they were ushered back to their cells.

    • No, Duke, the Salman case is manifestly not about whether the government has the right to designate zones of worship. The City website says, “A house of worship is allowed in any zoning district in the City of Phoenix.

      Does the government have the right to regulate worship with zoning laws? The answer is yes when it comes to protecting the health and safety of its citizens. You’ve got the First Amendment down, but you’re forgetting Article 1, Section 8:

      The Congress shall have Power To . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.

      Zoning laws that, for example, are designed to get people out of the building safely in case of fire fall under providing for the general welfare. If you want the First Amendment to give religious groups total freedom to do anything, then you will like the church in Portland, OR, that ingests weird and dangerous psychotropic drugs from South America during their religious rites–and gives them to the children present as well. If that gives you pause, then you’re appreciating the power of the government to provide for the general welfare.

      The City of Phoenix has consistently maintained, and three courts have now agreed, that they are not trying to prevent Harvest Community Church from worshiping. The issue, according to the City, is simply that “the building that is used for regular assembly does not meet construction and fire code requirements for assembly.” The City has in fact bent over backwards to help Salman build his dream church on his property. When his neighbors tried to shut down his proposed church building on the grounds that zoning laws required it to be the principal structure on the site, it was the City that pointed out that all Salman had to do was build the church building bigger than the house and it would be the principal structure on the site. He then designed a 4,200 square foot structure that came within three feet of the property line–which infuriated his neighbors–but the City was fine with it.

      Salman has a history of breaking the law even when no religious principle is even remotely at stake. See this timeline.

  27. Excellent article with a good bit of detail.

    Look, people… what Paul was saying in Romans regarding submission to the governing authorities was basically that we don’t have the right to pick and choose what laws we follow unless those laws require us to go against what God has told us in Scripture. If a law requires us to murder people, worship Satan, or cheat on our spouses, then by all means, the higher law of God overrides the earthly authority of man.

    When it doesn’t go against God, however, we are required to obey those laws, even when we disagree with them. That means we should pay our taxes (screw you, Obamacare!), follow building codes, drive safely, and live peaceably with our fellow man to the best of our ability.

    Mr. Salman chose to not do so. He chose to lie about the nature of an expansion to his home. He chose to hold a church service in his home in contravention to the safety regulations. When he was told how to make changes to allow him to safely continue to hold church in his home, he chose to ignore those instructions. The city has worked with him for 5 years, and he’s continually thrown it back in their faces. He’s earned the jail time he’s received by being a jerk, and if there’s one thing I’ve commented about at my normally political blog recently, it’s how to not be a jerk when you host a Bible Study.

    • There’s a link to a good article here (in The Annoyed Elephant’s comment above) about one of the basic issues here, which doesn’t figure much in the legal aspect of “the case,” but which is huge in what actually happened: “How not to be a jerk when you hold a Bible Study.” (The Annoyed Elephant even has a checklist!) When you read the series of articles The Phoenix New Times has run on the Salman situation over the last couple of years, it becomes clear that Salman has been focusing on his rights (not a very Christian stance!), not on Paul’s admonition to try to live at peace with all men. (See especially this article from January, 2008.)

    • I hope your inherently ugly accusation against this man (He’s a LIAR and a CHEAT and doesn’t care about people’s safety, etc.) is empirically backed up. Else you should be ashamed of yourself for jumping to conclusions in favour of the heartless, bureaucratic State; for God’s sake. I mean, you can’t know for sure that he wasn’t being unjustly harassed. The fact that you take the side of the State in this, suggests to me that politically you are either a Leftist (Democrat…as there are no more Liberals in the D party) or a RP supporter. (At least a third of what Ron Paul seems to believe is indistinguishable from the most ardent, anti-American Leftists anywhere.)

      And your point about following the governing authorities doesn’t take into account the uniqueness of Americanism, and how we the people are the authority, how we are the government, and how this differs greatly, contextually, with the point of what was written in Scripture. You should read about that..,it’s very interesting.

      • I agree with all three of the court actions that have been part of this issue, and I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life. I knew Mr. Obama when he was in the Illinois legislature – wasn’t impressed with him then and am not now.. Not sure what that has to do with any of this, however. Suggest you actually read the case before you declare Mr. Salman’s innocence and rail against the brutality of the state. The government happens to be correct in this case, Mr. Salman is not. He is doing nothing but giving us Christians a bad name – oh, yet again. What happened to “….render unto Ceasar”? Mr. Salman and his supporters can fuss and whine all they want, but it won’t change the fact that you must have more than one exit for a building that holds 100+ people! and you’ve got to have water and sewer sized for that kind of facility as well. Physical reality is what it is – and no amount of name-calling will change that.

        • You wrote:
          “Suggest you actually read the case before you declare Mr. Salman’s innocence and rail against the brutality of the state.”

          Actually I suggested that the citizen should be given the benefit of the doubt, before the Sate bureaucracy. (Until we know more facts.) Yet maybe you believe you know enough facts to place that judgement of condemnation on this man? I’m not sure, but stand by my larger point…proudly, as an American.

      • Exactly how did this become a political conversation?

        Look, it’s not about siding with the souless, godless state against a nice, innocent man. It’s about the facts on record.

        1. He applied to the city for an expansion to his home that would be a “gameroom”. The city approved it as a residential expansion (no business, no church stuff). He built the expansion and then filled it with chairs, a pulpit, and all the trappings of a church (including a couple of crosses and several signs out front). Since he said one thing and did another, this would, at best, be construed as misrepresenting yourself to the city (aka “lying”).

        2. We can’t know for sure that he wasn’t being “unjustly harassed”? Bull. If he was being “unjustly harassed”, he would’ve gone to jail much sooner. The city has worked with him for nearly a half-decade, giving him the opportunity to modify his home so he CAN have church at his home. They’ve not told him he can’t be a church, just that he has to follow the regulations for a church. He’s continually thrown it back in their faces.

        3. Scripture may not take into account the uniqueness of Americanism, but it’s still Scripture and it still tells us that, unless the state is forcing us to go completely against God’s commands in scripture, we are to be obedient to the ruling authorities. While Americanism allows us to participate actively in the process that could change the rules (something Mr. Salman could’ve done many times by, say, running for city council), we are still required to do what the law requires of us.

        • Well said! and as a side note – If the Christian community is as concerned about our government as they should be – from local boards all the way to Washington – why is it SO HARD to get Christians to participate in government? If we don’t like what’s happening, get involved and change it! But local government is the best avenue for preventing chaos in our daily living. Thanks for the post.

    • Mr. Salman applied for AND RECEIVED a tax-exempt status for his property, CLAIMING IT TO BE A CHURCH! If it is NOT a church, then he owes a whole big bunch of back-taxes on the property and would likely be subject to prosecution for that lie. You can’t tell one part of government that you are a church when that is beneficial to you, and then tell another part of government that you are NOT a church because you don’t want to follow the rules. I’m not impressed with this guy at all….not at all.

    • I believe you’ve got the wrong address, Elephant. All the info I’ve found lists him being on 31st Ave.

    • Remember it was designated as incorporated church in 2007, and 09 he dissolved this, and it became a NON incorporated church. Do you know the difference between an incorporated church and a NON, one?

      • Actually, yes I do. And when it comes to zoning, there is no difference. The only real difference is in the ownership of the church body or trustees.

        Additionally, corporation status is a state / federal issue, and typically has no bearing on the zoning and public safety issues brought up by this case.

        • You are corrrect. The status of the incorporation is a tax status and has NO bearing on zoning law or building requirements. As I mentioned, it could be a school teaching people how to speak Dutch to Mickey Mouse, but you still have to follow the safety rules. Mr. Salman bought the property knowing (or he should have known) that zoning and building codes were in place on the property. Everything after that is attempted fraud on his part.

          • You wrote: “Mr. Salman bought the property knowing (or he should have known) that zoning and building codes were in place on the property. Everything after that is attempted fraud on his part.”

            So he’s committed fraud, eh? He’s a real bad, unworthy human being, and should be locked in a cage like an animal. Oh wait, he already is! :) Lol., and yet, why wouldn’t you imagine the possibility that there is *some* chance that he was being bullied? Do you admit that the State has used their rules (such as building safety regs) in unjust, unreasonable ways to bully people, in our Nation’s history? No? Yes? Why here, do you side with the State so easily, in favour of this ugly caricature of a man that you’ve constructed? For there’s plenty of variables that could contradict your assumptions. You see, I am free to admit that your caricature of him may be correct, but also it may not. Why are you not free to do the same? I think it is because you are a Leftist, or hold your Leftism above your Americanism. If you’d like a rational explanation of what those words mean, in context, I can do that for you.

            Also, your countering of my little analogy about midgets was misleading and potentially dishonest. I clearly said that if the rules were for a “group of 100″ midgets, and yet you responded that the height may be violating to the safety inspector himself. Do you believe that 100 safety inspectors will be needed? Do you believe that if the place was used regularly for a group of 100 midgets, the ceilings need to be 8 feet tall just in case, some time in the future it isn’t? I was clearly making an off the cuff analogy trying to remind about how bureaucracy can be unreasonable in the micro by acting heartless in the macro, and you completely, utterly, inexorably missed the point. So yes, I suspect at heart you are a Leftist/Statist, and yes, you voted for Obama in the last election. This is only relevant because he holds to Leftism as his ideology, or is a statist, collectivist, materialist in his value system/world view, just like yourself. (I am guessing, to try and make sense of how you could not be free to see the possibility that he’s not the caricature you insist he is…ie. a FRAUD and LIAR and a CHEAT, etc.) And no, I am not being insulting, only being descriptive (re Leftism ideology) for the sake of clarity. :)

          • Well, not going to even attempt to answer all the chatter that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – it just comes across as a lot of run-together thoughts that I don’t really have the time nor the inclination to try to understand, but to tell you just how your assumptions have led you astray, I’m so Conservative and Right-wing that my kids tease me when I have to turn left in my car! The big joke was “why does mom even have a left-turn signal in her truck?” I told you, I KNOW Mr. Obama and have known him since he was in our Illinois legislature. I was not impressed with him then any more than I’m impressed with him now. The vagaries of political government (eg.: Illinois state government – Washington, D.C. government) have NOTHING to do with the realities of LOCAL government and the life-safety rules and regulations we routinely implement and enforce for the greater good of the local population. Instead of your continuing to say that “we don’t know” what Mr. Salman’s positions/reasoning were, just listen to what he himself says and what he testified to in court! Either he’s telling the truth or he isn’t! He says it is a church when he’s talking to the people who collect the taxes (having now saved himself a fortune!) and when he’s talking to the zoning/building people it isn’t a church. So, he’s not a liar, he’s ‘conflicted’. Whatever.

          • My run together thoughts were, in part, a result of trying to reply to a lot of different responses in one. Anyway, I’ve just been trying to interpret the underlying tone or seeming urgency to stick up for the State coming on to someone’s private property (if you’re a conservative you’d know how crucial, foundational that is in itself to freedom) and how unconcerned you seemingly are that he was taken away by the State and locked in a cage, like an animal, for two months! I can see putting a temporary lock on his church’s door, or something, anything but that. How could you hold to Americanism and not be appalled by this?
            And a site that has an upside down American flag does indeed suggest something askew lol., ;)

          • ScrapGal, I’ve appreciated your calm, sane, rational and courteous participation in this conversation. Thank you!

          • And yours, as well! Thank you. Reasoned discourse is the backbone of our country. I well remember my parents having family and friends over to sit and discuss the issues of the day. No one disparaged another person, nor their views. The discussions didn’t devolve into a name-calling session, but rather we learned to examine various sides of an issue, take it apart for what it really is, and decide something based on the merit of the discussion rather than the emotion of it. Sadly, I think much of that skill is lost to the current era of sound bites and trying to figure out how much we can say to hurt someone or disparage them in the shortest amount of time. Thanks again for your kind words.

          • As Dennis Prager often says, *the* main weapon of the Left is in demonizing their ideological opponents. I mean, it is their MO; not that those who hold to Americanism do not do it, too. They do, just not nearly as much nor as a matter of course.

            “The bigger the government the smaller the citizen.”
            Dennis Prager

        • “So he’s committed fraud, eh? He’s a real bad, unworthy human being, and should be locked in a cage like an animal…. and yet, why wouldn’t you imagine the possibility that there is *some* chance that he was being bullied?”

          Actually, the way our court system works, he is presumed innocent the minute he walks into the courtroom. It’s up to the prosecution to build a case that would cause a judge and/or jury to agree that he’s guilty.

          Also, you seem to be stuck on the idea that there’s some sort of conspiracy between the city, the judge, and those of us who agree with the decision to gang up on and bully this poor, innocent guy. To what end, exactly? What is the city going to gain out of this? What would they have gained by forcing him to follow through on the requirements for a church?

          Who benefits, under your conspiracy theory?

          • You wrote:
            “Actually, the way our court system works, he is presumed innocent the minute he walks into the courtroom.”

            err, yes, this is common knowledge and even I know that. I also know that people are often unjustly accused and convicted, and that our system doesn’t always work. What is your point? If I accused you of molesting a child, and you did no such thing, but were convicted anyway, that would show that the system is not perfect. (nor was it expected to be by those who set it up.) I don’t get your point there. But I do see that you can’t understand how bureaucracy itself can be a problem in it’s tendency to be lacking in compassion in the micro. (common sense or ‘case by case’ judgements.

            You wrote:
            “Also, you seem to be stuck on the idea that there’s some sort of conspiracy…to gang up on and bully this poor, innocent guy”

            You aren’t paying attention. I said that this was a possibility, which you and others here seem unusually eager to denounce. I find it intrguing, a bit. (and I don’t tend to believe in conspiracies., but yes, I know how accusing another of that, especially if they are referring to Leftism as an ideology, is an aft used tactic to shut the other up. Why? In part because part of Leftism is to deny that they have an ideology, or a distinct set of values or world view, at all. See this to understand what I’m saying:

            You wrote:
            “Who benefits, under your conspiracy theory?”
            Ignoring your condescension (done to encourage a demeaning perception of little old me ;) I could remind you that those who do tend towards statism, are most often secular or do not believe in ultimate meaning outside of our opinions. How this relates is that statists will often find their meaning in their work and through their power over others, far more than believers tend to. (It’s why conservatives tend to believe in God more, are happier and also why they give more to charity in time and money.) So in other words, sometimes these peeing contests between individuals and the State come down to a lot of ego, or people throwing their weight around and *needing* to believe in their power over others to validate their own sense of meaning. It is quite scary, actually. The Left in general is, frankly.

          • “err, yes, this is common knowledge and even I know that. I also know that people are often unjustly accused and convicted”

            Prove that it happens “often”.

            Now prove that this is an unjust conviction.

            “You aren’t paying attention. I said that this was a possibility”

            Yes, that’s what makes it a conspiracy “theory”.

            “Ignoring your condescension”

            I’m not being condescending. I’m asking you a direct question. You theorize a conspiracy by the city and the courts to shut the man down, and I’m asking you a simple question: cui bono.

            I notice you didn’t answer the question.

          • There you go again, practically begging me to repeat myself because you’re so obviously keen on defending your precious State (or condemning this Christian) that you cannot hear me. Basically, the fact that he was taken from his home and family and thrown into a cage, like an animal, over zoning issues, suggested to me, as an American (who would never put an American flag upside down) that the State was too big for it’s britches in this case…somehow. I don’t know, and have admitted I could be wrong. But that’s my opinion. You can cry about it all you’d like, but I think I’m right. From what I’ve read I cannot see justification for locking him up for two months. You can. So what.

            re cui bono, I did answer your question, you just weren’t able to apprehend it apparently. (or you didn’t read it, I don’t know…and don’t care. :)

          • There you go again, thinking you’re some sort of Ronald Reagan when, in fact, you’re not even Ron Paul.

            “Basically, the fact that he was taken from his home and family and thrown into a cage, like an animal, over zoning issues, suggested to me, as an American”

            He was thrown into a cage because that was the consequence of his deliberately, knowingly breaking the law.

            “re cui bono, I did answer your question, you just weren’t able to apprehend it apparently. (or you didn’t read it”

            Yes, I did. It was a convoluted paragraph involving “statists” and how people who love God will be conservatives. It didn’t answer the simple question of “who benefits”.

            “I don’t know…and don’t care.”

            Obviously not. That’s why you continue to reply. Because you don’t care.

  28. If you’re going to quote Romans 13, then you’re at complete odds with some of the heroes of the faith. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthae all DISOBEYED civil government, and God brags on them for it in Hebrews 11.

    Have you heard some television or radio preacher say something to the effect, “Well, I’m glad we were given freedom here in the United States, but our Founding Fathers were wrong to rebel against the British Crown. According to Romans 13, they should have submitted to King George.” That is hypocrisy!

    To all of the Romans 13 Pharisees out there, I say, if you are really going to believe and preach that garbage, at least be honest enough to stop celebrating Independence Day on July 4. It was the day when men became traitors to Great Britain and officially declared a revolutionary war. And stop flying the Stars and Stripes in your church auditoriums. It was the flag of rebellion. How dare you say America’s founders violated Romans 13 in one breath and with the next breath say you thank God for the freedom that was purchased AT THE SACRIFICE OF THE BLOOD OF THE MEN YOU SAY VIOLATED ROMANS 13!

    Of course, let me be careful to say that real Christians are peacemakers. They desire to live a quiet and peaceable life with their neighbors, their civil authorities, and even with other nations. They readily recognize and respect lawful, God-ordained authority. But, at the same time, they will not surrender that which is holy and give it to swine! They absolutely will not become toadies for unlawful government that attempts to usurp the God-given authority and jurisdiction to which it has been divinely assigned!

    This is an excerpt from an article by Chuck Baldwin entitled, “What will they say to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?

    • So, what’s your point? God instituted government, and Mr. Salman bought a house in an area that is regulated by a zoning and a building code…..his choice. He could have built his church, or whatever he is calling it today, somewhere where there is no zoning/building/life safety set of requirements. He’s looking to pick a fight and is profiting handsomely from it. Shame on him.

  29. He did indeed register his property as a church, and became tax exempt. The following link confirms this. We were duped as well and said many things supporting him and complaining to government officials UNTIL we saw the actual proof of the truth, the Maricopa County Assesor’s page See here:×618.jpg See that he hasn’t paid taxes since then: Or read the whole the story here: Salman cannot have it both ways, a church when it benefits him for taxes, and a home when he is facing fines for not getting building permits for said church, and for refusing to bring it up to code. (yes I said refusing) When this all washes out, Christians as a whole will once again get the defamation of character from one man’s poor choices. And to top it off, he and his family are collecting donations from well meaning people, based on his “persecution”.

  30. The blulk of it all is this the reasons why we have jails and prisons is not to back up ” code viol.” Its for the safety of our comm. And to pay for criimes ageinst sociaty, ive been to jail and prison, I love the lord I have made mistakes and a person does not desirve to go through the indignation of having to pull his butt cheeks apart and calf or lift his nut sack for sacurity perpeses or the god afful lonelyness that these PEOPLE feel each day, so all and all those of you who thick its right do the christion thing and take a step in this mans shose, and please come down off your high horse!!!

    • This is about the safety of the community, Toby. That’s exactly what it’s about. And the City of Phoenix was pretty much out of other options. This has been going on for six years now, after all. They’ve cited him; it hasn’t worked. They’ve warned him; it hasn’t worked. They’ve cited him again–and again; it hasn’t worked. They’ve fined him–hasn’t worked. From the time that the City became aware that this guy was having twice-weekly meetings that didn’t meet the safety code, if he’d had a fire in his building–which only has exits on one side, and which has no exit lights–and people had been trapped inside and killed, the City would have been responsible, and liable.

      If he’d been honest and above board (choosing to have his group be either a Bible study or a church and then sticking with that same identity) any time during the six years, this wouldn’t have happened.

      • You sure are making a lot of assumptions there, it seems, Carolyn. For every accusation you’ve just laid down, I wonder if he’d have a rational response, or if he would just grunt., or run, etc. I suspect you imagine the latter. I can’t quite see why, though.

        • I don’t see any assumptions there, Japes, nor many accusations–just the facts of the case verified through multiple sources. You’re the one off in the Fair Land of Imagine. Once you get down to not being able to see why I would do what you *imagine* I might do when he did what you *imagine* he might do . . . it’s time to hang it up.

          • You wrote:
            “You’re the one off in the Fair Land of Imagine”

            Thanks for the demeaning insult, I guess, Caroline, but again you’ve missed the point. I’ve *never* said that your premise may not be correct. I’ve already stated the obvious, which is how conglomerates of bureaucracies, or a State office culture, for example, can become corrupt; that this is a *possibility*, and have challenged you to tell me why this is not a possibility. You have not. Instead, you’ve decided to attack me personally…well done, Christian.
            (…that was sarcasm., because I’m a bit hurt that you’ve decided to ‘go low’ and start attacking me personally.)

          • Hi, Japes–I’m surprised you see the Fair Land of Imagine as a demeaning insult and personal attack. I thought it was a reasonable term to describe your repeated hypothetical situations. I didn’t intend to insult, attack or demean you.

            I’ve never said that your premise may not be correct. In fact, in our very first interaction, I agreed that it was a real possibility:

            I’m not defending the bureaucracy as being just. I have no idea if this particular one is or not. I have no fondness for bureaucracy, and can’t recall an enjoyable interaction with one! If Mr. Salman ever brings his building into compliance with code, we may find that the City really is trying to snuff out his Bible study.

            It’s definitely a possibility, and one of which I’m well aware–but the bulk of the available evidence currently points strongly the other way.

            But you just keep worrying the same tired bone over and over and over again. Why?

          • You wrote:
            “..a reasonable term to describe your repeated hypothetical situations.”

            You know very well that power corrupts, and such corruption has manifested itself many times in our countries history, in big ways and small. So what they heck are you talking about ‘hypothetical’ for than? The very nature of corruption in bureaucracy and statism itself involves obfuscation and making things appear one way when they’re not really, if this is needed. I mean, how can you have corruption without lies. Yet it is your determined assuming that all the charges against him are utterly true and just, that got under my skin. I simply said, why not trust the citizen before the State, if there’s a still unresolved conflict. And that even if true, throwing him in a cage should outrage (ideally) any American.

  31. Sounds like if jesus was starting his minestry in this time then we would of had just one more, im sorry 67 “citations” to crusafie him here today, I am speaking to all the people of faith, speaking of faith it sounds like this man showing his faith, what im saying, jail him? Really

      • “Lied to the city”
        Lol., you collectivists crack me up.

        So you don’t think I’m just being insulting, (…perhaps you don’t like the descriptive term, Collectivist. Or maybe you are proud of it? I don’t know)
        But here’s an analogy which might help clarify, and which happened to a friend of mine. He went for permission and showed plans before building what the county called a storage shed, and it was like that for years. Then *the city* decided to call the same shed as a separate structure/building to get more taxes. Now, since my friend decided one year to call it a shed, and the next year (after they renamed it) to still call it a shed, was he lying? I suppose, in a way, maybe. But the question a real American (with a right side up flag) should be asking, is if it was right or wrong. We do not bow our knee to the State, just because it is powerful. The State is *no* better than any of us, and because of the nature of bureaucracy and the *fact* that power corrupts, it is more likely worse.

        “The bigger the government the smaller the citizen.”
        Dennis Prager

  32. This entire conversation has split into two different discussions, often blended into one convoluted comment. Some people are better at linear thinking than others. Probably also fair to say that reasoned logic is tough to grasp for some. For those who choose to continue to argue the merit of local government regulation of safety issues, there is one discussion. They seem to enjoy examining the idea of a demon under every rock. The other discussion seems to center more on the instant case and just how long and how often the local authorities should put up with someone obviously intent on sidestepping the law for his own benefit. That “case” has been presented and defended on this site. The arguments over the wisdom of a regulated citizenry, especially in the realm of life-safety issues, will go on and on ad nauseum. It rather becomes like someone arguing with his own belly button about the lint contained therein. Just keep talking – we just don’t need to hear the rambling discussion. My points have been made – fairly clearly, I would hope – so will now add nothing further to this discussion unless there is a question I can offer about the role and function of local government as it sees to the safety of the people who voted that level of government into being in the first place. “Further the deponent saith naught.”

  33. “Lol., you collectivists crack me up. ”

    Lol, you anarchists Ron Paul-worshiping internet trolls crack me up.

    This isn’t about “collectivism”, you political science neophyte. This is about THE LAW. If you choose to live in a city, you are subject to the rules and requirements of that city. Sometimes, those rules are unreasonable, in which case the American system allows you to seek redress for your grievances via the state or federal-level branches of government.

    However, when we talk about cities, we have to talk about what the most basic role of government is, and that is: to protect its citizenry. Even the founders acknowledged this in the preamble to the constitution. Part of their job assigned to them by the state is to ensure that property is used in a way that will not cause injury to people. That’s why the vast majority of cities (and counties) have zoning laws, permit requirements, etc. You want to call this “collectivism”? Fine. It goes against the basic dictionary definition of collectivism, but if using that term warms your heart, then go right ahead.

    In this case, this man owned a $750,000 home. He petitioned the city government to build a “game room” and was granted the permit, so long as it was for residential purposes. He built it as a church (aka “not a residential purpose”). Ergo, he lied.

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