Who would have thought that in the 'land of the free and home of the brave" that there would be such a thing as it being unlawful to have a bible study in your home? Well apparently in Phoenix, Arizona it is. Since 2002 Michael Salman and his wife have opened their home up to between 15 and 20 people and they share in many things that Christian believers enjoy: Bible study, food, fellowship and prayer. That all ended recently with Mr. Salman being sentenced to 60 days in jail and $12,180 in fines.
So what brings all this about? Why is a man fined and imprisoned over simply having guests at his house and one of the things they engage in is bible study?
According to Christian News,
Michael Salman says that he has been battling the City of Phoenix for years after code enforcement officials told him that if he was going to hold worship gatherings on his property, it would be considered an “occupancy” and must be subject to commercial code regulations. Salman hosts a weekly study with his family and friends in a building located in his back yard, which is on approximately an acre and a half of land, with an additional 3.2 acres behind it. He asserts that the meetings are private and not open to the general public.
“The only people who go in that building is my wife and I and our guests,” he said. “People have a right to gather at their home and on their property with their guests. Why can’t we have people as our guests?”
He said that the city responded by stating that religious worship cannot be considered as being private.
Say what? OK, hold on a second here. This is what people wanted right? Remember the claims of keep your religious beliefs out of the public eye? I'm not advocating that for surely if you have serious religious beliefs they are not a private matter simply because they are part of a world view. They never leave you and thus it is part of your character that you take everywhere you go.
Many neighbors began calling authorities complaining about the number of cars parked at the property of the Salman's. Was it any of their business? No. It was on his property. Sure, if the people were loud and bothering others I could see the issue, but there seems to be no difference in what was taking place with the Salmans and what people do all the time for birthday parties, Super Bowl parties, or just get-togethers with family and friends.
In 2008 firefighters came and attempted to break up the meetings and Salman ordered them off his property. “We told them they had no right,” he said. “They had been harassing us since February. This is our home. We are a private gathering. This is Christians gathering on my private property.”
It was then that Salman obtained building permits to construct a 2,000 square foot building in his backyard and the building passed inspection. They then moved to meet in the building and the city went ballistic.
The long-running feud between Salman and the City of Phoenix came to a head in June of 2009 when nearly a dozen police officers armed with a search warrant and accompanied by city inspectors raided his home near 31st and Northern avenues and combed the 4.6 acre property in search of violations. They charged him with 67 code violations.
However, maybe you are someone who thinks that this is just Christians getting what they deserve. Aren't you concerned at all that if the Salman's Constitutional rights, specifically 'the right of the people to peaceably assemble' and the right to 'freedom of religion' are seriously being violated here?
I'm aware that as a believer in Jesus Christ, my Lord said that I would face tribulation in this world, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. However, that will not keep me from voicing the truth that Arizona here is clearly in the wrong.
Salman was to begin his sentence on July 9. The Assistant City Prosecutor, John Tutelman, who has characterized Mr. Salman as a "rebel" because he would not put an end to the Bible studies asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to revoke Salman's probation and turn it into a two-and-a-half-year jail term.
Mr. Tutelman apparently has no heart. Salman is not only a father of five, but a husband and the city should re-evaluate their priorities of criminalizing what the First Amendment protects. I'm wondering if someone could bring Mr. Tutelman up on charges of being a rebel to the U.S. Constitution and put him out of his office of Prosecutor.
On a final note, notice that it does not appear that any of the neighbors actually spoke with the Salmans. They simply tattled on them. This is the whole thing that the federal government is doing to the people of America now with its "See Something, Say Something" campaign. They want to make us a nation of gossipers, and backbiters, spying on one another. As the now popular saying from the epic television series Lost so aptly put it, "If we dont' learn to live together, we'll die alone."
If you would like to help the Salman family with expenses, you can contact them on their Facebook Page for more information.
Watch Salman and his wife discuss their legal battle, below: