A Phoenix pastor who was jailed for holding a Bible study group on his private property is now holding one behind bars.
Michael Salman is serving a 60-day sentence in Maricopa County’s notorious Tent City jail for allegedly violating his probation by holding religious services on his property in violation of zoning and building codes. He was arrested July 9, after authorities charged the one-time gang member hosted Bible sessions for as many 80 people on his 4-acre property, which he tried to claim as a tax-exempt church.
“And I’m sure he’d do it all over again,” attorney John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, told FoxNews.com.
In a sense, he is. Salman has assembled a Bible study group on site that has been attended by as many as 30 inmates, according to Whitehead. On Thursday, he was chosen to lead inmates in prayer for the anniversary of the Tent City jail, just before they dined on moon pies, according to a report.
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ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday August 8, 2012
Religion News Quick Takes is a collection of links and blurbs highlighting religion news, cult stories — and anything else we think you might like.
Heard about Michael Salman, the Phoenix pastor alledgely who was jailed for holding Bible study meetings in his own home? The story has been played up by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute as the harbinger to religious persecution in the USA.
Well, there’s another side to the story. According to a fact sheet published by the City of Phoenix, the Michael Salman court case is about building safety — not about the right to hold Bible study meetings in one’s own home.
Salman’s church, Harvest Christian Fellowship (also referred to as Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church), holds meetings twice a week with up to 80 people attending. The church was found responsible for 96 civil code violations.
At one time he wanted to construct a 4,200-square-foot building in his backyard, to be used as a church. In the end, he received permission from the City of Phoenix for what he told the city was to be a ‘game room.’ He then started using this structure for his Bible study meetings — even though the permit explicitly states, “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 church, registered as such for tax exemption purposes, was found responsible for 96 civil code violations. The Court specifically noted, “[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.”
On August 30, 2010, Salman was found guilty of 67 Class 1 Misdemeanors. He appealed but his convictions were upheld, and Salman was sentenced to serve time in jail.
Once there he promptly started a Bible Study, and — after once study was cancelled due to a lock-down situation — falsely claimed his right to hold Bible Studies in jail was violated.