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Pastor Jailed For 60 Days After Hosting Bible Study Classes In His Home

michael salmon bible study

Arizona Pastor Michael Salman is currently serving a 60-day jail sentence for hosting bible study classes in his Phoenix home. The suburban residence was “raided” earlier this week by more than a dozen police officers because the city maintains the religious meetings were in violation of local zoning laws. Salman was arrested and sentenced to serve 60 days in jail, received a $12,180 fine and was placed on three years probation for sitting around his living room and sharing his faith with others. Fox News reports.

The pastor’s spouse Suzanne appeared on Fox ad Friends this morning to share the story of her husband’s arrest. Governmental officials concluded that Salman was operating a church in a space which was zoned residential. Apparently you can host Tupperware parties, sex toys parties and cooking parties in your home in Phoenix, but discussing scripture and holding hands in prayer crosses the line.

“It defies logic, honestly. I don’t understand that something so small got so large like this,” Suzanne said. “People do it all over the United States all the time,” Suzanne Salman stated during the Fox interview.

Living in a small town where absolutely no zoning exists, the Salman arrest is simply too difficult to fathom. Do rural residents simply possess more common sense and neighborly consideration that city dwellers? We exist without a building permit office or zoning rules, yet not a single house has fallen down, caught on fire for sub-par electrical wiring or strip club built next to an elementary school.

“It came down to zoning and proper permitting. Anytime you are holding a gathering of people continuously as he does, we have concerns about people being able to exit the facility properly in case there is a fire, and that’s really all this comes down to,” Phoenix City Prosecutor Vicki Hall stated in a press release shared on Fox and Friends.

Do you think Pastor Salman deserves jail time for a bible study zoning violation?

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86 Responses to “Pastor Jailed For 60 Days After Hosting Bible Study Classes In His Home”

  1. Ray Rhoads

    This is just one more step in taking our Christain freedoms away! We must keep in prayer and keep the Faith that our Lord has freely given us through the blood of Christ Jesus on the cross, The word of God tells us not to come against Gods Annointed. 1Chronicles 16:22, " Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm".

  2. Doug Anderson

    The first Amendment and the liberty that come from the creator says that this is a horrible miscarriage of justice!
    A clear violation of the first admendments, free speech, and freedom of religion! 12 police officers! You got to be kidding me! Big brother persecuting Christians again.

  3. Gunner Stanson

    Mr. Rhoads, I'm calling "BS" on your comment. Obey the laws (zoning or otherwise) and you won't have a problem. If the gentleman in this article wants to conduct a church meeting then he should rent a facility. Tupperware parties are once in a blue moon. The key phrase here is "gathering of people continuously." No one is saying he can't have a worship service every week, just can't have it there. So, tell me, how is that affecting your religious freedom?

  4. Pearl Corbin

    I know what it is to live in a communist nation for years, but expect different in my own native and "free" 'US of A'. Yet how ironic! A pastor in Arizona is being imprisoned 60 days, fined $12,180 and will be on probation for 3 years. His crime? He was holding a Bible Study in his home! Absolutely Criminal! Meanwhile, in residential areas across our nation, houses are being converted into all sorts of places, such as, churches, mosques, hindu temples, but also botanicas, tarot card & palm reading spots, witchcraft centers, strip joints, gambling dens, etc, etc. without question. When will the church in America wake up? Are we going to wait until our Bibles are confiscated from our own homes or what?

  5. Dan Simpson

    Josh Robinson – Religion does not give you the right to violate laws that everyone else is abiding by. Mr. Stanson has a good point.

  6. Dan Simpson

    This has really caught my attention. Before I make any further comments that might be construed as offensive, I'd like to do my due diligence and research a little further. I have a feeling that the services he is holding on his residence, on what I would assume a weekly basis, are a little lager than your average Super Bowl or Tupperware party. While this may seem like a violation of his religious freedoms, there’s a good chance that he is violating zoning laws that have nothing to do with religion. Zoning laws are set in place not only for the safety of the community, but for the courtesy of neighbors as well. It would be interesting to see exactly how many people attend his services. Would you want to have 30+ cars parked on your street every Sunday? It’s one thing to have small Bible studies from your home once a week, but having an entire congregation show up…I don’t think so. If his church is getting so big that the city is cracking down on zoning laws, it sounds like he needs to work out an arrangement with another church to rent space. These are just my thoughts for now. I will make an informed decision on how I feel about this once I have all the facts. Remember, the media has a tendency to not present all the facts just to make a good story. I do think that jail time is a little ridiculous. If he really broke the law, maybe slap him with a couple fines and suspend the jail time. I'd be a little ticked off if I knew my tax dollars were being used to keep a pastor behind bars for violating zoning laws.

  7. Gunner Stanson

    Here is the text of the First Amendment, which you reference: 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.

    You will note this story indicates the action taken was done so by county officials in the state of Arizona, NOT Congress. One could argue the "peaceably to assemble" clause, but my guess is the county would successfully argue it has the authority to regulate such things as traffic flow, building occupancy levels, etc. In short, AGAIN, the man was in violation of the law, was probably warned at least once, and chose to become a martyr (looks like he succeeded with the responses I'm seeing) and now sits in jail.

  8. Dan Simpson

    My comments here are copied from my comments on Hillary 'Thomas' Mayne's post. I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks about this. Are his constitutional rights being violated, or is he just breaking the law and causing a stir. Remember to make informed decisions.

  9. Dan Simpson

    My comments here are copied from my comments on Hillary 'Thomas' Mayne's post. I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks about this. Are his constitutional rights being violated, or is he just breaking the law and causing a stir. Remember to make informed decisions.

  10. Dan Simpson

    ^for those of you that don't like to read more than a couple sentences.

  11. Dan Simpson

    30 to 40 people sounds like a little more than a "Bible study". If he were Muslim, Fox News either wouldn't have covered this at all, or put a completely different spin on it.

  12. Dan Simpson

    Ray, I think what you mean to say is "our RELIGIOUS freedoms". The Constitution says nothing about Christian freedoms. The "word of God" may tell you "not to come against Gods anointed", but the laws that govern our country do not. Welcome to America.

  13. Dan Simpson

    I agree with you on one thing Doug. Twelve police officers seems like a bit much for a pastor violating zoning laws. It doesn't seem like the best use of their tax dollars. I also think jail time is a little absurd even if he was breaking the law. I still don't think we have all the facts here.

  14. Karen Bellini

    Horrible. America needs a lot of prayer. The Constitution says we have the right to Religious Freedom. This just does not make sense. God bless you sister Pearl..

  15. Giuliano Cataford

    I agree with you on pretty much everything. Although I wouldn't be surprised at all if FOX "News" (excuse me while I puke and laugh) omitted that the Bible Studies involved shooting up heroin and raping newborn babies. They have a history of reporting only what is convenient to their cause. This is clearly a piece designed to stir and steer the Christian community so they'll side with them and adhere to their views and agenda.

  16. Giuliano Cataford

    If the pastor's rights are being violated though, it seems newsworth and frightening at the same time: jail time for this? Seems weird.

  17. Dan Simpson

    Julian – while that may have been a "religious experience" to some, I don't recall seeing any Bibles.

  18. Dan Simpson

    Oh Giuliano, you crack me up. The people that don't know you are going to have a hay day with your first comment. I swear we should come with a disclaimer.

  19. Dan Simpson

    Chuck – some might say that their religion requires them to kill all non-believers…should we protect that right too?

  20. Dan Simpson

    If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)…I guess we should protect the right to kill those that worship "other gods".

  21. Chuck Grimes

    Good point Dan. In a post I have about this on my page, I listened to Mike Gallagher talk about that this morning. He asked a caller would there be such a fight is this was an Islamic meeting. A long pause followed. Very interesting.

  22. Giuliano Cataford

    ***WARNING*** Critical thinking may be required to follow the views and opinions brought forth by Dan Simpson and Giuliano Cataford. It is recommended that you turn your brain switch to the ON position before replying. Thank you for your consideration.

  23. Giuliano Cataford

    ***WARNING*** Critical thinking may be required to follow the views and opinions brought forth by Dan Simpson and Giuliano Cataford. It is recommended that you turn your brain switch to the ON position before replying. Thank you for your consideration.

  24. Chuck Grimes

    Dan, you can find a shitload of stuff in the Bible that doesn't make sense to us today. And spin it. It's called faith.

  25. Dan Simpson

    Thanks Chuck. You really have to step back and think after reading articles like this. I'm really looking forward to seeing all the facts presented about this case.

  26. Dan Simpson

    Thanks Chuck. You really have to step back and think after reading articles like this. I'm really looking forward to seeing all the facts presented about this case.

  27. Pat Nugent

    I did see pictures of the place where the church was meeting and it doesn't look like most living rooms I've bee in. I've been a pastor/Bible teacher for over twenty years and as a bible teacher we are expected to do more than most people, expected, required by God. We are to obey the law of the land, unless that law specifically violates what we are either prohibited in Scripture or told what to do in the Scriptures. The above article fails to tell what the zoning laws are where this meeting was being held. The article fails to mention if any prior notice was given to the pastor was arrested. If there are no laws and no notice then shame on that government agency. There are some "building codes" in the Bible: Deut 22:8, "When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof." NIV A parapet is a railing. God told people waaay back then to be responsible. I wonder what is coming for Christians. You can't ask someone for proof of their right to be in Arizona, and you can't have a meeting on your own property. What are the facts?

  28. Brande Plaxco

    The fact is, sometimes a 'pastor' isn't always a normal pastor, and I don't trust Fox News as far as I can throw them. Jail time and probation seems excessive for zoning laws, but I have a feeling there is more to this story than what we are being told. I'm wondering how many times he was warned about the zoning laws before he was arrested? First Amendment rights do not allow you to break the law, and even the Bible says to obey the laws of the land. Why couldn't he rotate holding these meetings with the other 20 people in the group? Nothing about this story sounds right unless you are one of those people who are deluded enough to believe a conservative red state like Arizona is out to persecute christians.

  29. Dan Simpson

    Pat – This article is about a month old and gives a bit more background. I'm starting to think this guy is just a nuisance that doesn't want to play by the rules. It's unfortunate that this has been going on for years, and he couldn't keep himself out of the media by just obeying the not so unreasonable (in this case) laws.

  30. Dan Simpson

    Pat – This article is about a month old and gives a bit more background. I'm starting to think this guy is just a nuisance that doesn't want to play by the rules. It's unfortunate that this has been going on for years, and he couldn't keep himself out of the media by just obeying the not so unreasonable (in this case) laws.

  31. Pearl Corbin

    God bless you too, sister Karen. Signs of the times, but far too many are living in "lala land" and won't know what has happened, until it is far too late. Sad!

  32. George Yount

    Where are the facts in this story? How many attended? How many autos? I agree that a home Bible study group should be allowed, but what about the questions I've raised. I'd heard that there were 200 people in attendance. I think this should be transferred to the church for Bible study there, if true.

  33. George Yount

    Josh, The Constitution absolutely does not give any one a right to gather in their homes to discuss scripture. We have a right to worship. Nothing said about a Bible study group meeting in homes.

  34. Dave Johnson

    Dan, you're right in saying that if people are violating the laws that is a big deal, and like you said there are a lot of circumstances that are in need of consideration. Is this an official, registered church at this address gaining non-profit standing; if so, it definitely needs to abide by the zoning restrictions of the state. However, if the people are just gathering at his house weekly as an assembly, then things become a bit more flexible. We have the right of religious freedom and peaceful assembly. If the people choose to assemble weekly at a house that is not up to code and something were to happen then it is the property owner's responsibility as to what happens at his/her house.

    For example, suppose I, as a pastor, invite four or five people from the church over to my house for a meal every week, and I cook for them. In this weekly gathering I am probably violating most health codes. However, this is done at my house with me having company over. It may be promoted at the church, and it may consist of only church members, but it's absurd to think that I could be arrested for violating the health codes or using a kitchen that is not up to code for such an event. Just some ponderings on the matter.

    And yes, I think that this should be the case for all religions, beliefs, and non-beliefs; the right to peaceful assembly

  35. Chuck Grimes

    George, here's the First Amendment:

    "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."

    It can be argued that a Bible study group is a peaceful assembly. Do you not agree?

    All those who argue against the study group, it really comes down to religion. No one would bother commenting on a weekly meeting to discuss oak trees or do work on their children's school projects, but once the Bible or religion is mentioned, then O-M-G, it's God-awful and a mass violation, blah, blah.

    Actually, the meeting for children's school projects would be a sensational idea. Kids working with other parents, talk about the mass amount of ideas!

  36. Marlene White

    Dan Simpson Cynical. OK, 'religious freedoms'. Still wrong for them (the 'powers that may soon not be' voted in) to stop Bible studies.

  37. Dan Simpson

    Nobody voted to stop Bible studies Marlene. As cynical as I may sound, I feel that I have presented a
    "fair and balanced" view of the situation as the laws/constitution are written. Nobody is telling the pastor that he can't have a Bible study, they're telling him he can't hold a church service with over 40 people. After further research it's been revealed that he has been violating zoning laws since 2007. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say you have the right to violate local laws (set in place for a reason) to have a Bible study.

  38. Babsie Wagner

    EVERY SINGLE CHRISTIAN HOME IN THAT ENTIRE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO HOLD REGULAR BIBLE STUDIES IN THEIR HOMES! FLOOD THEM WITH LITIGATION! STAND UP PEOPLE – DO NOT TAKE THIS LYING DOWN!

  39. Leanne Barba Robinson

    there are many churches here in CT that are large and have small cell groups that meet at peoples homes for study…I guess we don't have that law here…I am curious also to know how many people attended this bible study? and tupperware parties are not few and far between, they are held regularly that is how people that sell it make money, Its absurd and by the way Fox News isn't the only news that printed this report.

  40. Leanne Barba Robinson

    there are many churches here in CT that are large and have small cell groups that meet at peoples homes for study…I guess we don't have that law here…I am curious also to know how many people attended this bible study? and tupperware parties are not few and far between, they are held regularly that is how people that sell it make money, Its absurd and by the way Fox News isn't the only news that printed this report.

  41. Chuck Grimes

    George, the Constitution does NOT say anything about having Bible study group meetings in homes. In fact, it can be argued that the First Amendment, which includes the right to peaceably assemble, that this Bible meeting would qualify under that description.

  42. Babsie Wagner

    There is more. They said he had to put a handicap access ramp to the area they were holding the studies. This was not a "public" gathering but friends of the Pastor. They have a huge house on four acres of land. He was fighting the ramp thing because none of his friends were handicapped. You are not even slightly angry that a person can't hold a bible study in his home on his own property? These aren't terrorists. How are you not outraged by this? Let me guess – if it was on the main stream news you'd believe it? That's a problem.

  43. Babsie Wagner

    It is HIS PROPERTY. If he wants 20 friends to come over FOR ANY DAMN REASON HE PLEASES he should have that right for ANY ANY ANY REASON HE PLEASES as long as the reason doesn't break the law and as far as I know bible studies aren't outlawed YET.

  44. Brande Plaxco

    Yes. If it was on the main stream news I would be more inclined to believe it. I do not trust Fox just like I don't trust the Onion. Fox did not even bother to tell the whole truth just like always. This man was not holding bible studies. He started a church out of his house in a residential area holding weekly gatherings of at least 50 people or more. He even went so far as to put a sign on his front of his home that read, 'Harvest Christian Church'. The city had been warning him for 5 years that the building was violating zoning and fire laws. He refused to bring the building up to code or move his church to a place that would be safe for the congregation and neighbors. This same man has had multiple run ins with the law for decades. This is the type of man who has wanton disregard for the law, and does whatever he wants to do. My church is currently not in a regular building and when we meet my pastor makes sure we are not violating fire laws. He even goes so far to call the fire marshal personally to make sure everything is done correctly. He makes sure to ensure the safety of everyone, and sets and example for us all that we are to follow the law as best we can. This pastor did not. Shame on him.

  45. Dean Cris

    What is being done to this man is a violation of the US Constitution and Federal US Law. That there is not one competant Attorney in AZ who can read the law is very distrubing. see blow – directly from the US Dept of Justice Website. Apparently Rabbis are not harassed in the same fashion as Christian pastors -

    Zoning and Landmarking Laws.
    •A small church is denied a permit to operate out of a storefront in a commercial zone, even though nonprofit groups including fraternal lodges, a dance studio, and a theater company are permitted in the same zone.

    •A town's zoning ordinance requires all houses of worship to obtain a variance in order to locate within its borders. While there are a number of churches already in town, every application for a new house of worship since the ordinance was adopted has been denied.

    •A rabbi periodically holds prayer meetings in his home with 10 to 15 people. He is cited for zoning violations for operating a house of worship in a residential zone.

    •A Hindu congregation is denied a building permit despite meeting all zoning requirements for height, setback, and parking. The zoning administrator is overheard making a disparaging remark about Hindus.

    These examples may be violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which protects individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from zoning and landmarking laws that substantially burden religious exercise without a compelling government justification. RLUIPA also bars the government from applying zoning and landmarking laws in a manner that discriminates against particular religions, treats religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms than nonreligious assemblies or institutions, or unreasonably excludes houses of worship from a jurisdiction. The Civil Rights Division is authorized to bring suit to enforce RLUIPA. If you believe your rights against discriminatory or unduly burdensome zoning and landmarking laws have been violated, you may contact the Division's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section (contact information above). More information is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/rluipaexplain.php.

  46. Bran Landerman

    Goober Stanson, what kind of looser are you. We have a right to assemble to pray with other friends at our house. This is especially important when this government gets rid of our churches because the cross offends them, we will have to resort to our homes. Lock -N-Load. Welcome to divided state of America

  47. Chuck Grimes

    George, the Constitution also does NOT say anything about NOT holding a Bible study group. In fact, it could be argued successfully that the meetings would fall under the "peaceful assembly" part.

  48. Janie Dunn

    You are absolutely are correct that Christians must obey man made laws. But the Constitution says the State shall not infringe a person's right to worship

  49. Brande Plaxco

    I agree, Janie, but nobody is infringing on his right to worship. He is free to worship where ever he pleases. He just can't gather large numbers of people without following fire laws.

  50. Bill McEntee

    That law is unconstitutional. There are some laws that must be challenged, and this is clearly one of them. We have been losing our liberties to the rise of petty bureaucrats like these fools in Phoenix. It's time we stand up to them.

  51. Bill McEntee

    You don't deserve a reply. But I'll give one anyway. This guy may not have made friends among the zoners in the city, but the laws they are using on him are clearly unconstitutional, and thus void. If anyone has some explaining to do, it's the city. As for your distaste for FoxNews, go gripe to the people at PMSNBC.

  52. Roberta Stephens

    This is crazy. The real reason will become clear if it hasn't already… Looks like the Arizona doesn't like GOD.
    If it was a graduation party, wedding reception, family reunion, ect… nothing would have happened. Just another way to keep people from hearing God's word. Well guess what folks, it is now news and God is in the headlines!

  53. Dudley Craig

    Was he disturbing neighbors with too much noise? Were his guests parking in such a way as to impose upon other residents in the area? Was there some evidence that his gatherings were in violation of a safety code? If not of the above: RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF A FAMILY'S HOME!

    If I had a party at my house every weekend and it's not causing an undue hardship or nuisance to my neighbors, no one would say a word. I think someone has it in for this pastor. Otherwise, the city official driving this action may be an athiest and bent on disrupting all things Christian. We won't be nieve enough to pretend we don't know that such people exist. Just like a time when racial hate groups hid within the ranks of our police departments and judiciary in post-slavery America, there are haters of anything to do with God, Jesus or religious freedom. They dole out lynchings, beatings, violation of constitutional rights, created unjust local and state laws and didn't stop until a national spotlight was place upon them. Maybe this is the spotlight needed to expose this shameful and unAmerican religious persecution.

  54. Laura Lee

    Nanny State is just worried and cares that they can exit in case of fire? Is that why they sent police officers instead of a fire marshall? And was there an issue of overcrowding for a fire marshall? Nanny State, you don't care — you're EVIL and AN ABUSER and YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY VICIOUS.

  55. Laura Lee

    Exactly. All the churches of the first century were held in homes. This is a traditional right of Christian religion.