Arizona pastor jailed for hosting Bible studies in his home?



A Phoenix, Ariz., man is in jail for hosting a Bible study group in his home.

Pastor Michael Salman starting serving 60 days on Monday after city officials said his weekly meetings were akin to church services, which violated several building codes.

“Bible studies are not allowed to be conducted in your residence or the barn on your property as these structures do not comply with the construction code for this use,” a letter from the city says. FOR MORE CLICK HERE

On the surface, this bothers me a lot. If this is carried through this could be a big blow to the small group / house church movement. I only know what I’ve shared here about this story, if you have any follow up info, please share it here.

Here are two videos I found from the pastor and his wife:

UPDATE: After asking for some follow-up info, it seems that this story is a bit more complecated than its been made out to be. This is not an issue of hosting a small group bible study but about acquiring permits and possibly bending rules. Here are some other articles that make the case that this issue is NOT ABOUT A BASIC BIBLE STUDY.

“Pastor” Michael Salman Not Going to Jail for Preaching but for Failing to Obey the Law

Michael Salman wants to build a church in his backyard. His neighbors aren’t buying it

Phoenix Man Arrested For Holding Bible Study Begins Jail Sentence
This article states:

The controversy erupted in 2009 when nearly a dozen police officers raided the Salman’s home and a 2,000 square foot building in their backyard. The family had moved their Bible study into the building after the group outgrew their living room.

The charges that sent Salman to jail were a result of that raid – ranging from not posting exit lights above their doors – to not having handicap ramps or handicap parking.
Salman told Fox News Radio the attacks on his family were nothing more than a crackdown on religious liberty.

But city officials said it was a matter of zoning and proper permitting – not religious freedom. They said he was given a permit to convert a garage into a game room – not a church.

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  • adamwhitley

    Here is the whole story:

    It really does nothing to the small group movement. Unless your small group needs a  2000 square-foot building on a residential property and you don’t want to follow any building codes or file any permits.

  • Everyone must submit himself 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, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  Romans 13:1-2

    • James Palmer

       And where was Paul when he wrote a lot of his letters that are in the Bible?  Oh yeah… in prison. 

    • Gods10rules

       You only submit to the government until they prohibit you to follow God! God is the highest of highest of authorities if they try to prohibit you would you still obey earthly rulers or obey  God? I’d follow God NOT earthly rulers.

  • That’s a pretty messed up law. What if I just had friends over for another purpose and, being Christians, we ended up talking about something theological? Or if somebody pulled out their guitar and started playing a worship song? As somebody who is a fan of the house church movement, these things are pretty normal to me. Would this be illegal in Arizona or is it only when it is planned? 

    Same could be said with the game rooms and swimming pools, etc I guess. If I had a swimming pool but invited nobody else to use it, that’s fine, but as soon as one of my friends say “hey, you’ve got a pool table, let’s play a game?” we’d have to say no without that special permit?

    •  @twitter-19781810:disqus … as I suspected, there is more to the story than this. Read the update to the post. it is a backyard building permit issue.

      • Gods10rules

         This IS HIS OWN PROPERTY! His Home! NOT a public buidling! You do NOT need permits to have bible study groups in your own HOME!

      • Thanks. That clears it up and makes a lot more sense.

  • James

    I can see the logic here. What if a fire breaks out while you are hosting these 60 people in a place meant for 20? Imagine the backlash and negative publicity that would create.

    I’m certain any group…christian or otherwise…would get the same scrutiny.

    • Gods10rules

       Except for muslims! They get a way with everything!

  • dustinbrownman

    Posting a video of your crying kids to garner public sympathy? Stay classy, Pastor Michael.

  • John

    This is unconstitutional. The first amendment combined with the 14th amendment make this building code unconstitutional because it interferes with individual rights to practice religion freely, not to mention completely undermines property rights.  

    • Jeff

      I believe in property rights, privacy, religious freedom and all that. But once my neighbor has 30 people over to his place once a week and all his buddies start clogging up my street with their cars, and they sing worship songs until 10:30 at night around a bonfire, then his rights have transgressed mine and it’s game over.  That’s why we have zoning regulations.  This guy could have rented the Elks lodge, or met at a coffee shop, or leased a vacant storefront, or done any number of things to keep from getting on the wrong side of the law and pissing off his neighbors.  Let’s not pretend that just because “we’re doin’ it fer Jesus” we can thumb our nose at the law and act like jerks.

  • Caleb Coy

    I believe the key to understanding this is understanding that you cannot zone people.  This goes for the minister as well as the town.