Phoenix pastor jailed for home prayer group

The Phoenix pastor who was sentenced to 60-days in jail for holding prayer meetings on his private property is now in jail.

Michael Salman’s “crime” was holding private prayer sessions without conforming to commercial code. Officials claim that his Sunday gatherings are public. Salman says that only his family and friends join his in prayer group in a building on property.

The City advised the Salmans that they would need to convert their home into a church. The City notified that family that “…Bible studies are not allowed to be conducted in your residence. The simple and direct answer [as to why] is that the Bible study use requires a change of occupancy.”

According to various news sources, in 2009, the Salmans built a game room behind their house. The Salman’s received a permit for the structure. The permit allowed for for gatherings as long as it was used for private recreation. The Salman’s began to hold prayer meetings in the building. Some neighbors reported to officials that they suspected the family was hosting worship each Sunday in the building.

The Salman’s property was raided by police.

City officially pressed criminal charges against Salman, in 2010. The officials required the pastor to create handicapped parking and build handicapped bathrooms. None of Salman’s family and friends require those accommodations.

The Salmans had originally held the gatherings in their living room, but officials continued to press them that if they were going to host meetings in their home; they would have to convert their house into a church. Correspondence from the city outlined, “…Bible studies are not allowed to be conducted in your residence. The simple and direct answer [as to why] is that the Bible study use requires a change of occupancy.”

In 2009, the couple built a 2,000 square foot game room behind the house, which was permitted by authorities, and was apparently permissible for gatherings as long as it was used for private recreation. Later, the Salmans moved their personal worship meetings to the building and used it for religious purposes. Once neighbors notified officials that they suspected the family was hosting worship each Sunday in the building, they were raided by police.

In 2010, the city officially pressed criminal charges against Salman for violating building codes at his 1.5-acre property near 31st and Northern Avenues.

The City of Phoenix held that the preacher must facilitate handicapped parking at his home, as well as handicapped bathrooms, although none of his family and friends are handicapped.

Salman has filed an emergency injunction with in District Court.

Judge James Tielborg, but he has yet to issue a ruling.

“I have spent time with my family this morning praying, crying and saying our goodbye. My heart is broken, but glory to God. Our God wil take care of us and my family. Please pray for us! Until God opens the prison’s door, I will be with you all in prayer and spirit,” wrote the pastor on his Facebook page before heading off to jail.

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  1. There are several versions of this story. It sounds like the pastor was holding Sunday services on his property, which might have been O.K. if he conformed to zoning laws. I would have a problem attending a church where the pastor was not above board.

  2. No, no, no…

    I’m appalled at government overreach, but this is not. Read the article and other articles. He is not going to jail because he is holding a Bible study–he’s going to jail because he willfully violated zoning laws.

    His 2000 sq ft. (2000!!!) rec room was approved by the city just for that and was told it could only be used for recreation, as most out buildings are, I’m pretty sure in zoning laws. He was warned. He chose to ignore the zoning and the warnings and rely on his “faith” to bail him out of disobeying the law. Sorry–faith does not work like that.

    If he really felt that he was in the right, he should have been obeying the law and trying to fight the zoning or getting a permit for the Bible study. Then he might be doing that in the 9th Circus instead of trying to win a stay from jail in the 9th Circus. And good luck with that.

    Again, read the article(s). He got himself into trouble. No excuse for that. And it was HIS choice and we all have to live with the consequences of our choices.

    • Moron…read the article again. He was arrested for violating the city code that says you cant hold bible studies in your home! Read the article again. Since when is ok to have 20 people party at your home every week but NOT ok to have 20 people pray at your home every week. How did such a code ever get passed in the first place?! What happened to freedom?

      • And whatever happened to “Submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to the governing authorities”? The article doesn’t say how many people were there, but 20 people is not a “private prayer meeting”. There are good reasons for zoning laws, and for laws about handicap access and so on. Tons of churches go through this size phase, and have no problem renting space to meet from other organizations (schools, other churches, &c) such that the zoning laws are obeyed. There’s no reason this guy couldn’t have done the same. He’s setting a really bad example for everyone in his church by his actions (and until I see evidence otherwise, that’s what I’m going to call it), as well as giving Christianity a bad name in the local government and community.

        (P.S. Watch yourself: “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” -Jesus)

  3. This is nuts. All this is because of some building code violation. I wonder how many people were in violation on the 4th of July for over occupancy or breaking the load limit for their decks or for no handicapped bathrooms for grandma. Many communities and municipal groups are joining the ICC. Google it. It is not law on the books but a code created by a network of communities under the umbrella of a non-profit formed in 1994 during the Clinton Administration. Some how, the authorities just inforce the code.

  4. Appalling! Too many liberal judges. We all need to pray for new leaders in this country.

    2Ch 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

  5. Really? Surely someone will pull up above the clouds and see the insanity in this. The reasoning is much like the onset of the nazi regime’s and the Byzantine period persecution of people (and among other periods for other persecuted people) – using law to push an agenda. I am sure there is more to the story, but seriously, think about this, do I need to worry about code if I have an open invitation for hospitality. Tsk Tsk! Some neighbor probably got upset about parking

    I tell myself, this is not the first time narrow-vision has prevailed, but it doesn’t help

  6. Insane: Being arrested for having bible study with family and friends. Phoenix police have nothing better to do than arrest a man of god. Phoenix officials must be extremely desperate to have someone arrested for not having handicap parking.

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