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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