Pastor defies bureaucrats, goes to jail for hosting a home Bible study

Michael Salman faces a 60-day sentence and $12,000 fine after Phoenix, Arizona, police catch his family having church again.

Phoenix Pastor Michael Salman is feeling a little less heat. He’s still in jail for holding Bible studies at his Arizona home, but he’s been moved inside from the 140-degree heat of Maricopa County Jail’s famed “Tent City.”

“Pastor Michael has been moved indoors,” his attorney, John Whitehead, told Beliefnet.

Michael Salman

Like the Apostle Paul some 2,000 years ago, Salman has devoted his time in custody to sharing his faith with other inmates. As he faced the final 30 days, his church prayed for a miracle to shake open the prison doors -- as in the Book of Acts’ Bible story of the Philippian jailer. However, Salman’s jailer is already a Christian – famed Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is staying out of the controversy that landed Salman behind bars.

The Arizona preacher ran afoul of Phoenix city officials, who Whitehead accuses of over-zealous enforcement of zoning ordinances. The real culprits, says Whitehead, is the Washington, D.C.-based International Code Council, which provides city councils nationwide with standardized zoning rules, which Whitehead says are heavily biased against any practice of religion outside of church sanctuaries.

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Salman says rules-quoting bureaucrats are denying him, his wife and his six small children the right to invite their friends and family to talk about Jesus at their home.

Officials say he violated a previous agreement by continuing to hold religious services in violation of zoning and building codes – hosting as many as 80 visitors at his 4-acre property in a 2,000-square-foot “game room” that has a pulpit and pews and for which he has enjoyed a church exemption from property taxes.

One of Salman’s Bible studies

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