PHOENIX, Ariz. —Michael Salman, an Arizona resident who was jailed for 60 days for hosting a weekly Bible study in his home and on his private property, is set to appear in court today on charges that he violated his probation by continuing to hold Bible studies on his private property after being ordered not to have more than 12 people gathered on his property at any one time, and that he failed to pay more than $10,000 in related fines. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute are representing the Phoenix resident, who has been sentenced to two months in jail, three years’ probation and more than $12,000 in fines for hosting weekly Bible studies at his private residential property allegedly in violation of the city’s building codes.
“What happened to Michael Salman—the fact that his home was raided by police and that he is now in jail in Tent City—illustrates the absurdity of government officials prosecuting individuals for engaging in religious activity on their private property,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “That Michael Salman and his family and friends are not allowed to gather in private to study the Bible goes against every founding principle of the United States of America.”
Since 2005, Michael Salman and his wife Suzanne have hosted Bible studies for family and friends. However, after some neighbors allegedly complained about the gatherings, city officials got involved. In 2007, city officials ordered the Salmans to stop holding the Bible studies in their home, insisting that they were in violation of the construction code. The Salmans subsequently erected a 2,000-square-foot building in their backyard, large enough to hold approximately 40 people, which they proceeded to use for their weekly Bible studies. Attendees parked their vehicles on the Salmans’ 1.5 acre property. In June 2009, nearly a dozen police officers, accompanied by city inspectors, raided the Salmans’ property, searching for violations. Having determined that Salman’s weekly Bible studies constituted a church, city officials subsequently charged Salman with being in violation of various code regulations, including having no emergency exit signs over the doors, no handicap parking spaces or handicap ramps. Salman was later found guilty of 67 code violations.