PHOENIX, Ariz. — John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, will appear on FOX & Friends on the Fox News Channel at 8:50 am EST on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, to discuss The Rutherford Institute’s involvement in the case of an Arizona resident who was jailed for 60 days for using his private home to host a weekly Bible study. Institute attorneys have agreed to represent Phoenix resident Michael Salman, 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 in violation of the city’s building codes.
“What you do in your own home is not the government’s business—and it shouldn’t matter whether you’re hosting a weekly Bible study, a Friday night card game or a Monday night football viewing party,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “City officials have tried to suggest that this case has nothing to do with religious freedom, but is simply about proper zoning. Unless city officials are raiding the homes of people holding Tupperware parties and card games—which they are not—this case comes down to clear-cut discrimination on the part of city officials against individuals simply trying to exercise their religious beliefs.”
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’ 4.6 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.