Pastor Jailed for Holding Bible Study in His Home — The War on Christianity Out of Hand?

In Phoenix, Arizona, they don’t play around with Christianity.  Meet Michael Salman.  This man held what he calls a bible study in his own home for months.  Authorities say it was a full-on church service.  In either case, it resulted in complaints from neighbors because of too many cars being parked on the street.  Police responded with an investigation that culminated in storming the man’s home with 12 police officers, dragging him off like a common criminal, and eventually sentencing him to 60 days in jail for his transgressions.  The battle lines are drawn here.  Obviously the issue for Salman is religious persecution.  The issue has caused such a disturbance, especially after being covered by national news, that the city of Phoenix has earmarked an entire website page about the Michael Salman case explaining their reasons.  The site can be seen here, but we’ll give you some high points of the state’s case.

Did authorities' strategy backfire by only helping Salman extend his reach?

According to the city of Phoenix, this has nothing to do with religion whatsoever.  Michael Salman simply violated laws regarding building safety.  They elaborate by explaining zoning laws in Phoenix.  A house of worship is allowed in any zoning district, so we’re okay there.  But the building used for worship must meet construction and fire code requirements for safety.  All churches in Phoenix are subject to this.  The investigation apparently revealed that Salman regularly had 80 people or more at his private home.  He held these meetings two times a week and did collect tithes.  Salman did recognize his private home as a church in the media, calling it the Harvest Christian Church, and also claimed tax exemption status for having a church on his property.

So, Common Sense Conspiracy says this.  We do have fire codes and such laws to protect people.  And these are good things and save lives in the long run.  We are completely for this and understand that Salman had an obligation to meet these requirements if he was going to regularly have this many people in his home.  In that respect, he is in the wrong and should be liable for any fines and for the construction of a building that meets the fire code and other city standards.  Christianity does not claim to be above the law, at least not in any teaching of Jesus Christ or the Bible, and in fact implores Christians to operate within it.  So, in this way, Mr. Salman is guilty in every way you can be.  Here’s our objection…

Jail time?  An actual arrest instead of fines?  How many bankers on Capitol Hill face Congress and get scolded for their actions that defraud millions of dollars and people, and they never see a day in jail or even as much as a mug shot?  Salman’s violations may be worthy of law enforcement intervention, but why is it okay to imprison a pastor holding church services in his home without having the proper construction requirements but so many people walk free for such greater transgressions?

It is interesting how the law sees itself.  The City of Phoenix says on that very website that Mr. Salman was not incarcerated.  And yet he was arrested and taken to jail?  How does that not equal incarceration?  Apparently just being inconvenienced with a friendly, handcuffed ride to the local police precinct is not incarceration.  Just a good time.  Salman has fought the charges and claimed that his constitutional right to practice his religion has been violated.  The courts did not see it that way.  It’s a delicate situation.  Salman does have an obligation to follow the law and operate within it, even by his own religious beliefs.  But it does seem sometimes that the punishment does not fit the crime.  Is there not another method of resolving a situation like this, or should we be more aggressive in the enforcement of it?

Tons of college students in America have held a keg party with over 80 people in attendance.  How many got dragged off to jail?  Hmm…