Zoning dispute or religious discrimination? (RELEVANT)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

If you popped over from RELEVANT, welcome!

So it was clear from my first piece for RELEVANT, “10 Summer Date Ideas,” I am one serious, hard-hitting investigative journalist. (Ha ha NOT. But Senior Web Editor Tyler Huckabee went to college with my husband and our paths crossed all too briefly in Chicago at the point when I just had landed a full-time gig in journalism. If you’re not already following Tyler on every | social | network, you really should be. He’s cleverer than you or I can ever hope to be. He’s like a velociraptor that way.) That’s why the good folks at the magazine/website contacted me again last week when that pastor in Arizona was jailed for holding a Bible study in his home. Or for his refusal to get the correct permits for the ostensible church he built on his property. I tried to pull together everything you’ll need to decide that for yourself.

I’m interested to hear your opinion: Is this a simple zoning dispute or religious discrimination? And if you have any ideas for future hard newsy-sort of articles you would like to read on RELEVANT, let me know.

The video, posted on YouTube in June 2009, shows seven police officers swaggering up the driveway, all bulletproof vests and weapons and search warrant in hand. They’re followed by what we are told is about 10 officials from the city of Phoenix.

Parts two and three of “Pastor Michael Salman Home Raided By Police” since have been removed from the video-sharing website “due to civil litigations against the city,” according to a note posted below part one.

But the narrator, identified as Salman, explains what happened next: “They were coming to our home because they received a complaint from a neighbor … stating we were having church services at our house.”

“What law are we breaking? The law of gathering? The law of religious expression? Is that the law we’re breaking? We’re in America,” he said.

That video by Salman, who posts as harvest777123, has been viewed more than 3,200 times, and the flurry of videos he and his wife Suzanne have posted to the site in the last three weeks, between 10,000 and 49,000 each.

That’s when the Arizona man was sentenced to 60 days in jail “for worshipping on his property,” according to the Salmans’ videos and “Jailed for Home Worship” Facebook page. He reported to jail last Monday.

The law Salman is breaking is not one of religious expression, according to the city of Phoenix.

Since then, news outlets like FOX News and pretty much everybody on the Internet all have jumped on the story of the Arizona pastor jailed for having a Bible study in his home.

But the law Salman is breaking is not one of religious expression, according to the city of Phoenix.

“It’s the building and fire codes,” said Derek Horn, the city’s assistant planning and development director.

“The city has really tried to work with him on this. It’s given him ample time. It’s had different meetings to try to work through this with him. But basically the building does not comply.”

For the rest of the story, read Zoning dispute or religious discrimination? (RELEVANT).

Photo credit: RELEVANT.