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Christian Persecution or Protection in America?
Perspective on the News
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Rebecca Droeger

On Monday, July 9th, Phoenix Pastor Michael Salmon was jailed and fined over $12,000 for violating zoning requirements within the city limits.   What could be so heinous about a zoning violation that would cause the Pastor to be thrown in jail?  Apparently, he was holding Bible studies at his residence a couple of times a week.

At first brush, this story seems like something that could never happen in America.  Bible studies in someone’s own house!  What could be a more beautiful exercise of the 1st Amendment right to religious freedom and assembling peacefully than a Bible study at your own house?  It doesn’t make sense!

If proved true, it would be something that threatens our very civil liberties.  It would also be Christian persecution at its very core.

Can this really be happening this side of the Rapture?  Well, you look at all of the signs of the times and think “This is yet another birth pang.  I guess I was wrong to think that it wouldn’t happen before the Rapture.”

Yet, nothing in these crazy times is as it seems.  Apparently, there is way more to the story that makes it much more complicated than a Christian citizen being singled out for the sake of practicing his religion in his own home.

From the various news articles and media coverage of the story, complaints regarding the home Bible study began in 2006.  Neighbors were citing issues with traffic and parking within their neighborhood as a result of the multiple visitors to the Salman home on these occasions.

So, we’re not talking about the typical weekly Bible Study that comes to someone’s mind of perhaps 12-30 people.  According to the records presented by the city of Phoenix, it was usually 50 to 80 people once or twice a week.

The city officials investigated the property and found numerous safety violations and zoning requirements.  Mr. Salman was notified that his property was being used more as a Church.

Subsequently, Pastor Salman built a detached garage without proper permits.  Once he did obtain proper permits, the city of Phoenix stated that he put the purpose of the garage was for a game room.  They also assert that the permit specifically states that he was not to use the building for business or church purposes.

If Pastor Salman stated the use of the garage was something other than it was being used for, he is misrepresenting what is taking place.  However, the Salman’s still argue that the garage is not being used as a Church.

However, on video of Mrs. Salman talking with Fox and Friends, they show clips of the Salman residence, the area around the property as well as inside the detached garage.  The footage showed a lawn with signs indicating it was a Church, a rather large cross by the sign, and the inside of the garage held rows of seats and a pulpit.

Additionally, tax records show that the Salman’s applied for property tax exemption on the residence for the purposes of being a Church.

So, what is really going on?  The Salman’s cite that their first Amendment rights are being violated and that they did not cooperate with city officials to discontinue their operations on these grounds.

The city states that the Salman’s have numerous safety and zoning violations as a result of repeated structure use for what is essentially a Church.  They say that the Salman’s are observing no fire safety regulations by indicating where exits are located and the number of exits available.

The case is so explosive, the city of Phoenix has put out a Fact Sheet regarding the ins and outs of the case.  They have received many complaints about the extreme measures in jailing the Pastor; however, one Article I’ve located indicates that the civil courts were getting nowhere in stopping the said offense, so they had to resort to trying it in criminal courts.

Since the case has been appealed time after time by the Salman’s attorney on the grounds of other Americans being able to gather for football parties and poker parties on top of the first Amendment violation, it has been lifted to the county Superior Court.  The court upheld the convictions delivered by the lower courts citing "[T]he Defendant was engaged in public or church activities, and further that Defendant's convictions did not violate his Constitutional right to religious freedom."

The Superior Court is sticking by an earlier statement from a lower court that said "[T]he State is not saying the Salman’s can't run a church or have worship services at the location, but the State is saying that if they do so, they must do it properly and in accord with the building, fire, and zoning codes."

The question now becomes “what happens from here?”

The early Church was launched in secret meeting places and home gatherings.  Plus, America’s Founding Fathers were very deliberate in their drafting of the Constitution.  They were escaping religious oppression along with private property seizure.  The King of England was considered to own all of his subjects’ property and would often take land at will, so the Founders drafted the 7th Amendment.

However, it doesn’t mean that citizens should ignore their local laws if the courts can prove that safety is truly at issue here.  After all, Jesus commended his followers to uphold the laws of the land because God allows all earthly kings their power.

If Pastor Salman is trying to make a statement and stand his ground for God and individual rights, he really needs to be sure to comply with all the laws set out by the city.  For one, it will go a long way to say that he cooperated in all of their ordinances so he could practice freely.  It shifts the focus from city violations to what his stated grievance is:  that they are singling him out because he is Christian.  Secondly, it is what God commended us to do:

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same." (Romans 13:1-3)

Please pray with me that God will continue to protect us in these uncertain and lawless times as we await His return.

About Rebecca Droeger

Last article: Tomorrow's Testimony

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