Jail Time for Phoenix man in jail over bible study.

Well, that’s what the headlines of the all the articles read. But then we all know how the press loves sensationalism.

Truthfully when I first read about this my reaction was that Salman has every right to have a bible study on his property, but I thought back to my time as a Christian and I attended many bible studies and no one ever went to jail over it. Furthermore out government is primary run by Christians, it seemed a bit unlikely that he was being “persecuted for his faith” as many were claiming.

I was sure that there had to be more to the story than this. In fact the man was not really running a bible study at all, but a church, or something very much like a church, with 30 to 40 attendees a week on his property. The courts ruled that his building was not up to codes. I can also imagine his neighbors were probably unhappy to have several dozen cars park on the street once a week. Further, the building permits he filed for his building was for a “game room” not a church building, so it seems he was trying to skirt those zoning laws and safety regulations.

I wish I could say this sort of thing is uncommon, but it seems I see it quite a bit.  A Christian disobeys or ignores laws, justifying the disobedience in his own mind by believing he is doing God’s work in some way.  Then when he gets caught and punished he cries religious persecution and claims his first amendment rights are being violated, when nothing of the kind has happened. 

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  • http://thesnarkwhohuntsback.wordpress.com/ thesnarkwhohuntsback

    If he wasn’t running a non-profit, licensed church…then how do you justify the difference between a bible study or a church?

    Personally I think that he did nothing wrong. If I invited 40 people into my home, regularly, for a house party would I need to register myself as a club and get permits for that?

    Why should I need a permit to invite people into my own home anyway?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04470392187213526525 Dylan Walker

    if you did it regularly you probably would need a permit

    your neighbours would probably be pissed too.

    this building didn’t meet fire safety regs, and he was jailed because he falsified his building permit to gee around those regs.

    • http://thesnarkwhohuntsback.wordpress.com/ thesnarkwhohuntsback

      You didn’t actually answer my question.
      Why is it a church, not a bible study. Is there a definition that covers that, other than being a licensed, non-taxable, entity that collects money?

      Whether he “falsified” the permit depends on whether he was dishonestly choosing to lie about running a bible study, when he was actually running a church. It could merely be that what he saw as a bible study, the state decided to see as a church…which I would want to know the justification for that.

      “Probably would need a permit”? I would like to know if I would need a permit to invite people into my own home, not if I ‘probably’ would.

      Why is it reasonable to tell me who, how many, and when I can have people in my house? That is not the government’s job. He didn’t force people to come, he invited them, they were there of their own free will.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04470392187213526525 Dylan Walker

      Sure, it is possible that he was not intentionally duplicitous and merely ignorant of the fire safety codes in his area.

      As I already said though, it being a church or a bible study or whatever is irrelevant. It actually IS within the cities rights to tell people how many people can safely fit inside a building. The articles I read didn’t specify why they saw it differently, but it seems that the number of people was the main issue.

      The court clearly felt he was intentionally duplicitous, but even if he was just ignorant, so what? My main point was that he was not, as he and others claimed, being persecuted for his religious beliefs. Fire safety codes establish the maximum occupancy of buildings and he exceeded that number.

      As an advocate for much smaller government than I am you may feel that such regulations are not needed, or even wrong, but you can’t deny that they currently exist. Personally I think such regulations are useful.

  • Anonymous

    Dylan,

    I would like to know where you are getting your “facts”. You say that he falsified a permit however that claim is based on the assumption that he was running a church. In my mind what distinguishes a non profit church from a home bible study has nothing to do with the room, “game or otherwise”. It has to do with whether he was taking any tithes and offerings and exactly what was happening at these meetings. Was he standing at a pulpit and preaching or was there some interactive bible study going on. If there was tithes and offerings and he was preaching then yes, I would have to agree with you but if not then NO way do I agree.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04470392187213526525 Dylan Walker

    First, you post was marked as spam because you posted anonymously. I had to clear it before is showed up.

    Now, whatever defines a church in your mind is really not relevant to this case. Whether this is a church at all doesn’t even seem relevant. The building didn’t meet fire safety codes. Codes which he would have been aware of if he had told the city there was going to be 30 or 40 people in the building on a weekly basis instead of filing the permit for a “game room.”

    It is only my supposition, but I suspect he filed things thus because building to safety codes is considerably more expensive. Many people have died caught in burning buildings that had more people in them than was safe, so irregardless of his reasons, his not meeting the safety regs was a danger to everyone who attend his services/bible studies/whatever.

    Lastly, while I don’t know all of the details, clearly the court felt he falsified the permit since that seems to be the reason he got jailed for two months. Sure the court could be wrong, but I’m willing to give the system the benefit of the doubt until evidence suggests they were mistaken.