SO LONG, ROSE
An artist whose work you can't pigeonhole: Sad, so sad. I've been a fan of Rose Johnson's work since the mid-'90s, when a friend told me about her. I've always been able to spot her stuff a mile away.
I was excited when I was down in Bisbee and saw the mural on the Jonquil, as well as the "Peace Wall." It all just fit perfectly there.
I never met Rose, but I had a friend who used to live across the alley from her, and she got to know Rose very well. My friend and her roommates would always hang out in their backyard and play Scrabble, and Rose did a painting of them doing just that. It was a great painting. I wonder what it's worth now?
Too bad about a truly unique artist whose stuff you really can't pigeonhole: It's a little like this and a little like that, but nothing concrete.
Mike Wells, Phoenix
Johnson touched and influenced many lives: It was very sad to read of Rose Johnson's passing. She touched and will continue to influence the lives of others daily. In my own experience, I see her work each day as I drive into the parking lot of my workplace. I remember the weeks she spent painting a mural at the elementary school where I teach.
She was such a warm, social person who took time to answer questions from the schoolchildren, parents, and staff. At the time, my youngest daughter was a student at the school and upon learning that Rose was unveiling her mural at Jazz Zen, we went as a family to celebrate her work. It was a lovely evening of jazz, art, and community.
Each time I drive by the now-painted-over mural, I marvel in disgust about the insensitivity of the person who covered priceless, original joy and beauty with earth tone du jour. Thank you for the fine article celebrating Rose's life.
Rick Moffett, Tempe
Rose's next-door neighbor reminisces: I was 19 and decided to move out from my parents' in the suburbs to downtown. I chose an apartment that was next door to Rose. Also Gerald Hawk, Steve Yazzie, and the Metropophobobia. What a great time.
The owner at the News Room would never card girls I would bring in there . . . I helped Rose with lighting and sound design for her installations, and I worked on several. She called me once to her studio, and as I sat on the couch, she pulled out more than a hundred canvases. We talked about them, and she told me to pick out any one that I wanted.
She gave me shelter later when I was in love and on the run, and even later in Bisbee. She wanted a child. I loved her.
Jeff C. Cook, Hollywood, California
Good to finally know her: Wonderful article. It's good to get to know Rose for the first time, and I'm very sad for her loss.
Kathleen D. Cone, Phoenix
Story was frosting on the cake: Excellent piece on Rose Johnson. Tell [Village Voice Media CEO] Jim Larkin that I admire the cover's new, magazine-style design. That, and the naked Rose, commanded me to pick up the issue. [Kathleen Vanesian's] piece was the frosting on the cake. Sorry for mashing so many metaphors, but I'm a cartoonist at heart.
Bob Boze Bell,
Executive editor, True West magazine
Our rights and privacy were violated: You did a great article. What people do in their private homes with their friends and family should be protected, especially when it comes to religion.
The update on the harassment injunctions is that the judge dismissed all three. As for the building being unsafe, that is hogwash and a ploy to try to create interest from the state.
We do not have 145 people in the building. There are two fire extinguishers. There are emergency exit doors, not including eight 4-by-6 windows that are easily accessible. The aisles are five feet wide. There is nothing obstructing any of the doors.
These people violated our rights and privacy, and their actions were uncalled for. Even if they felt like we were violating something, there was no need for so many police officers and so many city officials barging into our home and violating us.
What if the city did that to your home just because someone filed a compliant on you?! Our point is that we meet in a private and personal nature with family and friends to worship God. We do not need any approval on that.
Pastor Michael Salman, Phoenix
It's a zoning issue: I think it all has to do with whether or not the "church" in the backyard is a business. Is it listed and registered as a church? Does it solicit donations or pass a collection plate? Is that part of the home treated differently for taxes? The list can go on.
If it's treated as a business, then it's a zoning issue. If the pastor isn't earning an income from giving services there, then it's a private matter.
It's as if you invited a bunch of friends over to watch a movie. As long as you're not charging admission, it's not a theater.
Harry Smith, Tempe
Pastor is trying to circumvent laws: While the city was too aggressive in their approach, I completely disagree that it should have no say over this. I certainly would not want my next-door neighbor building a big structure in his backyard — with the sole purpose of it being for worship — and then putting up a sign proclaiming that it's the site of a church.
That's what the zoning laws are for — laws that Mr. Salman is trying to circumvent.
It makes no difference whether Mr. Salman thinks his purpose is good and righteous. It makes no difference whether I, or anyone else not living in that neighborhood, think Mr. Salman's purpose is good and righteous. The people in that neighborhood bought and maintain homes, thinking that the people around them are also buying and maintaining homes. That's the way [the land] was zoned and the way it was intended to be occupied.
I've got no problem with people getting together in the privacy of their homes and exercising their constitutional right to freedom of religion. But, also constitutionally, we have given the government the right to set up zoning laws to protect the expectations of property owners.
Mr. Salman is obviously trying to end-run those laws while proclaiming he's the victim of government infringement of his rights. You can't have it both ways. You can't ignore the laws that are inconvenient to you, then jump and down and point to some other law in your favor.
And I wonder how all those people jumping up and down crying "police state" would feel if this weren't a Christian church. What if Mr. Salman had posted a sign for Satan-worshipping or for KKK meetings in his nice, new, little building?
John Schneider, Peoria
A pagan's perspective: As an elder in the pagan community and former president of a pagan non-profit, I find the actions of neighbors and local government especially troubling.
Most pagan rites and rituals are conducted outdoors — in natural settings such as parks and, yes, residential backyards. When conducted in a residential area, most neighbors seem very accepting of the occasional gathering. I say occasional because pagans generally meet monthly in accordance with the phase of the moon, rather than weekly.
In my last home, I established a temple room devoted to spiritual practice and where others were welcome to participate in rites and rituals, when the weather warranted.
It seems to me that the local authorities have more important matters to occupy their time. While I suspect that a neighbor has badgered civic leaders for relief, there is little the city can do. With or without the structure in their backyard, Pastor Salman and his guests are constitutionally fairly well protected with regard to worship.
Any attempt to interfere legally will result in the ACLU, or others, defending Pastor Salman and his guests' activities and end in a costly and wasteful defeat for the city.
To the neighbors of Pastor Salman, I say, "Count your blessings" that we still live in a nation that protects the right to freely practice one's religion. And if Pastor Salman seems suspect, imagine having a pagan like myself for a neighbor — fragrant incense, soft bells, murmured chanting, all under cover of darkness or a full moon.
Alexander, Seventh Pillar of Sophia, Gilbert
The police were wrong in this matter: I feel the issue of the police going into this home — not looking for drugs but only because a church service was going on in the backyard — is a violation of this family's rights and should not be allowed to go on. The police telling them what they can and cannot do is wrong.
Timothy Nevins, Surprise
Church owners are hypocrites: The Salmans may not be stupid, but in my opinion, they do seem like hypocrites, if not liars.
How can they dare preach the tenets of Christianity, yet "bear false witness" to enable the construction of the building their private services are held in?
In the article, Mr. Salman claims, "We don't advertise anywhere." Later in the article, statements are made about a sign on their gate for the worship service, as well as that "advertisements for the fellowship's Web site, www.hcfaz.org, pepper the family's two vans."
Truth abounds from this pastor!
I also tend to wonder if the neighbors are being hypocritical, as well? Why do they want this church gone so badly? If the outbuilding can't be seen from the street, why does it bother anyone? Do these people who live near Mr. Salman go to church? Why is it okay for them to worship (or not) their way, but not okay for Mr. Salman to worship his way?
Would they prefer for the city to be able to tell them how to meet?
Furthermore, why did [the Salmans] claim it was for a "personal game room"? Had they claimed it was for a "personal meeting area," their neighbors (and, consequently, the city) likely wouldn't have been able to do anything.
Andrew L. Ayers, Glendale
This isn't really a free country: The Salmans were very, very cooperative in jumping through all the hoops to get the building built. I think it's a travesty they even had to do that.
One's home — or one's church — is one's castle in a free country .
This isn't a free country, and anyone who thinks it is is in la-la land. I hope they fight back. Hard. Really hard. And I hope they win.
As long as the neighbors' rights are not being infringed upon — and they are not that I can see — the Salmans should continue.
Alice Little, Las Vegas
Watch out for Bible carriers!: This is not about city ordinances or even freedom of religion.
Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, the Pentagon, the White House [probably got word] of north Phoenix radical co-conspirators singing gospel music!
Maybe we should adopt a prime-color civil alert system like the one used during the Bush administration? We should immediately go from blue to yellow anytime we spot a citizen carrying a Bible.
There is continuous gunfire in my part of Phoenix, and I'm willing to bet the ranch it's not coming from the First Methodist Church.
David E. Smith Jr., Phoenix
A church is the people, not the building: People do not understand (especially those who are not Christians) that the church is the people and not a building, that the people who are the church can gather anywhere they please. This is their right.
The church can build whatever it wants to build, and the church can help whomever it wants to help. Churches meet in retail centers, they rent hotels, and they meet in schools. The school does not become the church, or the hotel does not become the church. When the church leaves, it is still a school or hotel.
If you are a Christian and you do not understand this, shame on you!
Jim Runder, Phoenix
Stay out, government: The city and state need to stay out of our personal worship. We should be able to worship where and with whom we want. And, yes, I do go to the pastor's home to praise and worship God with his family.
Sandra Beatty, Phoenix
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Lion fodder: After reading this article, I completely understand the pleasure the Romans enjoyed feeding the Christians to the lions.
Neither side is without fault: I think the whole idea of sending out seven officers on an administrative violation is insane, particularly when Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the USA right now.
However, I don't think that Michael Salman acted in good faith, either. I mean, seriously, he built a 2,000-square-foot "game room." He called it a "game room" on his applications and paperwork, but now he's using it as a church.
Whatever happened to: "Thou shalt not bear false witness"? Or is it okay to lie, as long as you're doing it for Jesus?