Michael Salman Claims His "Right to Hold Bible Studies in Jail" Was Violated
Pastor Michael Salman -- the ex-gang member and convicted felon who's currently serving a 60-day jail sentence after being found guilty of 67 misdemeanors -- claims yet again that his "right to hold Bible studies" is being violated.
This time, Salman's claiming that his religious freedom is being violated during his stay in Tent City, after he got in trouble for holding Bible studies, and skipped out on working his job in the kitchen.
Salman's attorneys from the Rutherford Institute issued a "warning" to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, pretty much claiming that Salman can do anything he wants in Tent City under the name of religion.
Again, Salman simply cannot follow laws or rules, evidenced by his recent convictions, his previous six-year prison sentence for a drive-by shooting, an incident in which he was caught with LSD in prison, the time he was booked into jail for impersonating a police officer, and his recent probation violations.
Or, if you believe the story of Salman and his attorneys -- he's just being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
According to the letter the Rutherford Institute attorneys sent to Arpaio, the attorney's "sources" relayed to them that jail staff had told Salman he would be tossed "in the hole" if he failed to show up to work.
Salman's refusing to go to work on Sunday due to his religious beliefs, although the attorneys state that they were "able to clear up this particular matter."
Then, Salman started doing Bible studies again.
"Since being detained in the Tents Jail [sic], Mr. Salman has begun leading Bible studies for and with his fellow inmates," the letter says. "On a recent night, the number of attendees grew to more than 20 men, causing the guards to direct them inside to a day room. However, after a short time, the group was directed to disperse by the guards and locked down."
Of course, this sounds pretty darn close to the reason Salman's in jail in the first place -- breaking rules and claiming it's just because he's exercising his religious rights.
Salman repeatedly lied to the City of Phoenix about building a church in his backyard, and refused to comply with the laws after several warnings.
Salman told the city in 2007 that he was building a garage in his backyard. He did not build a garage in his backyard.
"Mr. Salman had regular gatherings of up to 80 people," the city says. "He held services twice a week and collected a tithe at the services. The building that he held services in had a dais and chairs were aligned in a pew formation. He held himself out as a being a church through the media (Harvest Christian Church) and claimed a church status for tax exemption purposes on his property."
Then Salman got a permit to have a "game room" in his backyard -- one that said "[a]ny other occupancy or use (business, commercial, assembly, church, etc.) is expressly prohibited."
Salman purchased a grand total of zero Foosball and air hockey tables, of course, because it was still a church.
The building was also found to be extremely unsafe, and Salman was found responsible of several code violations.
Or, as Salman claims, it's some sort of law against practicing his religion.
We've asked the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office what actually happened during Salman's run-ins with jail staff, so we'll pass that information along when we get it.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.