A federal judge has slapped down Pastor Michael Salman's request for a restraining order against the city of Phoenix in Salman's fight over his backyard church services.
Salman's been battling city officials and neighbors for the last few years in his quest to continue the services, which -- he says -- he holds each week for the benefit of about 50 friends. Fire and zoning inspectors maintain that a structure he built in his backyard with the help of some of those friends is a safety hazard.
As we reported last week, officials raided Salman's home in March for a second time and cited him with seven code violations -- as a 60-day jail sentence he received for previous code violations remains on appeal. As a last-ditch effort, Salman filed a federal complaint last week against the city of Phoenix and various officials, as well as a request for a temporary restraining order.
In denying the restraining order, U.S. District Judge Frederick Martone told Salman and his wife -- who are representing themselves -- that their case was filed incorrectly and has a low chance of winning.
The Salman's haven't exhausted their options at the lower-court level, so going federal is premature, Martone writes. The judge also figures that, at this time, a restraining order to prevent the city from safety codes wouldn't be wise.
Martone concludes by chiding the Salmans over their failure to hire a lawyer, saying it was obvious they needed one by the "insufficiency" of their filing. For instance, the law requires a "short and plain" statement of claim, but the Salmans' complaint is 70 pages long.
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The rejection of the restraining order seems like a major setback for Salman's case, because it's probably all that stood between him and the jail sentence. The Court of Appeals doesn't usually overturn such city-imposed sentences. If Salman loses his appeal and serves two months in the hoosegow, he'll possibly lose his nerve for further religious activism.