Michael Salman: It Has Nothing to Do with “Religious Persecution,” And “Everything to Do with the Size of the Structure, Lack of Exit Signs, Fire Sprinklers and Doors”
“Phoenix prosecutor John Tutelman recounted Salman’s criminal history and allegations by neighbors and concluded in court: ‘This is a man who does what he wants, when he wants, and nobody can stop him.’”
JJ Hensley, Arizona Republic, July 11, 2012
Make SURE to read the backstory: Conservative Babylon, June 22, 2012
Michael Hashem Salman, ordained Church of God in Christ (COGIC) minister and pastor of his own in-home church, Harvest Christian Fellowship (and owner, Mighty Mike’s Burgers), Phoenix, Arizona, has finally begun his 60-day jail sentence for refusing to comply with building codes and zoning laws in housing a church on his residential property.
Salman’s story has become a cause célèbre among the “persecuted Christian” set, thanks in no small to Salman’s misleading, manipulative claims that his “religious freedom” is being violated by the City of Phoenix. “I’m a criminal because I’m a Christian,” he cries in one of his YouTube videos — which may or may not still be online; it looks to us like a few of his more controversial videos have been pulled down.
The stint behind bars will not be his first.
Salman was sentenced to six years in prison in 1993 for shooting into an occupied home in Phoenix a year earlier. The victim told the judge that she felt one of the bullets from Salman’s gun go through her hair and barely miss her head, according to court documents.
A witness in that case told prosecutors that Salman had used a gun to threaten a man in a Paradise Valley mall one month before he was indicted in the shooting, that Salman had participated in other drive-by shootings and that he carried a gun in a concealed holster.
Prosecutors also alleged that Salman told former County Attorney Rick Romley’s son in December 1992 that “he and his father were willing to pay top dollar, or whatever it takes, for (Romley) to help him,” according to court documents.
— JJ Hensley
“Phoenix preacher jailed in zoning dispute; Officials: Issue isn’t religion, it’s safety”
Arizona Republic, July 11, 2012
In any case, let’s get one thing clear: Salman is not the “persecuted Christian” he wants you to believe he is. (He is, however, a lot of other things — such as a convicted felon; see original entry, and first sidebar at right.) His most recent conviction and sentencing have nothing to do with his religion, and everything to do with flouting laws designed to keep his neighbors, his parishioners, his family and himself safe.
Again, make SURE to read the backstory.
Next, read this Fact Sheet Regarding the Michael Salman Case (which we’re certain the City of Phoenix won’t mind us reprinting in full; in fact, we bet the city will be grateful for as much exposure of the truth as possible) — highlighting ours:
July 12, 2012
The Michael Salman court case is about building safety. Building and safety codes are in-place to protect the safety and welfare of all of our residents. Some of the relevant facts in this case include:
• A house of worship is allowed in any zoning district in the City of Phoenix
• The case is about the building that is used for regular assembly does not meet construction and fire code requirements for assembly
• All houses of worship in the City of Phoenix must conform to the same codes
Mr. Salman had regular gatherings of up to 80 people. 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.
Due to the regular, reoccurring high vehicular traffic in this quiet residential neighborhood, neighbors repeatedly complained about the public assembly occurring on his property. Because of the multiple, reoccurring complaints, the City investigated the activity and discovered numerous building code violations primarily related to fire safety standards. Once apprised of these violations, the City could be held liable for not enforcing safety code requirements in the event anyone was injured on the premises. Prior to commencement of prosecution, Mr. Salman was asked, repeatedly, to comply with the safety codes of the City. He chose to ignore these requests for voluntary compliance prior to the commencement of any proceedings.
Below is a summary of the case from the City’s Law Department, including quotes from the relevant court judgments.
Mr. Salman’s interaction regarding his property dates back to 2006, when he was advised by the Zoning Administrator that his property was analogous to a church and required compliance with the Zoning Ordinance.
During 2007, Mr. Salman had interaction with the City regarding his attempts to build on his property. The issue revolves around Mr. Salman’s assertion that he is building a detached garage, when the building is actually to function as a church. Mr. Salman builds, despite not having a proper permit. On May 1, 2007, he is cited for, and eventually pleads responsible to building without the required permit. (Pleads responsible 7/18/2007)
In the Fall of 2007, Mr. Salman is notified several times by the City that he needs to obtain the proper permits and approvals before holding church services on his property.
In 2008, Mr. Salman’s church, Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church, is issued a Building Permit to construct a 2,000 square foot private game room accessory to an existing single family residence. The permit states, “Any other occupancy or use (business, commercial, assembly, church, etc.) is expressly prohibited pursuant to the City of Phoenix Building Code and Zoning Ordinances.”
During 2009-2010 church services are held on Mr. Salman’s property without proper permits and in violation of safety concerns. As a result, Mr. Salman is cited.
On January 4, 2010, Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church is found responsible for 96 civil code violations. The Court notes, “[T]he State is not saying the Salmans 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.”
On August 30, 2010, Mr. Salman was found guilty of 67 Class 1 Misdemeanors. The Court stated, “Everyone is entitled under the United States Constitution to worship as they please. But there is a reason for these codes and that is for public safety. And that, I believe, is all that the State is asking is that the Code violations be rectified.”
Mr. Salman appealed his convictions. On June 2, 2011, the Maricopa County Superior Court upheld the convictions and stated, “[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 Court sentenced Mr. Salman to serve jail time. He was ordered to report to jail on June 18, 2012. The county jail relies on a Department of Public Safety table of criminal codes to confirm the basis for the incarceration when a person self surrenders. The table did not include the particular charge on Mr. Salman’s confinement order. Mr. Salman was, therefore, not incarcerated. The table has been corrected.
On June 28, 2012, a Probation Revocation Arraignment was held alleging violations of Mr. Salman’s sentence by twice having a gathering in excess of 12 people on his premises while not in compliance with all ordinances and failing to cooperate with the Court’s Financial Screening.
We also encourage you to read the following articles in full, beginning with the two most pertinent of those we first linked in our original entry on Salman:
There have been too many deadly fires this past week and the one factor they have in common is that each of the buildings had preexisting code violations. The fire in Chicago in which 2 firefighters died after a building collapsed demonstrated the hazard of vacant buildings. Eight squatters died in a fire in New Orleans in a building that had been cited for structural violations in 2007. In Yonkers, N.Y. a man died in a residence that had been illegally converted into multiple dwellings…
Owners often get angry at building and housing code inspectors because they feel the inspectors are interfering with their ability to use their property as they desire and because compliance with the code costs them money. Tragedies like these demonstrate why we have codes and why strict enforcement is necessary.
— Linda Pieczynski
“Building Code Violations and Deadly Fires”
Code Attorney, December 31, 2010
• “Michael Salman wants to build a church in his backyard. His neighbors aren’t buying it,” Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times, January 17, 2008
• “Pastor Michael Salman Files Federal Complaint Over Right to Hold Backyard Church Services; Phoenix Says Structure Violates Codes,” Ray Stern, Phoenix New Times, April 15, 2011
• “‘Pastor’ Michael Salman Not Going to Jail for Preaching but for Failing to Obey the Law,“ News4TheMasses, July 9, 2012. The author of this article has amassed quite a collection of linked facts about Michael Hashem Salman, regarding (among other things): • The video in which “Michael Salman and his wife Suzanne Salman lay out their case before the public forum,” and Salman wears “a T-shirt from Persecution.com (otherwise known as Voice of the Martyrs) sold as ‘Illegal Shirt’”; • Michael Hashem Salman – Criminal History and Civil History charges on Maricopa Superior Court website; • Michael Hashem Salman – Civil History cases from Maricopa Superior Court Website; • Mighty Mike’s Burger, and Salman’s other businesses. (By the way, it appears to us that a commercial ad for Salman’s burger joint uses an image from an old Wendy’s commercial; i.e., “Where’s the beef?”); • Salman’s other websites, including multiple blogs; and much more.
• “Phoenix preacher jailed in zoning dispute; Officials: Issue isn’t religion, it’s safety,” JJ Hensley, Arizona Republic, July 11, 2012 (“‘It has to do with whether there’s an exit sign over the door, or with the number of doors,” [Phoenix prosecutor Aaron Carreon-Ainsa] said of the game-room-turned-sanctuary, which contained more than 100 seats and a single door. ‘It’s an assembly-use case. What people have called us about is: “How can we do this with a person holding Bible studies with his family and friends in the living room?’ That’s not the case; that never has been the case.”)
“We think 100 dead in a fire conflagration is behind us… yet one only has to look to the Rhode Island night club in 2003 when over 100 people died because of sound proofing foam put all over the walls and covering emergency exits. We can still see that lack of fire code enforcement still costs hundreds of lives. Can you imagine 100 people dying in a single fire in 2003? The hardest part of my job is convincing people enforcing fire codes matter.”
— Ray Reynolds, Iowa State Fire Marshal
It all began in Boston
Boston, Massachusetts, 1631, John Winthrop, Governor of Boston, outlawed the building of wooden chimneys and thatched roofs of homes as each of these were found to cause more fires and dangerous fires throughout the community.
This became the first American Building Code.
— “History of Fire and Fire Codes”
Iowa Department of Public Safety
Also worth reading:
• “The Pastor Who Cried Wolf,” Wes Magruder, The New MethoFesto, July 12, 2012
• “Michael Salman Is Not in Jail for Having Bible Studies in His Home,” Matthew Hendley, Phoenix New Times, July 12, 2012
Still not convinced? Still believe Salman is being “persecuted”? Then read these stories of tragedies that occurred before modern building codes and zoning laws were enacted…
• Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (1911)
• The Cocoanut Grove Fire (1942)
• Our Lady of Angels (1958)
• Jimani Upstairs Lounge (1973)
…and then read these stories of people who gambled against modern building codes — and lost, in a big way:
• “Fire In The Bronx; 87 Die In Blaze At Illegal Club; Police Arrest Ejected Patron; Worst New York Fire Since 1911,” Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, March 26, 1990 (“Eighty-seven people, crammed into an illegal Bronx social club, were asphyxiated or burned to death within minutes in a flash fire early yesterday morning. The police later arrested a man who they said had set the blaze with gasoline after a quarrel there. It was the worst loss of life in a fire in New York City since the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire of 1911, exactly 79 years ago to the day. …
• “After Owensville Fire, Church Salvages Faith,” Angela Gambill, Baltimore Sun, August 13, 1991 (“… It was a fine morning, a goodday, folks said, even though an electrical fire last week destroyed the church building, 50 years of marriage, birth and death records, most of the wooden pews, two Hammond organs and a piano. … Faulty electrical wiring caused the two-alarm fire, [Rev. William Pinkney III] said. The country church had not met building codes, so they had not been able to purchase insurance, although they had been saving money to bring the building up to standard, Pinkney said. …”)
• “Cottage Grove Apartment Building Where 4 Died In Blaze Reopened,” Tara Gruzen, Chicago Tribune, February 8, 1996 (“… Four people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the early-morning blaze… Building Department officials had recently cited 30 violations of fire and building codes at the site, which housed about 500 people. Some residents complained that smoke detectors and fire alarms didn’t work when the flames broke out. …”)
Since the building code considers a church to be a place of assembly, more emphasis is placed on designing buildings to allow rapid mass evacuation of a building.
For example, the number of exits required increases with the size and number of occupants in a space. These must be located as remotely as possible from each other so that if one exit is blocked by a fire, all of the others are still available. The widths of exits are designed to accommodate a certain number of people. Other portions of the code require the use of construction techniques and materials that have been tested and proven to be effective in containing smoke and preventing the spread of fire.
Code violations that occur frequently in churches are corridors that are too small, doors that are not equipped with panic hardware, stairways that are uninclosed and not fire rated, and no fire alarm systems. …
Because churches represent a greater risk to the loss of life than other projects, state law requires that design and construction documents be done by a licensed architect. A code compliant building also reduces liability risks to the church, and will reduce their exposure to civil actions should there ever be a fire or an accident.
Churches need to become keenly aware of the benefits that complying with building codes provide, and make certain that there can be no safer place to be than their own buildings.
• “Rigid Zoning Laws Compound Garage Apartment Problem,” Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1997 (“… Sisters Joanne Lizette Paz, 7, and Janessa Naomi Paz, 2, died with grandmother Maria Gonzalez when the illegal garage apartment they called home caught fire and trapped them inside just out of reach of rescue workers. Late last year, five children died in a similar garage fire in Watts. …”)
• “Building owner in Mount Vernon fatal fire accused of code violations,” LoHud.com, February 18, 2012 (“The owner of the Second Street home where an elderly woman died in a fire Tuesday is accused of maintaining the property in violation of city building codes. Dwayne McKinley, owner of 65 W. Second St., was issued a notice of violation this week after officials with the Mount Vernon Department of Buildings found that he had turned a legal, three-family dwelling into an illegal six-family building, according to city documents. … Buildings Department documents show a history of failed upkeep at the building dating at least as far back as 2007. …”)
• “Report: Fire Department’s culture, store’s code violations created time bomb,” Ron Menchaca, Post and Courier, March 22, 2012 (“The nearly 300-page report on the Sofa Super Store fire released … two months after the fatal June 18 blaze that killed nine Charleston firefighters. … painted a picture of the sofa store as a time bomb waiting to be lit. It described the store as a death trap, identifying its dense layout of furniture, padlocked doors and poorly maintained or identified exits. ‘The inadequate number of exits, locked exits, and obstructed paths to exits significantly reduced the potential for firefighters who were inside the showroom buildings to find a path to safety. The fire could have been prevented. If the property had been constructed and maintained in accordance with state and local codes the fire would have been quickly controlled; no lives would have been lost and the fire would have been of little consequence’…”
• “Multiple code violations found at Aspen home where family died,” Wyatt Haupt Jr., Aspen Times, April 6, 2009 (“The Aspen-area home where four people died of carbon monoxide poisoning on Thanksgiving weekend was later found to be in violation of several building codes, including one that led to the tragedy. … The work on the forced air system was apparently done without a permit, while the fireplace was ‘not per code’…”)
• “Landlord Charged With 20 Building Code Violations After 3 Die In Fire,” WBNS, February 3, 2012
• “Mexico daycare fire caused by multiple fire safety, building code violations, study finds,” UC Davis Health System, February 7, 2012 (“The massive conflagration in a daycare center in Mexico in 2009 that resulted in the deaths of 49 young children was the result of a panoply of safety and building code violations and an inadequate number of supervising adults to lead the children to safety, a study by researchers at UC Davis and Shriners Hospitals for Children has found. …”)
• “Manslaughter Charges for Landlords in Brooklyn Fire That Killed 5,” Andy Newman and Mosi Secret, New York Times, June 14, 2012 (“The landlords of an illegally subdivided apartment building in Brooklyn, where five Guatemalan immigrants died in a 2010 fire, were arraigned Thursday on manslaughter charges. …
Finally, a word from someone who really understands the necessity of safety codes; while the author is writing about seasonal haunted houses, everything he says applies:
[A]s a Fire Marshal, my primary concern is Life Safety, and when this is overlooked, all that time and effort is wasted on a closed attraction, or worse, injuries from an unsafe one. The goal for all of us should be that no one gets hurt.
For starters, I recommend that you run through various worst-case scenarios with your staff. How will your staff react if there is a fire or medical emergency? Would they know what to do? Have you trained them? Have you provided the safety equipment needed? Is the equipment readily available? Of course we are all hopeful that nothing will happen, and we take a big sigh of relief at the end of the season when everything went as planned and no one was injured. However, we won’t have to hold our breath until that sigh of relief if we know that you are ready for an emergency and your properly trained staff know what to do.
…. [Y]ou cannot have the mindset that “nothing has ever happened before, so it’s fine.” You must ask yourself what you can do to prevent or mitigate an emergency or unplanned event. Preparation, pre-planning and training are the first steps in eliminating deadly risks that can and do occur. …
Knowing the building and fire codes is also part of preparation, pre-planning and training. The code is developed to keep people safe and mitigate emergencies…
In most cases, a building permit will be required before construction can begin, and a certificate of occupancy will be required before the attraction can be opened to the public. Drawings of the Haunted House will be required, showing entrances/exits, electrical switches, circuit breakers, layout of the visitor path, location of alarm systems and manual pull stations, and the locations of fire extinguishers and telephones. …
The Fire Marshal can shut your Haunted House event down if there is a Life Safety Violation. Failing to comply can be costly, and in some communities a criminal arrest may follow, resulting in fines, costs, and possibly jail. In addition, your credibility for next year has just diminished. …
• Will there be adequate parking with accessible fire lanes at all times?
• Will the building have sufficient vehicle access and egress routes?
• Does the building have a fire protection system?
• Does the building have a smoke detection system?
• Does the building have an audible/visual alarm system?
• Does the building have fire extinguishers?
• Does the building have maintained and operating emergency lighting?
• Does the building meet your needs, with what you want to do?
• Does the building have proper egress routes?
• Does the building meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements?
SAFETY FIRST …
— Jim Williams
Certified Fire Inspector, State of Michigan
National Fire Protection Association
Fire Marshal, Kalamazoo, Michigan
“Haunted Houses and the Fire Marshal”
Haunted Attraction Magazine (via HauntedHouse.com)
And if you still think jail is just for “persecuted” Christians…
Alan Kimble Fahey, who was convicted of building code violations for constructing an elaborate complex dubbed Phonehenge West, was sent to jail Friday for refusing to comply with orders to vacate and destroy parts of his Antelope Valley landmark.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell set Fahey’s bail at $75,000 and had deputies escort the 59-year-old Acton man from the courtroom. The stiff penalty drew protests afterward from an overflow crowd of Fahey’s backers. Like him, they oppose what they consider excessively stringent building codes.
The judge told the courtroom that she had not wanted to put Fahey in jail at first. She had left him a free man since his conviction in early June so he could dismantle the illegal portions of his creation “in a safe and orderly fashion,” she said.
But “he blatantly disregarded the court’s orders,” Mitchell said. She said her key concerns were fire hazards. Much of Phonehenge West is made of wood. Also, the county says the property lacks sufficient water and access for firefighters. …
— Ann M. Simmons
“Man jailed for not dismantling
Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2011
After all that, anyone who stills thinks the City of Phoenix is just making up stuff as it goes along and pulling crazy laws out of the air in order to “persecute” a Christian… Well, somebody might think such a person wants the Salmans and everyone around them to die. We don’t think that. We think the endless cries of “persecution” are motivated by something else entirely — which, if a person hasn’t spent a lot of time trying to understand Christian fundamentalism, is even more difficult to comprehend than the sickness of genuine, psychopathic sadism.
Michael Salman is 100% in the wrong. We wish Michael Salman would simply obey the laws designed for his own safety, as well as everyone else’s. As much as we may not like the Michael Salmans of this world (and, believe us, we don’t), we want everyone to be safe. We do not want to see Michael Salman’s body — or those of his children — being dragged out of smoldering rubble… like John Jajkowski.
Do you “persecuted” Christians want Michael Salman’s children to end up like that? Do you want to risk someone else’s life — or many lives — just so you can continue to gnash your teeth and rend your garments in order to prop up your — what is it, need? — to prove there’s some sort of “War on Christianity”? Do you need so badly to bask in some sort of weird comfort you find in your martyr complex?
If anyone still feels so compelled to shout “Christian persecution!” and shout down the very real, sane, sensible, and necessary practicalities of laws designed to prevent stupid people from doing stupid things to themselves and to others out of recklessness, neglect and/or arrogance… We just don’t know what else to say to such a person — who we believe, by this point, is being deliberately obtuse in an effort to push an agenda borne of some sort of deep-seated, misguided need for martyrdom. And that seems… sick. Very, very sick.
But, if we have failed to appeal to any shred of logic left in such a person, then there’s always this…
Suggested Bible reading for Mr. Salman — and for all his “persecuted Christian” defenders:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
— Romans 13:1-7
In plain English: “This passage makes it abundantly clear that we are to obey the government God places over us. God created government to establish order, punish evil, and promote justice (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 12:8). We are to obey the government in everything — paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, and showing respect. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect towards God, for He is the One who placed that government over us. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, he was under the government of Rome during the reign of Nero, perhaps the most evil of all the Roman emperors. Paul still recognized the Roman government’s rule over him. How can we do any less?”
That any “Christian” would not understand that on a gut level and adhere to it, unquestioningly, is an amazement. After all, Christians, particularly the most fundamentalist, are authoritarian followers by nature.
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