Home Bible Study + Zoning Codes = Prison

A Phoenix man serves time for holding prayer gatherings in his home, part of what attorney and author John W. Whitehead sees as a larger trend toward zoning out home services.

NIMBY? That is so yesterday. When it comes to home religious services, the trend appears to be Not In Your Yard Either. See one Michael Salman, a Phoenix resident who was fined $12,000 and sentenced to 60 days in one of Arizona's famously no-frills tent city jails for breaking a variety of city codes (67, to be exact) by having groups of 20 to 45 family and friends gather for worship in his rec room.

Although the worshippers parked on Salman's 4.6-acre property, the neighbors complained. After three years of unsuccessful attempts to meet code requirements (such as installing sprinklers) Salman finally faced charges. As a condition of his probation, he cannot have more than 12 guests in the house at a time, and is subject to unannounced inspections by the city.

The codes that made Salman's gatherings illegal are not unusual in the United States. To deal with illegal synagogues, one community in New York adopted codes that make it difficult to hold any sort of Orthodox prayer meeting in a residence.

Thanks to Rachel Proctor May

Full Story: The Overcriminalization of America: Are We All Criminals Now?


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