Bible Study is a Crime
Looks like ordained minister Michael Salman of Phoenix will have a lot of time to pray. The reverend has just started serving a 60-day jail sentence for — the horror! — hosting Bible studies in his garage. (He also got three years of probation and a massive fine.) Before his lock-up, Salman had accumulated a whopping 67 zoning violations for his thrice-weekly services. Although Salman
received a permit to convert his large garage into a game room, when he started using it as a church, he violated local laws for everything from occupancy to a failure to have lighted exits. "We believe what they are doing is wrong," Salman said. "It's our home."
No, it's a church. While the government has no right to regulate what you believe, they do have a right to enforce fire and zoning regulations. If you are attracting a large crowd to a residential area, you are probably creating a major headache for your neighbors with all the traffic and cars parked along the curb. Overcrowding a room which may or may not have adequate fire extinguishers and properly marked exits could be a recipe for disaster.
When the crowd began to grow, the reverend should have found a more appropriate venue. In Columbia, we have a group that meets every week by the lake. Another group rents the auditorium of a local school, providing the school with needed revenue. Another church rents one of the theaters in a movie complex. I'm sure that, if the congregation puts its heads together, they can find a solution.
You do, after all, have to render unto Caesar.