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July 14, 2012  | by: Natalia Weiner

Michael Salman, a man living in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, is facing two months of jail time and a $12,000 fine for holding a weekly religious service at his home. But chief Assistant City Prosecutor Vicki Hill denies any police involvement in relation to religious affiliation.

Rather, they were concerned that with any reoccurring group, there are fire safety issues to be taken into account, as it may be difficult for  people to evacuate during an emergency.

However, Salman is not buying it. He is making headlines by claiming to Fox News Radio that “They’re cracking down on religious activities and religious use. They’re attacking what I as a Christian do in the privacy of my home.”

This feud between Salman and the city of Phoenix has been longstanding. With a rapidly growing religious following, it became more and more difficult for his group to convene in his living room.

He moved his meetings to his backyard; when that was shut down, he created a 2,000 square ft. building in his backyard that was, in fact, granted a permit. But due to the fact that Salman was not using his new addition for the expressed purposes he listed in hi soriginal proposal (transforming his garage into a game room) the city put their foot down. In 2009, according to AOL News Salmanwas handed 67 code violations for his religious gatherings.

Hill claims that Salman would be able to hold religious services if he complied with the zoning and fire laws set by the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

“He built a structure that he said wasn’t a church that is, in fact, a church,” Hill stated. Salman continued to tell Fox Radio that if he had held a Monda yNight Football game party every week, that this would not be an issue, but because it is explicitly a religious service, he is being discriminated against.

There is no doubt that in order to comply with the building codes set out by Phoenix, Arizona, Salman would have had to pay exponentially more money to approve his services. IS Salman’s cry of religious persecution legitimate, or is this merely a man with a need for attention?

Public schools have prohibited certain displays of religious worship such as prayer and this supposed lack of tolerance to promote tolerance even led to a widespread hoax about President Barack Obama refusing to refer to the White House Christmas Tree as such, and was now demanding that it be called a “Holiday Tree.” Although this particular instance was proved false, it still does not change the fact that many schools are not even allowed to talk about religion unless explicitly outlined in a particular school approved text,and those are becoming fewer and fewer.

It seems that this elimination of any type of religious affiliation is well intentioned; schools and other public associations do not want to make others feel obligated to abide by certain religious laws of which they do not associate. However, by completely dismissing and going so far as to prohibit any type of religious pride and assertion at all is running up against freedom of expression laws and is also going against what government is supposedly “trying” to promote.

In order to find a loop hole in the system, students have set up groups such as“ Prayer at the Pole,” where, like any other school affiliated club, they are able to gather and granted a faculty sponsor.

“Prayer at the Pole” is held at the flag pole outside of public schools before and after school hours is practiced by millions of students across the United States. This movement began in 1990 in Texas, and since then many of those who felt stifled by disappearance of religion in schools, found comfort with others who shared similar beliefs.

It is obvious that there should be separation between Church and State, but not divorce. In a country founded on religious principles you are unable to have one without the other. But both forces need to be balanced, and if State over takes the Church, you can bet that we will have a much more conservative president in the White House in 2012.

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