So, I failed at Googling this morning. There’s actually tons of info on this case and it’s not even a little like what was portrayed. (I know, Fox News. There’s a big surprise. I’m going to have a heart attack and die from “not surprised.”)
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.
It’s also stated that he initially built without a proper permit and was cited for that way back in 2007. Also, houses of worship are allowed in any part of Phoenix, so he could at any time have complied with the building codes and had his church with no problems.
So, he built a church without a permit initially, lied his head off about the purpose of the building, ignored the heck out of zoning rules, and when he was finally arrested, cried religious persecution. Nice.