Over the last few weeks, Arizona pastor Michael Salman has become a Religious Right cause célèbre and the current poster boy for religious persecution. In the Religious Right’s version of events, Salman has supposedly been harassed and persecuted by local officials for years simply because he wanted to hold bible study meetings at his home.
In reality, Salman had been attempting to illegally build a church in his back yard and was found guilty of dozens of code violations, resulting in a sixty day jail sentence, which Salman is now serving … and about which his supporters are now complaining:
Pastor Michael Salman is serving his 60-day sentence for holding a home Bible study in Tent City Jail, a prison compound in Maricopa County, Ariz. The Phoenix pastor’s attorney describes conditions there as similar to the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
“This is where you would put Osama bin Laden, not Michael Salman,” says Rutherford Institute founder and attorney John Whitehead in an interview yesterday with International Christian Concern (ICC).
“The temperature there has been around 140 degrees, and there is no air conditioning. They’re [living] in tents. They have stun fences … barbed wire … large German shepherds walking the perimeter, armed guards and facial recognition software so that the prisoners are studied all the time.”
According to Whitehead, Salman has reported being imprisoned with “really hardened criminals.” He is unsure why the pastor has been specifically sent to Tent City. In late June, the jail was the focus of thousands of protesters who gathered outside the Maricopa County Sherriff’s office to express their disapproval of the allegedly prison camp-like conditions.
It should be noted that this Guantanamo-like prison camp in which Salman is currently serving his time just so happens to be the system set up by the Right’s hero, “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” and Birther extraordinaire Joe Arpaio.
Oddly, nobody on the Right seemed particularly concerned about the conditions in the compound until now.