Update: WA Pastor & Drag-Queen Story Hour case

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Pacific Justice Institute

Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is contesting criminal charges against a pastor who was arrested outside a public library. The library was hosting a drag queen event.

As PJI first reported in June, Pastor Afshin Yaghtin went to a public library in Spokane the weekend of Father’s Day to observe a highly publicized event called Drag Queen Story Hour. There was a heavy police presence surrounding the library and ensuring that only supporters of the event could be near the library and attend the event.

Yaghtin was arrested when he sought to exercise his rights as a citizen and taxpayer to observe the supposedly public event. Yaghtin did not consider himself a protestor, but police ordered him to stay away and cross the street where protestors had gathered. Yaghtin did not physically interfere with or touch police, nor did he make threatening movements toward the police or use threatening words at any time. He was arrested for questioning the police’s favorable treatment of supporters and unfavorable treatment of anyone they perceived to be non-supportive.

PJI attorney Jorge Ramos filed a Motion to Dismiss in Spokane Municipal Court this past week. The Motion explains that the police report does not support the charge of obstructing police that has been filed against Yaghtin. The Motion also points out libraries’ historical role in encouraging the exchange of ideas and notes the clear viewpoint discrimination in the vastly different treatment given to supporters versus non-supporters.

Brad Dacus, president of PJI, noted, “These criminal charges against Pastor Yaghtin pose a serious threat to free speech. We are vigorously contesting the charges and will continue seeking justice as long as it takes.”

Jorge Ramos, who heads up PJI’s Washington State office, commented, “We are at a crossroads in our nation where the survival of fundamental freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment is at stake. As a society, we cannot afford to allow pastors to be arrested and jailed for attending a public event at which they are deemed to be non-supportive of a particular ideology.”

A hearing on PJI’s Motion to Dismiss has been scheduled in the Spokane Municipal Court for August 29 at 9 a.m.