Judge Dismisses Charges Against Pastor Involving Drag Queen Story Hour

Spokane, WA—Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) just received the order from the Spokane Municipal Court judge dismissing criminal charges against Pastor Afshin Yaghtin.

As previously reported, Pastor 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. Pastor Yaghtin was arrested for questioning the police’s favorable treatment of supporters and unfavorable treatment of anyone they perceived to be non-supportive and for refusing to move to the “protester” zone after being denied entry into the library.

The basis of PJI’s motion to dismiss argument was that the command by law enforcement—that Yaghtin move to a designated protest zone—was unlawful because it violated his First Amendment rights and therefore cannot support a conviction of obstructing a law enforcement officer.

The judge agreed stating, “[T]he scope of the protest zones was expanded to include anyone attending the event who had an opinion about the event, regardless of whether they were protesting or creating a disturbance.” The judge emphasized that law enforcement told Pastor Yaghtin to move based on his expressed beliefs.

Jorge Ramos, PJI’s Seattle attorney who represented Yaghtin, commented, “The judge’s ruling is an enormous victory for the freedom of conscience. The prosecution refused to acknowledge law enforcement’s overreach by separating and even barring people from entry into the library based on their views. We are thankful justice prevailed and Pastor Yaghtin can continue to shepherd his community with confidence.”

Brad Dacus, president of PJI, noted, “The judge in Spokane appropriately recognized the danger this type of identification and separation posed to constitutionally protected rights. PJI is proud to help pastors like Mr. Yaghtin continue to live out their calling.”

PJI was supported by local counsel Richard Lee.