PJI Defends Pastor Arrested For Not Supporting Drag Queen Story Hour at Library

Spokane, WA—Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is now representing a pastor in Washington State facing criminal charges in connection with a drag queen event.

Pastor Afshin Yaghtin went to a public library in Spokane on Saturday, June 15, to observe a highly publicized event called Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH). Yaghtin arrived a couple of hours before the event was scheduled to begin and found a heavy police presence and hundreds of people both supporting and opposing the event.

Yaghtin sought to enter the library to observe the event but was barred by police. He did not carry signs or preach, and he did not consider himself a protestor. The police nevertheless ordered Yaghtin to leave the premises—otherwise open to the public—and go across the street with everyone else who the police deemed not to be supportive of the event.

Yaghtin asserted his First Amendment rights and the police responded by arresting him. He was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police van for several hours. Yaghtin later learned that his stand may have put his life in danger, as the police had positioned snipers on the roof of the library.

While the police were ordering Yaghtin and others concerned about DQSH to leave or go across the street, they allowed supporters of the drag queens to surround and enter the library. Some of the event supporters carried provocative signs depicting Jesus in a dress reading to children. Other supporters dressed like angels with oversized wings.

After Yaghtin was taken to jail, booked, and bailed out, he connected with PJI. PJI opened a Washington State office with full-time attorney Jorge Ramos last year, due in part to the numerous requests PJI received from evangelists being criminally charged for public preaching. PJI has now secured dismissal of charges against several such evangelists. Earlier this year, PJI founder and president Brad Dacus also secured dismissal of criminal charges against an evangelist in El Paso, Texas, who had been prosecuted for preaching outside a drag queen show.

“The number of criminal charges being filed against pastors and evangelists across the country in just the last few years should be alarming to every freedom-loving American,” Dacus commented. “This arrest in Spokane is one of the clearest examples yet of viewpoint discrimination, and we will be vigorously contesting the charges. We must be able to peacefully disagree and voice our concerns in public places without fear of arrest and prosecution based on viewpoint.”

In just the last two weeks, threats of arrests at controversial library events have become a pattern. Last weekend, two moms in Des Moines, Washington, were threatened with arrest and escorted out of a library-hosted Teen Pride event. Before they were forced to leave, the moms observed the Teen Pride organizers giving minors genital-shaped bookmarks, lubricants, and breast binders. It was claimed that parents were not allowed at the event unless accompanied by a minor.