Preacher Who Escaped Soviet Persecution Defeats Criminal Speech Charges in America

Washougal, WA–Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has secured the dismissal of criminal charges against five street preachers who were cited by police for disturbing public peace outside of Washougal High School in November 2017.

The street preachers stood on a public sidewalk at the edge of the high school parking lot, holding signs and speaking to students as they left school after classes had ended. Despite having obtained approval from a code enforcement officer before the incident, the School Resource Officer of the Washougal Police Department confronted the street preachers and stated they were breaking the city noise ordinance.

All five preachers received criminal citations, with the officer telling them that the school did not welcome their “protesting.”

One of the criminally-charged preachers, who is not being named, spent many years under the iron grip of the former Soviet Union. He held a sign with a Bible verse, handed out gospel tracts to students, and told them, “Jesus loves you.” The aggressive reaction from the school and the police reminded him of similar harassment and complaints to the KGB in response to his preaching in Russia.

Kevin Snider of PJI represented the street preachers in the Municipal Court of Washougal. The charges were dropped last week after PJI explained to the prosecuting attorney in detail the unconstitutionality of the city’s ordinance, and PJI’s intent to vigorously defend free speech and religious freedom.   

“We cannot afford to lose our most basic First Amendment freedoms in America. It is sobering that what our clients experienced in this case reminded them of experiences in the former Soviet Union. We commend the prosecutor for agreeing to drop these charges, and we remain vigilant for similar threats to freedom throughout the country,” commented Brad Dacus, president and founder of PJI.

In the last six months, PJI has represented numerous public evangelists against criminal charges in California, Nevada, Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Michigan.