Judge tosses charges against pastor blocked from praying in library hosting Drag Queen event

Judge tosses charges against pastor blocked from praying in library hosting Drag Queen event by Calvin Freiburger for Life Site News

A judge has dismissed charges against a Christian pastor in Washington who was arrested after trying to enter a public library in which a Drag Queen Story Hour event was taking place, though local prosecutors plan to try again against Afshin Yaghtin.

Yaghtin, who preaches at Spokane’s New Covenant Church, attempted to enter South Hill Public Library on June 15 to pray for the children attending a Drag Queen Story Hour event that day. 500 Mom Strong founder Anna Bohach witnessed police intercept and arrest him.

The Washington Times reported that Yaghtin was specifically arrested for refusing to move to a designated protest zone, which he objected was farther away from the library than where pro-LGBT protesters were allowed to gather.

“He did not carry signs or preach, and he did not consider himself a protestor,” said the Pacific Justice Institute, which defended the pastor. “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.”

Spokane Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab dismissed the charges against Yaghtin on December 2, noting that the “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,” and that “because the arrest for obstructing cannot be separated from Mr. Yaghtin’s speech, the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to support the charge of obstructing.”

“The prosecution refused to acknowledge law enforcement’s overreach by separating and even barring people from entry into the library based on their views,” said attorney Jorge Ramos. “We are thankful justice prevailed and Pastor Yaghtin can continue to shepherd his community with confidence.”

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