Christmas came early for a pastor in Washington state when a judge decided he had been treated unfairly when arrested outside a local library.
A municipal court judge in Spokane has dismissed criminal charges against Pastor Afshin Yaghtin, who was arrested in June outside a public library where protestors were gathered to face off over a "drag queen story hour" event. (See earlier story) Yaghtin's attorneys at Pacific Justice Institute explain he wasn't there as a protestor, but rather he wanted to enter the library to observe and pray about the controversial event.
"He was discriminated against and told he had to leave simply because they identified him as a pastor and a Christian who would not agree with what was being read to the children," says Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute.
PJI moved to dismiss the charges against Yahgtin, arguing that the command by law enforcement to move to the "protester" zone violated the pastor's First Amendment rights. The judge agreed.
"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," the judge stated – adding that law enforcement officers told Yaghtin to move based on his expressed beliefs.
While the news surrounding Yaghtin is being celebrated, Dacus implies the pastor may not be the last individual concerned about drag queen story hour to make the news.
"We are receiving more and more calls from concerned communities, individuals, [and] pastors about drag queen story hour coming to their community library," says the attorney. "People need to know what their rights are [and] what they can do."
Toward that end, PJI offers various resources on its website to aid individuals and organizations in understanding their rights and protections under the law.