The case of a pastor who was arrested for observing a Drag Queen Story Hour event and refusing to move to the “protester zone” surrounding the library has taken a surprising turn.
In spite of having all charges dismissed by a judge twice, Pastor Afshin Yaghtin is being relentlessly pursued by an anti-Christian prosecutor with a vendetta after Yaghtin simply attempted to observe the highly controversial event.
Back in mid-June, Yaghtin visited the public library in Spokane, Washington to observe the event, not to protest it. Arriving a few hours before the event, Yaghtin found a heavy police presence and hundreds of protestors and counter-protestors.
According to the Pacific Justice Institute, who is representing Yaghtin, he was barred from entering the library by police even though he did not carry signs, preach, or consider himself a protestor. Still, police ordered him to leave the library that his own tax dollars pay for and go across the street with the protestors.
When Yaghtin questioned the police’s favorable treatment of the counter-protestors supporting the event and refused to retreat to the “protestor zone,” he found himself arrested for obstructing a law enforcement officer, handcuffed, and tossed into the back of a police van for several hours.
Yaghtin later learned that, as we reported at the time, his boldness could have cost him his life as it was revealed that SWAT team snipers were positioned on the roof of the library to protect the wicked event going on inside.
In early December, PJI motioned for dismissal of the criminal charges against Yaghtin, arguing that the command by police to move to a designated zone was unlawful because it violated his First Amendment rights and, therefore, renders any “obstruction” of the command invalid.
Thankfully, the judge agreed.
“[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,” Judge Tracy A. Staab ruled, emphasizing that officers told Pastor Yaghtin to move based on his expressed beliefs.
“The judge’s ruling is an enormous victory for the freedom of conscience,” said Jorge Ramos, PJI’s Seattle attorney who represented Yaghtin, at the time. “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.”
Two days before Christmas, however, PJI says Yaghtin and his attorneys “received an unwanted gift: prosecutors asked the court to reconsider its ruling and reinstate the charges.”
“Good news quickly followed,” a press release from PJI continues, stating that the judge denied the request just eight days later.
Still, Judge Staab’s rulings have not stopped the prosecution from proceeding with their inquisition against Yaghtin and they are appealing the case to the Superior Court of Spokane.
The prosecutors’ unrelenting pursuit and extreme characterization of Yaghtin’s speech has reached an alarming level. The prosecution claims that Yaghtin was using “offensive language that could incite violence” and was trying to “advance his public protest and profile.” For added context, the prosecutor recently took down his social media post which mentioned “religious loonies” associated with this case.
“The judge emphasized that law enforcement told Pastor Afshin to move based on his expressed beliefs, they do not argue against this,” Ramos said of the prosecution. “We are grateful that the judge reaffirmed her decision and disregarded the prosecution’s escalated rhetoric. Unfortunately, our focus now must shift to the Court of Appeals.”
It is an utter tragedy that law enforcement and our legal system can be so thoroughly corrupted as to protect what is evil and punish those who stand up for what is good.
Prayerfully consider supporting PJI as they continue to defend Pastor Yaghtin against this anti-Christian crusade free of charge. If we are diligent in fighting the evil that is overtaking our society, any one of us could easily find ourselves in his position.
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