Editorial: A rare victory for free speech

Free speech is still alive in America even though it is under constant assault.

In Washougal, Washington, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a Christian advocacy group, obtained 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 were just exercising their First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk. They stood at the edge of the high school parking lot, holding signs and speaking to students as they left school after classes had ended. The street preachers had approval from a code enforcement officer before the incident but the School Resource Officer of the Washougal Police Department confronted them and insisted they were breaking the city noise ordinance.

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

Interestingly, one of the street preachers 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 to the KGB in Russia.

Kevin Snider of PJI represented the street preachers and the charges were dropped.

“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.