EL PASO, Texas — An evangelist was arrested and jailed on Wednesday after those unhappy with his message called the police as he was preaching outside of a “holiday” event in Texas called “A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour.” Those watching his preaching being shut down broke out into cheers.
“A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour is a must-see holiday spectacular with your favorite contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1),” the event description reads. “For one night only, your favorite queens #werk the stage with singing, dancing, comedy and more! The holidays were never this naughty!”
Ryan Denton of Christ in the Wild Ministries had been preaching on the sidewalk adjacent to Plaza Theatre during the event, finding the gathering a good opportunity to share the gospel. Denton told Christian News Network that he generally preached about repentance and faith in Christ, and while he did mention concepts such as drag queens a few times, it was not the focus of his message.
“The drag event, like any other event, was a place where the lost would be congregating, and hence the need for a gospel witness,” he said. “Christ came to seek and save those who are lost. He came for the unrighteous, not the righteous. The great Physician of souls came for the sick and spiritually dead. This is why the gospel must go beyond the church walls.”
However, those hearing Denton’s speech soon became upset and called the police. Among those who arrived on the scene was Officer Jared Lamb, who told Denton that he had to stop preaching since complaints had been received.
“Just because you get calls does not mean I have to stop,” Denton told Lamb, according to recorded video footage reviewed by Christian News Network.
“I know that,” Lamb replied.
“Are you sure, because you keep saying that [I do],” Denton said.
Lamb also asserted during the discussion that the sidewalk Denton was standing on was private property and that he should relocate to the plaza. Denton says that he has been instructed by police in the past to stand in that exact location, and has preached there nearly a dozen times without issue. He further notes that the plaza is not near the event, so he would not be able to reach the people.
“I’m going to keep preaching right here because this is not private property,” Denton told the officer.
However, Lamb instead grabbed Denton’s stool that he had been standing on to preach and instructed Denton to follow. Those nearby broke into cheers. Lamb walked Denton into a nearby building where he told him that he didn’t want “debates” outside.
“We don’t need debates going on out there tonight,” Lamb said. “We don’t need it.”
“Sir, it’s not up to you,” Denton replied. “It’s the Constitution of the United States. It’s [my] First Amendment rights.”
“Okay. It’s up to you?” Lamb asked.
“No. The Constitution protects what I was doing, sir,” Denton stated.
Lamb then proceeded to arrest Denton. He was transported to the El Paso Jail where he was charged with Criminal Trespass under Texas Penal Code 30.05.
Denton says that Lamb told him in transport, “I’m writing the police report and I’m going to make it as colorful as [expletive].” During the “tirade,” as Denton described it, the officer repeatedly advised that he is “very active in [his] church.”
“You know who looks like the bad guy now,” he stated. “All you had to do is leave” and go to another spot.
Denton told Christian News Network that as he was later placed behind bars, Lamb said, “Man to man, you shouldn’t be preaching there [at the drag festival]. Just tell them Jesus loves them and move on.”
Denton still recalls the last remarks from Lamb: “I can’t say what we did tonight was wrong, but I can’t say arresting you was right.”
After spending seven hours in jail, Denton was released on $300 bond. Denton says that he was able to share the gospel with others during the time that he was incarcerated, and witnessed a receptivity to his message. One man, a college student, expressed remorse and thanked God for “disciplining” him.
“The gospel is good news for anyone who has ears to hear, whether it’s a drag queen or a self-righteous good citizen,” Denton said. “God saves sinners, among whom every Christian was once chief. There’s hope for the people at the drag event because God is mighty to save and ‘salvation is of the Lord.'”
Officer Lamb could not be reached for comment on the arrest. A trial date has not yet been set.