EL PASO, Texas — Prosecutors in Texas have dropped their case against an evangelist who was arrested in 2017 while preaching on the sidewalk outside of “A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour” as he refused to relocate due to the complaints of the hearers.
As previously reported, Ryan Denton of Christ in the Wild Ministries, who preaches at college campuses, abortion facilities, homeless shelters and other locations nationwide, says that he found the El Paso event another good opportunity to share the gospel. It featured contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race and was billed with the description, “The holidays were never this naughty!”
“The drag event, like any other event, was a place where the lost would be congregating, and hence the need for a gospel witness,” Denton 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.”
He told Christian News Network that as he stood on the sidewalk adjacent to Plaza Theatre, he generally preached about repentance and faith in Christ—the same message he proclaims everywhere. While he did mention concepts such as drag queens a few times, it was not the focus of his message.
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 cease 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 told Christian News Network that he had 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 noted 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, which prohibits “remain[ing] on or in property of another, including residential land, agricultural land, a recreational vehicle park, a building, or an aircraft or other vehicle, without effective consent” when the person “received notice to depart but failed to do so.”
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 the plaza.
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 also recalled 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. He was to have faced a jury trial on March 19.
However, Denton has now been informed that his prosecution has been dropped. A Motion to Dismiss document filed in El Paso County Court simply states that the case has been dismissed due to “prosecutorial discretion.”