Three Christians who sued the city after being detained for not donning masks at an outdoor service during the heyday of the COVID-19 pandemic received a $300,000 settlement from a liberal college town in Idaho.
Arrest and Lawsuit
Gabriel Rench and Rachel and Sean Bohnet initiated a lawsuit against Moscow’s government in March 2021.
They argued their First and Fourth Amendment rights had been infringed when they were detained at an outdoor “psalm sing.” This was organized by members of their church in September 2020.
This week, the city of Moscow declared it would settle with the two parties.
The University of Idaho is located in Moscow, a town of almost 25,000 people about 80 miles south of Spokane, Washington. Roughly 1,000 people make up the local church Christ Church, a member of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches.
Officers were seen taking Rench’s hymnal before escorting him in cuffs to the county jail, where he and the other individuals were held for several hours. Video of the arrests went viral and were denounced at the time by then-President Trump on Twitter.
DEMS WANT TO SHUT YOUR CHURCHES DOWN, PERMANENTLY. HOPE YOU SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING. VOTE NOW! https://t.co/dqvqz6b1WD
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
The psalm-singing protest lasted approximately 20 minutes in front of the Moscow City Hall, where city administrators placed small yellow marks six feet apart as a guide for the participants’ social distance.
The city’s repeatedly expanded health ordinance included leeway for activities safeguarded by the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Idaho State Constitution. Rules for religious gatherings were allegedly violated by Rench and the others.
US: A court has dismissed all charges against Gabriel Rench, a church deacon who was one of the three arrested last September for singing while not wearing a mask at a 'psalm sing' outdoor worship service held in Moscow City, Idaho. pic.twitter.com/mp0wdM7rxx
— Apex World News (@apexworldnews) January 17, 2021
In his February 1, 2023 memorandum and order denying the city’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England Jr. stated the plaintiffs weren’t supposed to have been detained in the first place.
He also ruled the legality of what the city thought the code said is irrelevant. A magistrate judge later tossed the city’s case against them.
Since his arrest and ensuing settlement, Rench informed Fox News Digital that he continues to be an outcast in his largely liberal neighborhood.
Since the payout, Rench claims members of his community called him an “idiot” who does not “love his neighbor” and pushed him to “take your payout and run.”