VICTORY: Christians arrested for not wearing masks at outdoor service receive $300,000 settlement
08/04/2023 // Cassie B. // Views

The city of Moscow, Idaho, has agreed to pay $300,000 to three individuals who were arrested for not wearing a mask at an outside church service during the pandemic.

Gabriel Rench, Sean Bohnet and Rachel Bohnet were arrested while attending a “psalm sing” outdoors with around 200 Christians. They were members of the Christ Church, a congregation of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches. Footage of the incident showed police seizing Rench’s hymn book and taking him away to jail in handcuffs, where he and the Bohnets were detained for several hours.

After footage of the churchgoers being arrested went viral, then-President Trump condemned the arrest on Twitter, and many people expressed outrage over the actions of police in the liberal college town.


The “psalm sing” event was a form of peaceful protest against a municipal social distancing and mask mandate that took place outside the Moscow City Hall in an empty parking lot. Officials there had positioned yellow dots six feet apart to show participants where they should stand to comply with the social distancing guidelines that were in place, but many of them stood shoulder to shoulder and sang hymns.

Other videos shot that day showed Christ Church Pastor Douglas Wilson instructing churchgoers to stand six feet apart if they did not have masks, warning them that they could receive a citation from police if they failed to comply.

“The city has helpfully painted dots on the parking lot. If you don't want to risk a citation, you can find a dot and stand on it,” he said.

“If you can also keep in mind that your whole family - you can fill in between the dots if you're a family.”

The three Christians were charged with violations of the city’s pandemic-related health ordinance, and they later filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit with help from the Thomas More Society. They argued in their federal case that the city was in violation of its own public health laws as the laws included an exemption for people who were engaged in political speech activities. The suit also accused Moscow of violating state law protections for religious expression.

A magistrate judge ultimately dismissed the city’s case for the arrests of the trio, and U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. opined that they “should never have been arrested in the first place.”

Rench calls liberalism a “modern-day cult” with no real moral standard

Speaking on Fox & Friends, Rench said: “I’m very grateful that I got a victory. How many people nationwide didn’t get a victory?”

He said that the violation of his first amendment rights that occurred in his small town is a “microcosm of what’s going on nationwide.”

“Liberalism is really turning into kind of a modern-day cult. They use coercion, they want power, and they have no real moral standard that is kind of fixed for them,” he added.

He also noted that the city’s mayor had also been violating masking and social distancing rules, playing golf and drinking beer with friends even as he essentially closed the entire town.

Rench said that the incident has made him a pariah in the liberal town, with some neighbors calling him an “idiot” and saying that he doesn’t “love his neighbor” and others telling him he should take his payout money and run.

He said that around half of the settlement will be used to cover their legal fees, with the remaining funds being donated to persecuted Christians.

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