The city of Moscow, Idaho, will be forking over $300,000 in a settlement with church members who were arrested in 2020 for ignoring a mask mandate during an outdoor "psalm sing."
Gabriel Rench and Sean and Rachel Bohnet filed a civil lawsuit against the city and several city employees following the September 2020 incident, KHQ-TV reported.
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Rench and the Bohets, all members of Christ Church, participated in a protest alongside other congregants without masks outside City Hall during the pandemic. The protest consisted of singing psalms and standing close together, violating social distancing regulations in place at the time.
Court documents say that Rench and the Bohnets declined to physically distance and provide identification to officers. Rench was arrested and booked into the Latah County Jail, but soon was released by Sheriff Richie Skiles.
Among the settlement terms, the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program will pay the $300,000, the station said, and all claims against the city will be dismissed with prejudice; there also will be a release of all liability.
Christ Church pastor and event organizer Ben Zornes told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News at the time that the event was aimed at criticizing what he called a “largely groundless” mask order, KTVB-TV reported, adding that the city council issued it to slow the COVID spread.
Rench added to KTVB that the church has held these events before but there hadn't been arrests before.
"The times we've done the psalm sing in the past under the same [mask] resolution we weren't arrested, we weren't warned, no warnings, no nothing, and so we were just taking our constitutional liberties to do what we're allowed to do under the Constitution — worship," Rench noted to the station. "The government cannot dictate us to where we can worship, what time we can worship, and so that was kind of our protest ... a wonderful psalm sing."
Rench also told KTVB the city may have been trying to make an example of him and the other arrestees.
"I think they wanted to make an issue out of it," he added to the station. "They wanted to flex their muscles because we had already done psalm sings in the past, and they wanted to make an example of us, and so they warned us that they were either going to cite us or take us to jail."
3 arrested for flouting mask order in Moscowyoutu.be
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