The town of Moscow, Idaho, will pay a $300,000 settlement to three Christians arrested during a maskless outdoor church service during the pandemic.
Gabriel Rench, Sean Bohnet, and Rachel Bohnet sued the city in March 2021 over their arrests at the “Psalm sing” event held outside the Moscow City Hall by Christ Church in September 2020. At the time, the city was still under a mask mandate.
The plaintiffs alleged that officials violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights by taking them into custody.
In a video of the arrest, other members of the church continued to sing as the three were handcuffed.
Rev. Ben Zornes had said that the event was a protest against the mask mandates, which he referred to as “largely groundless laws,” according to a report from Fox News at the time.
A magistrate judge dismissed the city’s case against them, and U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. wrote that the “plaintiffs should never have been arrested in the first place, and the constitutionality of what the City thought [its] code said is irrelevant.”
“Somehow, every single City official involved overlooked the exclusionary language [of constitutionally protected behavior] in the Ordinance,” the judge continued.
Rench told Fox that the incident made him a pariah in the small college town.
“I think it’s no secret that portions of our government and political groups are now starting to target Christians in a way that has never really happened in America or Canada,” he said.
“I’m in a conservative state, but I live in a liberal town, and the liberals had no problem arresting me for practicing my religious rights and my Constitutional rights,” Rench continued. “But my [Republican] governor also didn’t defend me either. If you look at what’s going on in Canada, I think America’s 10 years, at most 20 years, behind Canada if we don’t make significant changes.”
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