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Liberal College Town to Provide Settlement for Christians Arrested During Outdoor Church Service

A Christian college town in Idaho has reached a settlement with three devout churchgoers, paying them $300,000 after they filed a lawsuit against the city for their arrest during an outdoor service amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moscow, a town with a rich Christian heritage and home to the University of Idaho, faced legal action from Gabriel Rench, Sean, and Rachel Bohnet, who argued that their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they were arrested during a peaceful “psalm sing” organized by their church leaders in September 2020.

The incident, which gained significant attention, even drawing comments from then-President Trump, showed officers arresting Rench and confiscating his hymn book before detaining him and the others for several hours in the county jail.

During the gathering in front of Moscow City Hall, the participants adhered to social distancing guidelines by standing on small yellow dots placed six feet apart. Despite the city’s health ordinance, which had exemptions for constitutionally protected activities, including religious practices, Rench and his companions were charged with violating the ordinance.

However, justice prevailed when a magistrate judge dismissed the city’s case, and U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr., firmly stated in his memorandum and order that the arrests were unjustified and the constitutionality of the city’s code was irrelevant.

Despite the victory in court, Rench faced repercussions within his predominantly liberal community, becoming somewhat of an outcast. People accused him of being unloving and an “idiot” for standing up for his religious and constitutional rights. He acknowledged that his experience in Moscow reflects a broader issue occurring across the country and even in neighboring Canada, where some pastors have been arrested for holding church services.

Rench emphasized the need for change in how people vote and support leaders who defend the Constitution and protect the rights of Christians. He shared concerns about the erosion of religious freedom and hoped that significant changes would prevent the targeting of Christians in the future.

The city’s liability insurance provider, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), ultimately decided that a financial settlement was the best resolution for the case, providing closure for the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church highlighted a related legal battle involving his family, as his son and grandsons were charged for protesting the arrests. Wilson believed that there is a connection between his family’s experience and the broader concerns regarding the Department of Justice under President Biden, fearing that the government’s financial resources could be used to suppress political dissent.

In essence, this case in Idaho serves as a stark reminder of the importance of upholding religious liberties and defending the Constitution for all Americans, regardless of their beliefs. It highlights the need to ensure that faith is respected and protected in all aspects of society, from local communities to the nation’s capital.

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