Christians Arrested for Maskless Service in Idaho College Town Settle Lawsuit and Receive Compensation

A college town in Idaho has reached a settlement with three Christian church attendees who were arrested for not wearing masks during an outdoor service amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The city of Moscow has agreed to pay Gabriel Rench, Sean Bohnet, and Rachel Bohnet a total of $300,000 after they claimed that their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.


In September 2020, the three individuals participated in an outdoor “psalm sing” organized by their church. The arrests were caught on video and gained widespread attention, even receiving criticism from then-President Trump. The footage shows officers confiscating Rench’s hymnal before taking him and the other attendees to jail, where they were held for several hours.

Legal Proceedings

The individuals were accused of violating the city’s health mandate, which had been extended multiple times. Interestingly, the ordinance did include exemptions for constitutionally protected activities, including religious practices. Ultimately, the cases against the arrestees were dismissed by a magistrate judge, and U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr., stated that they should never have been arrested in the first place.

Community Reactions

Following the arrests and the subsequent settlement, Rench has faced significant backlash within his mostly liberal community. Many have criticized him, questioning his concern for his neighbors and urging him to leave with the settlement money.

Rench’s Views

Rench believes that the incidents in Moscow reflect a larger issue occurring across the nation. He believes that certain factions within the government are targeting Christians in unprecedented ways, and he draws parallels with similar incidents in Canada. Rench stated, “I was following the law. The political system doesn’t want to relinquish their power, and admitting they’re wrong would be seen as losing that power.”

Settlement Details

The city has stated that its insurance provider, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), determined that settling the lawsuit was the most effective course of action. This settlement is seen as a resolution to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s efforts to ensure public safety.

Continuing Legal Battles

Douglas Wilson, the senior pastor of Christ Church, revealed that his family is still engaged in legal battles with the city. His son and two grandsons are facing misdemeanor charges for expressing their disagreement through stickers placed on city utility poles. The stickers featured the phrase “Soviet Moscow, enforced because we care,” referencing the city’s mask mandate slogan. The case is expected to escalate to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Wider Implications

Wilson believes that there is a connection between the incidents in Moscow and growing concerns about the Department of Justice under President Biden targeting faith-based organizations. He is concerned that private citizens may face oppression due to the vast financial resources available to governments at various levels, potentially leading to the suppression of political dissent.

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