Justice was further served when Moscow, Idaho, agreed to settle a lawsuit with three residents arrested in September 2020 for violating the city’s masking and social distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The liberal city, home of the University of Idaho, will pay Gabriel Rench and Sean and Rachel Bohnet a combined $300,000 for the incident, The Spokesman-Review of nearby Spokane, Washington, reported July 15.
Video of Rench, a deacon at Christ Church in Moscow, being arrested while he and fellow members of his church participated in an outdoor “Psalm sing” protest in front of City Hall went viral at the time.
Moscow had spray-painted circles 6 feet apart in the City Hall parking where one person each was supposed to stand during the protest.
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In January 2021, a county judge dismissed the misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and violating the city’s pandemic policies against Rench and the Bohnets, KTVB-TV in Boise reported.
The resisting arrest charges stemmed from all three initially refusing to provide identification to the officers.
Rench and the Bohnets, a married couple, then filed a civil lawsuit against the city arguing their First Amendment rights were violated.
The First Amendment, of course, protects the rights to the free exercise of religion and speech and to peacefully assemble to petition the government for redress of grievances.
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In February, U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the civil suit.
The city’s “Emergency Powers Ordinance” specifically carved out exemptions for activities protected under the U.S. Constitution and the Idaho Constitution, including religious activity, the judge noted.
In his order denying the city’s motion to dismiss, England wrote, “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 in the Ordinance,” the judge said.
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Rench discussed the city’s $300,000 settlement with Fox News last week.
“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,” he said on “The Ingraham Angle.”
“But my governor also didn’t defend me either,” he said, referring to Republican Gov. Brad Little. “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.”
Rench said he knows pastors who have been jailed in Canada for holding church services or preaching biblical truth in violation of government policy.
“I’m very grateful that I got a victory. How many people nationwide didn’t get a victory?” the Idaho man added in a Monday interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Watch the latest video at foxnews.com
“This is the city trying to pay off a massive PR problem for them,” he said, indicating Moscow officials weren’t really admitting they did wrong.
Moscow downplayed the settlement, suggesting officials may not have learned their lesson.
In a July 14 news release, the city said its liability insurance provider “determined that a financial settlement in the case was the best course of action to dispose of the suit and avoid a protracted litigation proceeding.”
“This settlement provides closure of a matter related to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the City’s efforts to protect the public during an exceptionally trying time,” the release said.
Justice was done in Rench and the Bohnets’ case, but it clearly highlights that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards. Facebook
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Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book “We Hold These Truths” and screenwriter of the political documentary “I Want Your Money.”
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United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
We Hold These Truths
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