Town officials in Moscow, Idaho have agreed to pay a $300,000 settlement following the arrests of three maskless Christians in September 2020 who sang hymns from the City Hall parking lot to protest the town’s COVID-19 masking policy.
Gabriel Rench and Sean and Rachel Bohnet were arrested on Sept. 23, 2020 for their part in a “Psalm sing” protest organized by Christ Church, including nearly 200 participants. Rench, a deacon at Christ Church, and the Bohnets filed a lawsuit against the city and several of its employees for violation of their constitutional rights.
During a settlement conference, the presiding judge emphasized that the plaintiffs were wrongfully arrested and the city had misinterpreted its own code. The judge noted that the city had given incorrect advice to its officers about the application of the code, and the plaintiffs were reasonable in their damage requests.
Rench, who moved to Moscow in 2002 to attend the University of Idaho, expressed his gratefulness for the settlement but maintained his concern about the astronomical cost to city taxpayers. “I am glad this shameful saga is over, but unfortunately at a high cost to the city taxpayers,” he said in a press release. “I estimate that the city spent about $500,000 of city resources on this fight, including the mediated settlement.”
The Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), the city’s liability insurance provider, determined that a financial settlement was the most expedient and cost-effective way to resolve the suit.
Under the terms of the agreement, the ICRMP will pay $300,000, and all claims against the city and the employees named in the lawsuit will be dismissed, along with a release of all liability, as stated in a July 14 press release by the city of Moscow.
The settlement was signed by the city’s supervisor, city attorney, chief of police and several city employees, according to a statement by Rench.
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