In the heart of Idaho, a liberal college town has been compelled to pay a hefty sum of $300,000 to a trio of Christian churchgoers.
The trio took legal action against the city after being apprehended for failing to put on masks during an outdoor religious service amid the peak of COVID-19.
Gabriel Rench, along with Sean and Rachel Bohnet, filed a lawsuit against the city leaders in March 2021. They alleged their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they were apprehended at an outdoor event organized by church leaders in September 2020.
The city of Moscow, home to the University of Idaho, is now settling this case, marking a significant victory for these churchgoers.
Idaho Christians awarded $300,000 after lawsuit finds city had no right to arrest them for attending church services during Covidhttps://t.co/FfSi3acUFe
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) July 27, 2023
The incident, which saw officers confiscating Rench’s hymn book before leading him away in handcuffs, was captured on video and quickly went viral.
The footage sparked outrage nationwide, even drawing condemnation from then-President Trump. Despite the backlash, Rench found himself ostracized in his predominantly liberal community following the arrest and subsequent settlement.
Rench’s experience has led him to believe political leaders are unlikely to change their views or thought processes. He argues it’s the citizens who need to alter their voting habits to discourage the targeting of Christians and those defending the Constitution.
The city of Moscow defended its actions, stating its liability insurance provider, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), determined a financial settlement was the best course of action to avoid protracted litigation.
The settlement, they said, provides closure to a matter related to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s efforts to protect public health.
More details coming as they become available. pic.twitter.com/DkpO2BLwmA
— Idaho Tribune (@IdahoTribune) July 31, 2023
However, the magistrate judge dismissed the city’s case against them, stating the plaintiffs should never have been arrested in the first place.
The judge further criticized city officials for overlooking the exclusionary language in the ordinance that protected constitutionally protected behavior.
This case serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing battle for religious freedom in America. It underscores the importance of standing up for constitutional rights, even in the face of adversity and potential social ostracism.