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Idaho City Pays $300,000 in Settlement with Christians Arrested for Protesting COVID-19 Restrictions by Singing Hymns

Idaho City Pays $300,000 in Settlement with Christians Arrested for Protesting COVID-19 Restrictions by Singing Hymns

A city in Idaho will pay $300,000 in a settlement with Christians arrested in 2020 for singing hymns outside as part of a protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The settlement comes after Gabriel Rench and Sean and Rachel Bohnet filed lawsuits against the city of Moscow, Indiana and some city employees, saying the city violated their constitutional rights, The Christian Post reports.

The Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, the city's liability insurance provider, decided to pay the settlement fees and dismiss all claims.

A judge ordered the settlement, saying the arrests were "wrongful" and the city misinterpreted its own code.

"I am glad this shameful saga is over, but unfortunately, at a high cost to the city taxpayers. I estimate that the city spent about $500,000 of city resources on this fight, including the mediated settlement," Rench said.

In September 2020, the Moscow Police Department arrested several people at a "Psalm Sing" protest in the city hall parking lot. The protest was organized by Rench, a church deacon.

Police arrested three Christians and cited two others at the protest.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said none of the five total cited or arrested were wearing masks or social distancing. They were arrested, he added, for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer. Between 150 and 200 people attended the 2020 event.

The city had an Amended Public Health Emergency Order in place, which said those attending a public gathering must maintain six feet of physical distance from other attendees or don a face mask.

An attendee, Douglas Wilson, wrote on the church's Facebook page at the time that police were "waiting for them."

"One of them informed me that people either had to social distance or wear a mask or otherwise face a citation," he said.

"I told him that I would inform everyone of that, which I did. I said a brief prayer, and we began to sing. Over the following fifteen minutes of singing, three of our people were arrested, and two others were cited."

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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.