Christ Church Parishioners Win Big in Federal Court, Moscow City Government Humiliated
Moscow police had arrested parishioners for violating COVID restrictions at outdoor psalm-sing in September 2020.
Five citizens—including Gabriel Rench, then a candidate for county commissioner—were arrested in September 2020 for a Christ Church-promoted psalm-sing in the Moscow City Hall parking lot. The psalm-sing challenged the city’s outdoor mask mandate and social distancing requirements at the time.
Rench and other defendants challenged the legitimacy of the city’s mandates in federal court. The wheels of justice churn slowly, but they have finally been vindicated. On February 2, 2023, Senior U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England, a George W. Bush appointee, held that Rench’s lawsuit against the City of Moscow could continue.
The city’s COVID restrictions had allowed exemptions for “any and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity.”
The protestors, Judge England writes in his Memorandum and Order, “should never have been arrested in the first place. . . Somehow, every single City official involved overlooked the exclusionary language [of constitutionally protected behavior] in the Ordinance.”
Judge England counselled the City of Moscow to realize that it was in the wrong. It should reach an out-of-court settlement with Rench and other defendants. “Plaintiffs were wrongfully arrested, the City indisputably erred in interpreting its own Code, the City consequently misadvised its officers as to the Code’s application, and Plaintiffs are so far reasonable in their damages requests, this case should not need to see the inside of a courtroom.”
In a press release, Rench bemoaned the city’s stupidity and profligacy with tax-payer money.
Next up in Moscow is the “Sticker-Gate” controversy, wherein members of the Wilson family, including Nate Wilson, were charged with thirteen misdemeanors for posting stickers on light posts without permission from the city. The Stickers protested Rench’s wrongful arrest by comparing Moscow, Idaho to Soviet Moscow. The Wilsons remain the only people in Moscow ever cited under its oft-violated “sticker” ordinance. Their lawsuit against the city of Moscow is pending.
Make them pay for their tyranny!