Gabriel Rench was arrested in 2020, along with other members of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho for outdoor “maskless worship.” This June, the worshippers were awarded $300,000 in a settlement offer from the city. The City of Moscow, including Moscow City supervisor Gary Riedner, city attorneys Mia Bautista and Elizabeth Warner, Moscow Chief of Police James Fry, Will Krasselt, Megan Vincello, and Jake Lee all signed the settlement award to the plaintiff, Gabriel Rench, et al.
Rench said he has experienced a culture of religious discrimination in Moscow since moving there and is glad the fight for the freedom to worship, even during a pandemic, is finally over.
“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,” said Rench, who first came to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho in 2002.
“[I] have witnessed consistent religious discrimination to my church and members of the Christian community by the city of Moscow and the liberal cult that surrounds their agenda. To make matters worse, they are continuing to harass members of the Christian community.”
The “maskless worship” arrests occurred on September 23rd, 2020 at a “Psalm Sing Protest” in the parking lot of Moscow’s City Hall. The protest was organized by Christ Church, where Gabriel Rench serves as a deacon. The unlawful arrests caught national attention, going so far as President Trump’s Twitter feed. Many around the country were outraged by the decision of MPD to arrest peaceful protestors, while others raged at Christ Church for practicing their 1st Amendment right to worship. Since that time, Christ Church has proven to have legal standing to worship despite the city’s COVID orders. Their “psalm sing” was constitutionally protected “expressive and associative conduct” and officers did not even have grounds to ask for the ID of participants, let alone make arrests.
Rench continued in a press release, “The liberal cult that runs Moscow has twisted city code and crafted unconstitutional emergency health orders that act like modern Jim Crow laws targeted to harass members of our Christian community, and this discrimination needs to stop.”
The City of Moscow initially violated the court order settlement and had to enter into a second round of negotiations to finalize the settlement. When Gabriel Rench met with Officer Krasselt after the criminal complaint was dropped, Krasselt said he would do it again if he were put back in that same situation.
Back in February, Judge England, who oversaw the case, ordered a settlement conference, which he offered to oversee: “Given that 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 damage requests, this case should not need to see the inside of a courtroom.”