Federal court dismisses charges against church deacon arrested for singing outdoors without a mask

by Peter Heck · Jan 18th, 2021 8:28 am

Last Updated Jan 19th, 2021 at 10:52 am

Gabriel Rench, a church deacon in Moscow, Idaho, has been exonerated by the Idaho District Court after his September arrest for participating in an outdoor "psalm sing" without wearing a mask.

Following the extension of a mask mandate issued by Moscow's mayor at the time, Christ Church held a worship celebration outside City Hall. Though the church had previously held similar services under the same mandate without incident, two church members were cited and three others, including Rench, were arrested.

Thomas More Society provided legal representation to the church, asking the federal courts to dismiss all charges as constitutional violations.

"[Moscow] appears to have been so anxious to make an example of Christ Church's opposition to their desired COVID restrictions that they failed to follow the mandatory exemptions articulated in their own laws," said Special Counsel Michael Jacques of Thomas More Society.

Those exemptions included "any and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including…religious activity."

"Mr. Rench and the other worshipers who were arrested had their constitutionally protected liberties violated and their lives disrupted — not only by the inappropriate actions of law enforcement officers, but also by city officials who did not immediately act to correct this unlawful arrest," Jacques said.

The Idaho District Court agreed with Christ Church and has dismissed all charges against Rench.


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