The city of Moscow, Idaho announced last week that it will settle a lawsuit brought by three churchgoers who were arrested for not wearing masks during an outside church service during the pandemic lockdowns, Fox News reported.
The city announced that it would pay $300,000 to Gabriel Rench, Sean Bohnet, and Rachel Bohnet, who sued the city in March 2021 alleging that the city violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights when police arrested them in September 2020 while attending an outdoor “psalm sing” at city hall with their church.
Viral video footage on social media showed the officers handcuffing Rench and leading him away to the county jail where he and the others remained for several hours.
The outdoor event in front of the Moscow City Hall lasted about 20 minutes. City officials had placed small dots on the ground six feet apart so participants would practice social distancing.
Rench and the others were charged with violating Moscow’s extended health ordinance despite the ordinance exempting activities protected under the US and Idaho constitutions, including religious activity.
The case against them was later dismissed by a magistrate judge.
In his February 1 memorandum denying the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, US District Court Judge Morrison England wrote that the plaintiffs should not have been arrested and that every city official involved in the arrests “overlooked the exclusionary language” in the ordnance.
In a press release last week, the city said its liability insurance provider determined that the “best course of action” to avoid prolonged litigation was to settle the case.
Under the terms of the agreement, the provider, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, will cover the cost of the $300,000 settlement and all claims against the city will be dismissed without an admission of liability.
In its press release, the city of Moscow said the settlement will provide “closure” on a matter that stemmed from the city’s “efforts to protect the public during an exceptionally trying time.”