Charges Dismissed Against Doug Wilson’s Deacon for Open-Air Worship Event

A man who was arrested and charged for singing worship songs in public, unmasked and without social distancing has had all charges against him dropped, according to a January 09 court ruling.

Gabriel Rench, a deacon of Christ Church in Moscow City, Idaho and host of Cross Politic, was arrested last September for worshipping in public at a Pslam Sing gathering. The event consisted of around 150 congregation members assembling to sing three acapella hymns and then the doxology at Moscow City Hall. Details of the case went almost instantly viral and gained even more national attention when President Trump tweeted about it.

Rench was cited for violating Public Health Emergency Order 20-03, which stated that:

“Every person in the city of Moscow must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when in any indoor or outdoor public setting where the 6-foot physical distancing is not able to be maintained with non-household members.”

In accordance with Moscow City Code Section 1-11-10, any person who knowingly violates the provisions of this order may be charged with a misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for this offense are up to 6 months in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Special Counsel Michael Jacques, who is part of noted religious freedom defender Thomas More Society (Who also are representing John MacArthur and Grace Community Church) said in a press released that the City of Moscow “violated its own ordinance when police officers wrongly arrested Rench and the others.”

The city of Moscow, Idaho, 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.

The Moscow City Code allows the Mayor to issue public health emergency orders, but exempts ‘[a]ny and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity. Mr. Rench and the other worshippers 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.

There is no word yet on the other two people arrested and whether or not their cases will likewise be dismissed.


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