In a legal resolution that echoes the tense confrontations over draconian restrictions on the faith community in parts of the United States during the COVID-19 lockdowns, a city in Idaho has agreed to a settlement of $300,000 following the arrest of Christians who were singing hymns outdoors as a form of protest.
The lawsuit was filed by Gabriel Rench and Sean and Rachel Bohnet against the city of Moscow, Idaho, and several of its employees in response to a gathering that took place at City Hall in September 2020.
The Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, the city’s liability insurance provider, determined that a financial settlement was the best way to resolve the suit and avoid lengthy litigation.
Under the terms of the agreement, the ICRMP will pay $300,000, and all claims against the city and the employees named in the lawsuit will be dismissed, along with a release of all liability, as stated in a July 14 press release by the city of Moscow.
Rench was awarded the settlement for violations of their constitutional rights. The settlement was signed by the city’s supervisor Gary Riedner, city attorneys Mia Bautista and Elizabeth Warner, Moscow Chief of Police James Fry, and city employees Will Krasselt, Megan Vincello, and Jake Lee, according to a statement by Rench.
Rench, who came to Moscow in 2002 to attend the University of Idaho, voiced his relief at the resolution while expressing concern over the cost to city taxpayers. “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,” he said.