Idaho churchgoers sue police after being arrested for not wearing masks outdoors

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Don and Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

An Idaho town’s attempts to limit speech and assembly – which went so far as to tell people where they were allowed to stand in a parking lot and to arrest three of those assembling – are getting some pushback.

Three churchgoers arrested last fall for not wearing masks at an outdoor service are suing authorities in Moscow, Idaho for violating their constitutional rights. The Thomas More Society filed suit this week on behalf of Gabriel Rench, Sean Bohnet, and Rachel Bohnet against the city, its police chief, its prosecuting attorney and the two officers who made the arrests, reports The Daily Wire.

Organized by Christ Church, a prominent congregation in the town, the September 2020 event at which Rench and the Bohnets were arrested involved singing and aimed in part to protest Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert’s repeatedly renewed mask mandate.

City officials placed small yellow dots six feet apart in a parking lot near city hall as guidance for participants in the outdoor event. Some 300 people attended.

In January Rench told The Daily Wire that police accosted his mother at the event and asked if she was with him. A mother standing with her son was presumably acceptable because she was family, but when Rench placed his arm around his friend and told the officers that he was also with him, they asked for identification.

Idaho law does not require residents to identify themselves to law enforcement if they are not driving.

Rench refused and urged the officers to join him in exercising his First Amendment rights. He was subsequently handcuffed and taken to jail along with the Bohnets. They were cited for violating face mask and social distancing orders and detained for several hours.

Sean Bohnet was placed in a cramped cell with Rench, and pointed out that despite the strict mask mandate, law enforcement seemed unconcerned about mask use in jail.

Thomas More Society special counsel Michael Jacques is representing the plaintiffs. He said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire that Moscow “violated its own ordinance when law enforcement wrongly arrested” his clients.

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