It seems Moscow, Idaho, is going the way of its Soviet namesake, arresting a group of unmasked Christians who had peaceably assembled outside the city hall to sing psalms and protest an extension of the city’s masking order.
On Wednesday, Moscow’s Christ Church, whose pastor is famed Christian theologian Douglas Wilson, announced that a “Psalm Sing” would be held outside city hall that afternoon.
On Tuesday, the city council extended the mandatory masking order, set to expire on October 6, until January, despite the fact there have been no deaths, or even hospitalizations, due to the COVID-19 virus in Latah County.
Wilson wrote at Blog and Mablog after the event, “This was not an assembly of scofflaws. It really was a peaceful protest, a petition to our city government for a redress of grievances, and a religious assembly, all in one. Everything about it was proper. We sang three songs and the doxology, and then went home.”
He pointed out that on the day the city council voted to extend the mask order, the mayor of Moscow presided over an outdoor wedding, where he did not wear a mask. Nor did a city council member who was allegedly in attendance.
Moscow resident Jemimah Merkle was stopped by MPD after exiting a private building while walking within 6 feet of her cousin without a mask on Main St. and threatened with a misdemeanor and jail time.
Yet Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert officiated a wedding without a mask or social distancing in Moscow at a private residence. Yesterday the same Mayor Lambert and the entire Moscow City Council voted to extend the mandate under an emergency health order until January 6th, 2021.
Hun…dreds of Moscow citizens sent letters pleading their case for ending the mask mandate and gave testimony for over an hour citing health studies, statistics, concerns of the legality of the mandate, the effect of isolation on the elderly, the effect of masking on growing children, and most importantly the fact that not a single COVID case caused a death in our county, nor even a hospitalization. The mayor and council did not interact with those claims, but repeated the same reasoning as the previous extension and original mandate, namely, that they have read studies to the effect that masks can help prevent COVID. They did this once again in the absence of COVID deaths or hospitalizations, and without any kind of metric for ending the emergency mandate.
You can watch some of the testimonies posted to the page, or the entire video on the City of Moscow page.
According to local reports, more than 150 people were in attendance at the gathering to sing psalms and hymns—in beautiful four-part harmony, I might add—though Wilson believes the number was closer to 300, .
Fifteen minutes into the gathering—during the very first song—police began to arrest the peaceful psalm singers for failing to wear masks as mandated by the Moscow City Council.
Latah County commission candidate and host of the CrossPolitic show Gabriel Rench was led away in handcuffs as the group sang, “Some always trust in chariots, others trust in horses, but we recall our Lord and God,” lifting their voices to proclaim Psalm 20.
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported that in addition to Rench, four others were cited for being in violation of the masking/social distancing order. Two were arrested and charged with resisting or obstructing an officer. Rench was arrested, but not charged, with refusing to identify himself to police.
“So our church today went to city hall—I wouldn’t say just our church—a bunch of people in our community went to city hall and went to sing psalms in the parking lot at city hall,” Rench said on an emergency episode of the CrossPolitic show. “So we’re singing psalms, we had just kicked off the first psalm, I’m standing there with my mom right next to me and we’re kind of the closest to the police. And Pastor (Douglas) Wilson warned us, ‘If you guys don’t social distance you’re probably going to get a ticket.’”
“And so everyone kind of got a little closer, the crowd kind of scooted closer to one another, and so we started singing psalms and the cops just walked up to me and my mom first, because we’re kind of the closest to them,” he explained. “They weren’t singling anybody out. And they asked if we were together and my mom grabbed my arm and said, ‘We’re family.’ And then I grabbed my buddy Tyler and said to the cops, ‘we’re not.’ After that, the cop came to talk to me and he said, ‘Give me your license I’m probably going to write you a ticket.’”
Rench told the officer that he didn’t need to do this and the two went back and forth for several minutes, which led to his eventual arrest. He was booked and held for two hours at the jail, where, he noted, two deputies were not wearing masks.
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