Video from Moscow, Idaho, shows police arresting parishioners as they participated in a public psalm sing in defiance of mask and social distancing mandates.
Police cited five out of more than 150 people at the “flash psalm sing” event Wednesday for “suspicion of being in violation of Moscow’s mask/social distancing order,” the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports.
A husband and wife were also arrested for singing too closely.
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“We wanted to make a statement we’re ready to head back to normal,” said Christ Church pastor and event organizer Ben Zornes.
Pastor Zornes said he warned attendees they could be cited by police for participating in the event, but he maintained parishioners were well within their First Amendment rights, arguing, “We were just singing songs.”
Moscow Police Chief James Fry told the Daily News while the department’s been “very lenient” on enforcing social distancing guidelines, “at some point in time you have to enforce.”
One of the three people arrested, Latah County commission candidate Gabriel Rench, refused to provide his identification during the arrest and attempted to discourage officers from enforcing the order.
“The cop came to talk to me and said, ‘Give me your license I’m going to write you a ticket,’” Rench said, appearing in a podcast interview following the incident.
“I said, ‘You don’t need to do this, you don’t need to write me a ticket.’”
“And the cop kept repeating, ‘Give me your license,’ so I said ‘You’re better than this.’”
The Daily News notes the Moscow City Council recently passed a controversial ordinance extending the city’s mask mandate til January 5.
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