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.
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.
CrossPolitic Studios also announced the Psalm Sing on their Facebook page:
PSALM SING IN MOSCOW: A number of people are gathering at city hall this afternoon at 4:45 for what we are calling a “flash psalm sing.” We will sing three songs and the doxology, and then out. We are asking folks to please not wear a mask. We hope to do the same thing next Wednesday as well. This event was organized by Christ Church, but everyone is welcome.
On Tuesday, the city council extended the mandatory masking order, set to expire on October 6, until January. Attendees at the gathering were not wearing masks, and many were not social distancing. According to local reports, more than 150 people were in attendance.
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 foth for several minutes, which led to his eventual arrest. He was booked and held for two hours a the jail, where, he noted, two deputies were not wearing masks.
According to Rench, police had learned of the planned rally and prepared for them by painting social-distancing circles on the parking lot “so they could say, ‘Look, you aren’t social distancing, I have the evidence to write you a fine.'”
David Shannon, aka Chocolate Knox, said on the show that Moscow police stood by and did nothing when Black Lives Matter held a Defund the Police rally in July–in front of the police station–violating both masking and social distancing orders. “No one was arrested,” he said. “No one. Zero people.”
Shannon, who is black, said he and his wife are strong supporters of the police and that the police chief had even stopped by their house to thank them for their support. “Guys, shame on you,” he said. Shannon compared the arrests of the peaceful protesters to the civil rights movement and said now, instead of being told to go to the back of the bus, Christians are being forced to stand in circles and being told they must limit the size of their church services. “This is ridiculous. We, just sixty years [ago], went through this and we’re back facing it gain?”
“You can sing your songs to God if you stand on the dot,” another host quipped.
Steve Yates, former deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and past Idaho Republican Party chairman, wrote on Twitter Wednesday night, “You can agree or disagree with this kind of assembly, but it is 100% protected under the Constitution and this targeting of a public figure for arrest is a disgrace, especially in Idaho.”
Shannon warned that churches must not allow these government overeaches to continue. “Look, if you are not doing this, you’re going to have to face a moment where you have to. You might as well start doing it now,” he suggested. “Everybody should go to their city hall with the psalter. Start singing ‘Amazing Grace’ there.”
Amen and amen.