Three Arrested, Including Local GOP Candidate, for Not Wearing Masks at Church 'Psalm Sing' Event

Police arrested three people who attended a large religious gathering in Moscow, Idaho, on Wednesday for reportedly violating local public health orders aimed at reducing coronavirus transmission.

Gabriel Rench, a Republican campaigning to replace Latah County Commissioner Tom Lamar, a Democrat, in November, was one of the individuals taken into custody during the outdoor "psalm sing" event.

The Moscow Police Department's public activity log confirms the three arrests and two additional citations issued for health violations on Wednesday afternoon. Rench retweeted a video of his arrest on Thursday, which shows Moscow police officers placing him in handcuffs while a crowd continues to sing hymns in the Moscow City Hall parking lot, where the event hosted by Christ Church was held.

The local GOP candidate is not wearing a face mask in the social media video. Neither are other "psalm sing" participants seen standing behind him, although they appear to have positioned themselves at a distance from one another.

Those who received citations on Wednesday were not wearing face masks or complying with social distance protocols, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported. Citing comments from Moscow Police Chief James Fry, the newspaper's report said Rench was arrested for allegedly declining to identify himself to officers at the event. Police did not formally charge him with refusing to provide identification. The other two people taken into custody were reportedly arrested for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer.

Fry reportedly told the local newspaper that Moscow police had not issued citations for lack of compliance with coronavirus mandates before Wednesday. Newsweek reached out to Fry for additional comments but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

In July, Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert passed an amended public health mandate that requires all residents to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others who are not members of their immediate households, and to wear face coverings in settings where social distancing is not possible. Children younger than 5 and people with certain health conditions are exempt from the mandate.

The order outlines enforcement protocols in place to ensure its terms are observed by all residents. They include verbal warnings and misdemeanor citations from local police officers. Those who receive misdemeanor citations could face up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine, according to information published by the city of Moscow.

During a meeting at the beginning of this week, Moscow's City Council originally voted to extend the July order through the first week of October but agreed to push its expiration until early January.

Latah County health officials have reported about 350 positive cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday, according to county breakdowns provided by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Latah County's population is about 40,000 people, according to census data.

Church COVID-19, California
People wear face masks and practice social distancing during an outdoor church service in Huntington Beach, California, on July 19. APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images
Three Arrested, Including Local GOP Candidate, for Not Wearing Masks at Church 'Psalm Sing' Event | U.S.