Police cited five attendees and arrested three at a church-sponsored “psalm sing” that took place in Moscow, Idaho, Wednesday in front of the city hall. Christ Church sponsored the event, and Pastor Doug Wilson defended it, calling out city leaders for what he called “high hypocrisy” in their enforcement of the city’s mask mandate.
“We have every right to protest the high hypocrisy involved in all of this,” said Doug Wilson on his blog. “Not only so, but I believe we have a responsibility to do so. Having said that, I do want to mention that our protest was not conducted Portland style. The federal building is just a block away from city hall, and I can say that I was very proud of our people — not one of them tried to burn it down. Rather, we addressed this hypocritical and nonsensical law in a peaceful, orderly, law-abiding, and responsible way.”
Pastor Doug Wilson Leads Mask Mandate Protest
Pastor Doug Wilson said that Moscow-Pullman Daily News, which reported on the incident, gave a “fair representation of what happened.” His only disagreement is that he believes there were closer to 300 people present instead of 150 as the paper said.
The “flash psalm sing,” as explained on Christ Church’s Facebook page and Wilson’s blog, was a brief affair. It began at 4:45 p.m. and Moscow-Pullman reports that “most people had left within 30 minutes of it starting.”
“When we arrived, the police were waiting for us,” said Wilson. “One of them informed me that people either had to social distance or wear a mask, or otherwise face a citation. I told him that I would inform everyone of that, which I did. I said a brief prayer, and we began to sing.”
Attendees sang Psalm 20, Psalm 124, “Amazing Grace,” and the Doxology. Photos and video footage of the event show the people in the crowd not wearing masks or social distancing. Moscow’s mask order requires residents to wear masks when they are in public places indoors or when outdoors and social distancing is not possible. The mandate was set to expire on Oct. 6, but on Monday, the Moscow City Council unanimously extended it through Jan. 5.
Moscow Police Chief James Fry told Moscow-Pullman that officers have been “very lenient” with enforcing the order and have tried to avoid issuing citations or making arrests when interacting with different groups. Wednesday afternoon, officers cited five people for violating the city’s mask/social distancing order. They arrested two for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer and one for refusing to identify himself. The man who refused to identify himself is Gabriel Rench, a Republican running for Latah County Commissioner.
Rench has ties to Christ Church, having gone through its pastoral training ministry, and is the owner and host of the CrossPolitic podcast. He appeared on an “Emergency Show” of the podcast last night, where he gave his version of his arrest and corroborated Fry’s claim that he refused to show identification. When an officer told Rench he needed to see his license or else he would write him a ticket, Rench responded, “You don’t need to do this…You’re better than this.”
In an announcement on Facebook before the psalm sing took place, CrossPolitic specifically encouraged attendees to disregard the mask mandate, saying, “We are asking folks to please not wear a mask.”
Doug Wilson—who has generated controversy for his interpretation of complementarianism, his book Southern Slavery As It Was, and for how his church has handled allegations of sexual abuse—said the mask mandate extension was the first of two reasons why Christ Church held the psalm sing. He believes it is clear there is no health emergency in Latah County, and stated that the county has seen no deaths or hospitalizations related to COVID-19. “We are not facing a medical emergency here,” he said. “This has become increasingly obvious to every unbiased observer as time has gone by.”
Public Health—Idaho North Central District lists the risk for COVID-19 in Latah County as “minimal,” and data collected by US News & World Report shows no virus-related deaths in the county. It also shows no cases of people being sent to the ICU because of COVID-19, although the page does not offer data about hospitalizations. It does, however, show that COVID-19 cases have spiked significantly over the past two months.
In a tweet posted at the end of August, Wilson suggested that mask orders are not to protect people, but are actually a way for the government to control its citizens: “Too few see the masking orders for what they ultimately are. Our modern and very swollen state wants to get the largest possible number of people to get used to putting up with the most manifest lies.”
The second reason Doug Wilson mentioned for the psalm sing is what he says is the dishonest behavior of city leaders. The mayor, at least one city council member, and law enforcement were present at an outdoor wedding several weeks ago, said Wilson, but masks, “were not in attendance.” The pastor implied he knew this to be the case because of the evidence of a photographer present at the wedding. Wilson concluded, “If there was no virus hazard at that wedding (and there was not), then there was no virus hazard at our psalm sing yesterday (as there was not).”
While he offered some sympathy to the police officers involved in yesterday’s citations and arrests, the pastor said they “really ought to be heartily ashamed of themselves.” Wilson also said “the odds are pretty good” that the church will hold another, similar event.