So this is what happened. I will explain later on below why I think it happened.
Yesterday Christ Church sponsored a flash psalm sing at city hall. We were going to appear there at quarter to five, sing three psalms or hymns, then the doxology, and then out. The songs were Psalm 20, Psalm 124, and Amazing Grace. When we arrived, the police were waiting for us. 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. Over the following fifteen minutes of singing, three of our people were arrested, and two others were cited.
The news story about it is here. The story is a fair representation of what happened, and the only quibble I would have is that I think there were closer to 300 people there. Otherwise it was a fair report.
The first thing to note is that we had every legal and constitutional right to be there, and to do what we did. 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.
We took this step because of two very recent factors. The first and most obvious is that this last Monday night, our city council extended their masking mandate into January. This, despite the fact that our county, Latah County, has had zero hospitalizations, and there have been zero deaths. We are not facing a medical emergency here. This has become increasingly obvious to every unbiased observer as time has gone by. And despite the fact that there is no medical emergency here, our city council unanimously outlawed merry Christmas at the cash registers around town, requiring us instead to offer a muffled mmerrhr cccrrissmuh.
The second factor is that just a few weeks ago, there was an outdoor wedding here, presided over by our mayor. At least one of our council members was in attendance, as was law enforcement. Masks, however, were not in attendance. 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). If anyone is interested in pursuing that issue, I understand that weddings frequently have photographers at them. I have seen evidence of just such a photographer. By having his police department enforce his order, our mayor is not enforcing an order that we don’t believe has merit, but which he does. No, not even close. He is enforcing an order that he does not believe in either.
So we have every right to protest the high hypocrisy involved in all of this. 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.
Yet More Background
Also yesterday, something else occurred that probably had something to do with the arrests. A Committee for a Referendum on Masks (CRM) officially formed, and we have begun the process of gathering enough signatures to require a special election that will repeal the mask ordinance. Our city government has been extraordinarily cavalier thus far in its dismissal of any who have presented cogent arguments against what they are doing. All they have needed to do is let the objectors have their three minutes at the council meeting mic before they do what they already decided to do. ]
We intend to arrange for a straight up or down vote on the question. That will mean public debate, and that in turn will also mean that those urging the mask mandate will have to answer questions, and will have to defend their position. This is something which they have thus far shown they are not capable of doing.
For those in the Moscow area who are interested in staying current on this repeal-through-referendum effort, a Facebook group called Demask Moscow has been formed. Find and join that group, which already has hundreds of members, and you will stay up to date on any and all developments.
Will There Be More?
The most obvious question concerns whether anything like this flash psalm sing will happen again, and the answer is that the odds are pretty good. If you are in Christ Church, watch your email. If you are not part of our church and yet wanted to join us next time, you are most welcome. Notification will also go out to the Demask Moscow group mentioned above.
If a hypocritical city government really wants to double down on issuing misdemeanor citations to its most responsible citizens for singing psalms, I am pretty sure we can arrange for hundreds of not guilty pleas, along with hundreds of requests for a jury trial.
I do need to mention one last thing. The policemen who were involved in citing and arresting people for singing hymns really ought to be heartily ashamed of themselves. I know that our cops hate the position the city has put them in, and they have my sympathy as far as that goes. But they still need to review this question for themselves — how bad do the orders have to get before you do your duty by refusing to enforce them?
Comments are open on this one.