Fox & Friends hosts Christian nationalist-tied podcaster and champions his settlement over anti-mask arrest as “a big win for religious liberty”

Gabriel Rench is a member of a right-wing church seeking to impose theocracy

Gabe Rench on Fox

During a July 24 interview with Christian nationalist-linked podcast host Gabriel Rench, Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth celebrated Rench’s recent settlement in a lawsuit against an Idaho town related to an anti-mask protest as “a big win for religious liberty.”

On July 14, Rench and two other members of the right-wing Christ Church reached a settlement with the town of Moscow, Idaho, over their arrests in 2020 during an anti-mask protest organized by the church. The protest at the time gained the attention of Fox News hosts and then-President Donald Trump, who were seeking to portray conservative Christians as victims of unfair discrimination. 

Rench, who sometimes goes by “Waterboy,” is a podcast host and worship leader associated with Christ Church and its leader, Doug Wilson, who Rench has repeatedly interviewed on his podcast. Wilson is a Christian nationalist pastor and slavery apologist who publicly advocates for a theocracy. Rench praised Wilson as “probably the most important voice in America Right now.” 

In addition to Rench’s close ties to Wilson and his teachings, Rench’s website proudly espouses Christian nationalist ideas and declares “Christians need to unabashedly reclaim the public square in Jesus name!” Earlier this year, Rench hosted antisemitic streamer Jarrin Jackson and promoted his book, Christian Nationalism is Inevitable (that’s good news!), saying, “Get that book up the charts on Amazon!” Rench also has a history of posting anti-LGBTQ content on social media, including calling homosexuality “a parasite” on civilization and saying, “The problem with calling the LGBT+ movement groomers, is that they don't know what a groomer is anymore...because they are all groomers.”

On the July 24 edition of Fox & Friends, Hegseth introduced Rench and his lawsuit settlement as “a big win for religious liberty.” Rench said that “what you're seeing in the city of Moscow is kind of a microcosm of what's going on nationwide.” He went on to say, “Liberalism is really turning into like a ... modern day cult” and "they use coercion, they want power, and they have no real moral standard.” 

Hegseth praised Rench and thanked him for “standing up” and said “may we never get to a point where we comply with things like that.”

Video file

Citation From the July 24, 2023, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): This morning, a big win for religious liberty. A town in Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, forced to pay a hefty settlement to a Christian worshiper after arresting him and others for not wearing a mask at an outdoor church service back in 2020. 

HEGSETH: Joining us now on the heels of his settlement, that Christian churchgoer, Gabriel Rench. Gabriel, thanks for being here. You know, just watching that video reminds us how much, you know, we seemingly lost our minds as a country with these outdoor psalm sing, socially distance gets you arrested. Talk to me about your lawsuit, why you did it and the outcome here. 

GABRIEL RENCH (GUEST): Yeah, well, every time I see that video, you remember you look at the — they had to take the hymn book from me to handcuff me. Watch them take the hymn book, right? That's just — They violated my First Amendment rights in a small town. And I think what you're seeing in the city of Moscow is kind of a microcosm of what's going on nationwide. City of Moscow is a very liberal city in the midst of a very red state. And, you know, for the liberals, this might sound like a pejorative, but I really don't think it is. Liberalism is really turning into like a, kind of modern day cult, you know. They use coercion, they want power, and they have no real moral standard that is kind of fixed for them. So their moral standard kind of changes and adjusts over time. So our mayor was breaking social distancing and masking rules. He went and played golf and drank beer with his buddies the day he shut down our town in March 2020. He was officiating open-door, outside, excuse me, outside weddings a month before he had me arrested. And so, you know, just like Gavin Newsom and, you know, Bill de Blasio breaking all their own codes and policies —


RENCH: That's what our city mayor and the city of Moscow was doing and still had me arrested —

HEGSETH: Yeah, they —

RENCH: And so being able to protect our First Amendment rights — go ahead. 

HEGSETH: Their guiding light is you will comply, ultimately —

Rench: That's right.

HEGSETH: With their power and their mandates.

HEGSETH: What you did was a win. You stood up, you stood up then, you're continuing to stand up today. It feels like a scenario for a lot of people where it's fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. And may we never get to a point where we comply with things like that. And you didn't in that moment, and you're shown to be right in retrospect. Gabriel Rench, thank you for standing up.

This framing of Rench as a champion for “religious liberty” in the face of government overreach fits into Fox’s long history of depicting conservative Christians as the victims of persecution. 

Rench's appearance on Fox is just one example of Fox recently uplifting parts of the Christian nationalist movement. Since October 2022, Fox Business has been profiting from weekly sermons from a Christian nationalist pastor that air as paid programming on the network, and in May, Fox host Jeanine Pirro appeared on a Christian nationalist program to warn of a “takedown of religion” in America. Fox has also regularly hosted Russ Vought, a Christian nationalist figure behind an organization preparing for the next Republican administration to govern as Christian nationalists and who is reportedly advising Republicans on how to gut federal aid programs.