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White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, right, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, arrive Saturday at the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol to resume talks on a COVID-19 relief bill in Washington. 

'Freedom' rally in Twin Falls decries moderate Republicans, public education, masks and the media

TWIN FALLS — Speakers covered a variety of issues at a Saturday rally, but their messages centered on a general idea: mainstream media and government are conspiring to take away individual freedoms and undermine the founding principles of the United States.

About a hundred people gathered in Twin Falls City Park for the “Freedom is the Cure” rally. The moniker comes from the John Birch Society and has been used as the title of other rallies in the Northwest, though organizers said the event was hosted independently.

Some of Idaho’s most conservative state lawmakers, candidates and organization leaders spoke at the event. They rallied support around defending liberty and the Constitution and said their movement is threatened by traditional Republicans and the media.

“Hello, Christian patriots,” John Birch Society coordinator Caleb Collier greeted the crowd. “Are you motivated? Are you organized?”

Collier said conservatives need to unify and warned the left is well aligned. He said Democrats want to implement a “Luciferian” globalist agenda through groups like Black Lives Matter and antifa.

“These are all organizations that are dedicated to overthrowing the United States,” he said

Collier said complicit with leftist ideas are “Republicans in name only,” or RINOs — a pejorative term for Republican lawmakers who do not uphold what some say are sufficiently conservative values.

“We will not let you be the designated defeat mechanism for our enemy,” Collier said of moderate Republicans. “We the people are tired of you, and we’re taking this country back.”

Former representative Ron Nate agreed. Nate is attempting to return to the Legislature and is part of a rightward shift in the House after defeating Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, in the 2020 Republican primary. He runs unopposed in November.

Nate called moderate Republicans “sellouts.” He said Democrats push an “evil, Marxist agenda,” but they are not the “true enemies” of Idaho.

“(RINOs) may advertise the right positions, but they lack the necessary convictions,” he said. “The fiercest and most important battles are between true conservatives and establishment Republicans.”

Real Three Percenters leader Eric Parker said residents need to be prepared to defend their constitutional rights and the rights of others. He noted the presidential election is 94 days away.

“It’s coming — win or lose,” Parker said of the election. “The history of a peaceful transition of power in America is slowly going down the drain. If you’re not prepared for that, you’re behind the curve.”


John Birch Society coordinator and master of ceremonies Tom Munds introduces the first of more than a dozen speakers Saturday during the Freedom is the Cure rally at Twin Falls City Park in Twin Falls.

The American education system

Some speakers weighed-in on public education.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin recounted a recent legislative work group meeting where lawmakers recommended calling a special session to consider a bill that could protect schools from COVID-related lawsuits.

“How did we get to this place where we sue our neighbors for a disease?” she asked.

McGeachin suggested parents should sign a liability release form before sending their child to school.

“For those parents who are afraid that their kids might become infected at school, how about this: have the school district offer the parents a liability release form,” she said. “After all it is a privilege to attend public school in America.

“And for those parents who still do not feel comfortable with this form of education,” she continued, “why don’t we take some of that money — we spend $8,000 per student — why don’t we take that $8,000 per student, give it to the parent to pool that money and hire a teacher. If 10 parents did that, they’d have hired a school teacher, paid him or her $80,000, and have 10 students in the classroom.”

Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman took a different approach.

“There’s a question of whether schools should open this fall,” he said. “My answer is eh, I don’t really care.”

He said parents should be the ones to decide if their child goes back to school, but ultimately “government should not be in the business of educating our kids.” He said public schools are indoctrinating children to hate capitalism and teaching them to prefer communism from a young age.

“They’re learning how to hate all the things that make our country great,” he said.

It’s not enough to talk about policy, people need to actively seek change from their lawmakers, he said.

“We have got to apply pressure on the politicians such that they are afraid to leave their houses because somebody is going to say to them ‘What are you doing to get my kids out of the American education system.’”

Hoffman called on the crowd to continue advocating for the movement after the rally finished.

“You have got to be the army, the force, the revolutionary warriors that we’ve been waiting for,” he continued. “We will only win if we all get together and say, ‘Let’s go and apply the remedy, the cure, freedom where it is needed most.’”


Gary Horn wears his patriotic shirt as he holds an American flag Saturday during the Freedom is the Cure rally at Twin Falls City Park in Twin Falls. 'I'm here to support our country, to stand for our rights,' he says.

Masks and the media

Few if any masks were worn at the event. Several speakers criticized government attempts to require masks or implement other public safety measures in response to COVID-19.

“The government is not going to save us, the masks are not going to save us, the CDC is certainly not going to save us,” said Sarah Clendenon of Health Freedom Idaho, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to remember the right to liberty is the only thing that can save us.

“Just because the mob wants to wear masks, it doesn’t matter,” she continued. “I have the right to enjoy and defend my liberty.”

Miste Karlfeldt, also of Health Freedom Idaho, suggested the media is often incorrect about the pandemic.

“They’re poisoning our brains,” she said.

Many other speakers also condemned coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Retired physician and Madison Liberty Institute fellow Jud Miller said the only people who fear the virus are those who follow it in the mainstream news.

“Why are they trying to scare us?” he said of the media. “It seems the cure is becoming worse than the disease.”

Miller also said conservative voices and efforts tend to be marginalized.

“Sometimes it’s a little frustrating to be a minority,” he said. “We definitely are a minority.”

John Birch Society coordinator and master of ceremonies Tom Munds dismissed reporters covering the event as “fake news.” He said media members “are planning on overthrowing the American republic.”

Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said mainstream news is especially slanted against conservative voices.

“The media is not our friend,” she said. “They are out there spewing information that is not correct.”

PHOTOS: Freedom is the Cure rally

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified master of ceremonies Tom Munds. The story has been corrected. The Times-News regrets the error.

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Little offered Idahoans $100 million to return to work. Most of the money sat there.

BOISE — Idaho has paid out less than a quarter of the $100 million set aside by Gov. Brad Little to encourage laid-off Idahoans to return to work.

So far, $20.3 million has been issued by the Idaho Tax Commission in back-to-work bonuses, with an additional $2.1 million approved for distribution.

Last month, Little announced that the state would give up to $1,500 to full-time workers, those working at least 30 hours per week, to return to work. Employees who worked a minimum of 20 hours per week were offered up to $750. The entire program has $100 million available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The bonuses were given as bait to encourage workers earning $75,000 or less a year to get back to work, rather than continue drawing unemployment. The bonuses are paid after a worker has put in four weeks of work after returning to work between May 1 and July 15.

“The Return-to-Work bonuses reflect Gov. Little’s belief that we want people working,” Marissa Morrison Hyer, Little’s press secretary, said in an email to the Idaho Statesman. “Idaho now ranks in the top three states nationally for lowest unemployment and first in the nation in economic momentum during the COVID-19 months. Idaho’s strong economic rebound is the result of the foresighted stimulus efforts and the great work Idaho businesses have done in re-opening safely.”

Little created the bonuses using part of the $1.25 billion he received for state and local use under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law Congress passed in March.

He created the bonuses to counter the $600 weekly federal supplements to Idaho’s unemployment compensation that Congress authorized in that same law. Those supplements gave laid-off people an incentive not to return to work, the governor said in an interview this week.

“In an ideal world, if I was crafting everything, I wouldn’t have to do the back-to-work,” Little said. “Congress would have created a better incentive for people to go back to work.”

He said Congress created a cookie-cutter approach that applied the same to someone in Manhattan, where it’s very expensive to live, and to someone in Aberdeen, Idaho, where the cost of living is much less.

“What we need is some kind of incentive for people go back to work,” Little said. “And everybody, even the proponents of it, said in some areas, it was a disincentive for people to go back to work.”

So far, 3,956 employers, representing 23,346 workers, have taken the governor up on his offer. Nearly 15,100 workers have had payments issued, with 1,573 more approved for payment, leaving 6,706 in review, according to a report from the Idaho Tax Commission.

It’s unclear why more employers did not take the offer. While most businesses have reopened, restaurants are unable to serve as many customers while maintaining social distancing, and hotels and other businesses dependent upon tourists have not seen business return to the same levels as in summers past.

Calls to the Idaho Associated General Contractors, the Idaho Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Idaho Retailers Association were not returned.

Little and the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee will determine how best to use any leftover money, Morrison Hyer said. “The governor has stated that any unspent money at the end of the year would likely go to the unemployment insurance trust fund,” she said.

Idaho’s unemployment rate ballooned to 11.8% in April, with more than 100,000 people out of work. It improved to 9% in May and 5.6% in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The sooner they returned to work, the bigger the bonus workers were offered. Full-time employees who came back to work from May 1 to July 1 could earn the full $1,500. Those returning to work July 2 to 8 were eligible for $1,000, while those starting back to work July 9 to 15 could receive $500.

In those same time periods, part-time workers could earn $750, $500 or $250.

Forty percent of the payments that have been approved or are in the pipeline are for people employed at restaurants, hotels, and the health-care and-social assistance sectors, according to the tax commission. They are slated to share in $12.3 million.

Store clerks and other retail workers put in claims totaling $4.9 million. Manufacturing employees put in for $4.1 million.

Eighty percent of the claims, 18,748, were submitted in the first five days of the program, between July 13 and July 17.

Payments are being made within about a week after the application is approved.

For those still out of work, the $600 a week supplemental unemployment benefit provided by the federal government is scheduled to end at the end of the week.

In May, the Democratic-led House passed an extension that would continue the $600 payment through the end of the year. Republicans and the White House oppose maintaining the $600 level, saying it discourages people from going back to work.

GOP senators suggested lowering it to $200 a week through September, according to the $1 trillion HEALS Act proposed on Monday. In October, the payment would rise to as much as $500 a week that when combined with state unemployment payments would give workers 70% of their working salaries.

The $600 supplements expired Saturday.

Fan cutouts sit in seats behind home plate at Miller Park after it was announced Friday that the baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals in Milwaukee, was postponed after two Cardinals employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

breaking top story
Drops Fire continues to smolder near Shoshone

SHOSHONE — Firefighters continued to face difficult conditions on the Drops Fire on Saturday. High temperatures, low relative humidity and difficult terrain are of concern to fire managers.

While most of the active fire was out by Saturday morning, hand crews and aircraft worked together to secure lines on the west and northern flanks. Engines and dozers worked to secure the heel, near the origin, and southern flanks.

As of Saturday morning, the fire, which is north of Shoshone behind the transfer station near the Little Drops, had burned 3,827 acres. Containment is estimated at 4 p.m. Sunday and the fire should be under control by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Firefighters believe the fire is human-caused and it’s under investigation.

Structures are no longer threatened, and the fire is smoldering in grass and brush.

Resources on the fire include two Sawtooth National Forest engines, two Boise BLM engines, seven Twin Falls District engines, two Twin Falls District water tenders, one Boise BLM dozer, one Twin Falls District dozer, six overhead, three helicopters, one air attack and one camp crew

The Twin Falls District of the Bureau of Land Management has experienced a surge of human caused wildfires the last few weeks, the district said

The district gave these fire safety tips to help prevent human caused wildfires:

  • Check your chains on your trailer before you go. One spark from a dragging chain can start multiple roadside fires.
  • While working on maintenance projects, sparks and welding slag can cause wildfires if the proper measures are not taken. Ensure that your work area is clear of all flammable materials and suppression tools are nearby.
  • Avoid parking or driving on tall dry grass; your catalytic converter can ignite the fuels and start a fire.
  • Check your tires and ensure they are properly maintained. One of the most common causes of roadside fires is tire wires and rims striking the asphalt and sparking wildfires.

Before you leave, drown your fire with water, stir the coals, add more water and stir. Feel the coals to be sure your fire is cold.

  • Exploding targets are prohibited on public land managed by the BLM from May 10 to Oct. 20 each year for fire safety. #shootresponsiblyidaho. Avoid target shooting on hot, windy days.
  • Remember, tracers, incendiary, steel and steel-jacketed bullets are prohibited on public land managed by the BLM from May 10 to Oct. 20 each year
  • PHOTOS: Drops Fire spreads more than 2,000 acres