Trump announces that houses of worship are ‘essential,’ calls on governors to open them up
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President Trump on Friday announced that new Centers for Disease Control guidance will classify houses of worship as “essential,” as he called on governors to allow them to open “right now” after being closed during the coronavirus lockdowns.
Trump announced the policy for churches, synagogues and mosques, during a short briefing at the White House.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”
“In America, we need more prayer not less,” Trump said.
The announcement comes after Trump has been hearing concerns of faith leaders who are unable to hold Sunday services due to coronavirus restrictions at a time when their parishioners are grappling with the crisis. Families may be grieving the loss of loved ones from the virus or struggling with job loss but unable to seek respite in their places of worship.
“I consider them essential,” Trump said earlier Friday of houses of worship of all faiths.
On Thursday, Trump had a conference call with 1,600 pastors and faith leaders from around the country, including Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. He reassured them he wants to get churches reopened.
Trump telegraphed the decision Thursday when he announced he spoke to the CDC on finding ways to reopen houses of worship during the pandemic.
“We’ve got to get our churches open,” Trump said Thursday.
Churches across the country had to close down due to stay-home orders necessary to stop the spread of the contagious virus. Faith leaders set up online services and families tuned in Sunday mornings from their computers at home.
Earlier in the pandemic, Trump expressed optimism that churches would be opened by Easter Sunday, April 12. But April turned out to be an extremely deadly month for the pandemic, and parishioners had to celebrate Easter from home.
Some faith leaders have argued that social distancing rules have violated First Amendment religious freedoms. Others have defied state and local rules and tried to reopen.
Attorney General William Barr warned that coronavirus restrictions by state and local government should be applied evenly and not single out religious organizations.
Last week the CDC released new guidelines that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns. The document, however, excluded guidance for churches and faith-based groups because the White House raised concerns about the recommended restrictions, the Associated Press reported.