President Donald Trump has ordered the reopening of Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues labeling them as “essential service providers” during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also threatened to “override” governors if their states did not follow the new federal recommendations.
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but have left out churches and houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential,” Trump said during his announcement at the White House.
Trump said he was calling upon governors to “allow churches and places of worship to open right now.”
“If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” he continued.
The White House coronavirus task force finalized the guidance during a meeting on Thursday, the source said.
The President referred to the conversations with the Center for Disease Control, CDC officials on Thursday, telling participants and the press at a listening session with African Americans to put the directive out.
“I spoke to the CDC today about churches. We’ve got to get our churches open. We’ve got to get our country open,” he said.
As Trump has pressured localities and states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, he’s put particular weight on the reopening of places of worship.
He said in April that it would be “beautiful” for churches to be open and “packed” on Easter Sunday. He later said the date was aspirational.
Ahead of Easter Sunday, he advised faith leaders to wait for the country to “get healed” from the coronavirus pandemic before holding services in person.
But more recently, the President has lamented that digital religious services aren’t the same as in-person ones.
“People want to be in their churches. It’s wonderful to sit home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church and being with your friends. And they want to have it open, and I think that’s going to be happening… very shortly,” Trump said during Thursday’s listening session.
Large gatherings, like those in houses of worship, have been linked to clusters of coronavirus. This month, two churches in northern California linked the spread of coronavirus among church members and clergy to Mother’s Day services. A Texas church recently canceled its masses after one of its priests died and five others subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Southern Baptist Convention said Friday it was “pleased” with Trump’s decision.
But the Interfaith Alliance and the Council of American-Islamic Relations said Friday that they oppose the call to open places of worship amid the pandemic.
CAIR said that American Muslim scholars and community leaders have already determined that public religious activities will be restricted due to the pandemic and that is unlikely to change despite the new guidance.