Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday urged churches comprised of more than 10 people to stop meeting, saying temporary limits on large gatherings are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.
It was the first time either Pence or President Trump had directly addressed the issue.
“Karen and I, and I know the president, we've been enjoying worship services online,” Pence said on ABC’s Nightline, referencing his wife. “We're so grateful to churches and synagogues and places of worship around America that have ... heeded the president's Coronavirus Guidelines for America. We really believe this is a time when people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. And so we continue to urge churches around America to heed to that.”
The White House’s Coronavirus Guidelines ask Americans to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.” Although the guidelines imply that churches should not meet, the issue largely has fallen on cities and states to specifically apply.
Trump was asked during a press conference Wednesday whether churches should “be holding services in the middle of this pandemic” and didn’t directly answer the question, even though he implied they should not.
“My biggest disappointment is that churches can't meet in a time of need,” Trump said, adding that if churches do meet, “you're really giving this invisible enemy a very big advantage.”
Meanwhile, Pence said if enough Americans follow the guidelines, the country can open back up by summertime.
“We really do believe that if every American will put into practice the President's Coronavirus Guidelines – that's wash your hands, that's if you're sick, stay home, that's if you can work from home, work from home – we think that creates a foundation for being able to put this behind us by the summertime and ultimately to save lives,” Pence said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ethan Miller/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.