President Trump on Friday deemed churches and houses of worship “essential services” and called upon governors to allow them to open, saying he will “override” governors if they don’t cooperate.
“In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump said at a White House press conference.
Some states have deemed churches “essential services” during the pandemic, but in other states – such as New York, Illinois and California – churches remain closed under order of the respective governor.
Trump criticized governors for allowing businesses such as liquor stores and abortion clinics to remain open while forcing churches to close. He also said houses of worship could open safely while practicing social distancing and CDC health guidance.
“Today I'm identifying houses of worship – churches, synagogues and mosques – as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump told reporters. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.
“I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now. If there's any questions, they're gonna have to call me, but they're not going to be successful in that call. These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque. Many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life. The ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray.
“I know them well. They love their congregations. They love their people. They don't want anything bad to happen to them or to anybody else. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they don't do it, I will override the governors.”
Trump said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at his direction, is “issuing guidance for communities of faith.”
He did not take questions.
“We have a First Amendment,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, moments after Trump left the podium. “It’s very important that we protect that.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
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.