Trump calls places of worship 'essential' and demands state governors open them 'right now'
Places of worship around the country have been shuttered following state-at-home orders to control the spread of the pandemic
Donald Trump announced on Friday, May 22, that new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control will classify all houses of worship as "essential" and called for governors of various states to open them up "right now." Churches, synagogues, and mosques across the country have been shut for close to two months after stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and flatten the curve.
Religious leaders have since set up online services to tend to grieving families and those looking for solace in their faith, but may soon have the ability to reach out to them in the public once again. In a short briefing at the White House, the president announced the new policy for churches, synagogues, and mosques, and promised to intervene if governors did not order for these places of worship to open once again. "It’s not right," he said of them being shuttered. "I’m calling houses of worship essential."
He also said it was an "injustice" that some state leaders had allowed "liquor stores and abortion clinics" to stay open amid the outbreak while forcing places of worship to stay closed. "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--for this weekend," he said, according to CNBC. "If they don't do it, I will override the governors."
"In America, we need more prayer not less," he added.
The announcement came after Trump has reportedly been hearing the concerns of faith leaders from across the country and held a conference call with around 1,600 pastors on Thursday, May 21. Also amongst those on the call was Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Trump's decision to have places of worship reopened will not have come as a surprise to those who tuned in to his press conference the same day, where he revealed he had spoken to the CDC about the same. "We've got to get our churches open," he had said.
Then, at a veterans event on Friday, he promised he would issue a "very strong recommendation" on reopening churches. "We want our churches open, we want our places of faith, synagogues, we want them open," he said. "That’s going to start happening. I consider them essential, and that’s one of the things we are saying."
However, despite his threat to go over the heads of state governors, it is unclear if he even has the authority to do so since it was the states who imposed the restrictions. The White House's role was just in releasing guidelines for states and regional leaders to follow as they combat the disease.
When pressed on the matter, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany seemed unsure as well. "The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen – and boy, it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed," she said.