President Trump on Friday ordered governors to allow houses of worship to open immediately, declaring them essential to American life during COVID-19.
The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, this weekend, Trump said during brief remarks at the White House that his press shop had touted as a briefing.
Trump took no questions, however, and left immediately after his brief statement.
If they don’t do it I will override the governors. America, we need more prayer, not less,” he said.
Even as states allow businesses to reopen, restrictions on churches and houses of worship remain in place in some states, frustrating Trump and religious conservatives.
While Trump is legally unable to override these state orders, the Department of Justice (DOJ has been pressuring governors to treat houses of worship the same as secular institutions in reopening plans.
DOJ attorneys told California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week that his reopening plan amounted to unequal treatment of faith communities by allowing restaurants, schools, malls and other businesses to open sooner than religious institutions.
However, public health experts warn that houses of worship can become hotspots for COVD-19 infection in communities if strict social distancing requirements arent followed.
Trump said Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would issue guidance to houses of worship on safely reopening. His top advisers reportedly blocked the CDC from issuing guidance earlier, worrying it was too prescriptive of religious institutions.
While the CDC issued recommendations this week on safely reopening schools, workplaces and businesses, houses of worship were missing from the guidance.
An earlier draft of the guidance, obtained by The Associated Press, recommended churches limit the size of gatherings, maintain distance between parishioners and ask members to wear face coverings.
A report issued by the CDC this week said 38 people who attended an Arkansas church service in early March became sick with coronavirus and three died, showing how easily the virus can spread in such settings.