President Trump on Friday demanded that governors reopen churches and he threatened to override state restrictions if they do not do so by this weekend.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,” the president said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.
Trump told reporters at the White House that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention will issue guidelines on the best practices for these institutions but called out the decisions by some states to call liquor stores and abortion clinics essential while banning houses or worship.
“Today I’m identifying houses of worship: churches, synagogues and mosques as essential places that provide essential services,” he said. “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.”
Trump said his office will “correct this injustice” and called on governors to open these places of worship immediately. He urged religious leaders to make sure their venues were safe.
“If there’s any question, they’ll have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call,” Trump said. He pointed out that “many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life.”
Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, was asked what authority allows Trump to override the rules and did not provide a specific provision, CNBC reported.
Statewide lockdowns have created tension between religious leaders and local law enforcement. In many cases across the country, there have been reports of blatant intimidation directed at church leaders and their congregants.
One pastor in Chicago recently told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” that city police attempted to turn the community against his church for opening its doors last weekend, and a Mississippi church at the center of a lawsuit was recently burned to the ground. The appeal to state governors to reopen places of worship is not limited to red states.
This week, 1,200 California pastors said they will begin in-person services on May 31, according to the Associated Press. A lawyer representing one of the churches said the pastors signed a “declaration of essentiality.”
“This letter was not sent for the purposes of asking for permission,” the attorney said.