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President Donald Trump declared that places of worship should be considered “essential” amid the coronavirus pandemic and demanded that the nations’ governors allow them to reopen.
The president delivered very brief remarks at the White House Friday, addressing the issue of churches, synagogues and other places of worship being required to remain closed until a later date in many states, notably those run by Democratic governors.
“At my direction, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith,” Trump began in his prepared remarks.
“Today I am identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques as essential places that provide essential services,” he said, before targeting state leaders who have ordered them closed while allowing other businesses such as liquor stores to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic because they were deemed “essential” for the health and well-being of citizens.
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but it left out churches and houses of worship. It’s not right. So I am correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential,” Trump said.
“I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now,” he emphasized.”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 president went on to note how Americans have been demanding to go back to the worship centers and that they see their faith-based organizations as an important part of their lives. Courts have been siding with individuals and businesses fighting government overreach and condemning restrictions that classify churches as “non-essential” in the pandemic.
About 3,000 California churches announced they plan to reopen for in-person services on May 31 – with or without the government’s approval. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on in-person church gatherings was dealt a blow by a federal judge this month who allowed them to reopen. And while misdemeanor charges against a defiant Florida pastor who violated a county stay-at-home order were dropped this week, over in Illinois, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that churches are still not allowed to hold in-person services.
“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 embraced worship as an essential part of life,” Trump said on Friday.
“The ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray,” he added. “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 president called on the nation’s governors to “do the right thing,” but made it clear that he will step in if they choose to resist.
“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. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”
“In America, we need more prayer, not less. Thank you very much, thank you,” Trump concluded, leaving the podium without taking any questions that reporters immediately began to fire at him.
Last month, Attorney General William Barr warned local governments to avoid violating the constitutional rights of Americans in their efforts to enforce social distancing and other coronavirus emergency measures, saying that the “Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”
“Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Barr stated at the time, and later told federal prosecutors to “be on the lookout” for state and local violations.
Reaction to Trump’s announcement was swift on social media, with supporters cheering the changing of places of worship to be considered “essential,” as the president’s critics only focused on the fact that he wouldn’t have the power to force states to follow the order. While critics were slamming the reopening idea as a sure way to spike the cases of the coronavirus, others celebrating the Constitutional rights being restored.
As a Pastor, I agree churches should reopen. They never should have been closed down in the first place.
— RevBK ✝️ (@JustBKShow) May 22, 2020
Well that’s good news for the Rep states; But very problematic for the Dem states. I assure you My state IL will Not be opened by Gov Pritzker! He has Doubled-down on his lockdown orders, Says businesses, schools restaurants won’t open anytime soon!!
— Faith God Country ✝️🇺🇸 (@TrumpPatriotUS1) May 22, 2020
— Tanooki Joe (@TanookiKuribo) May 22, 2020
BREAKING: President Trump has just deemed houses of worship/churches essential!
Freedom of religion is ALWAYS essential!
Thank you, @realDonaldTrump 🙏
— Students For Trump (@TrumpStudents) May 22, 2020
President trump standing up for freedom! Thank you!
— God bless America (@palty_w) May 22, 2020