Trump deems houses of worship ‘essential’ amid pandemic
Trump threatened to “override” the governors if their states did not follow the new federal recommendations, but it was unclear which authority the president was referring to. Recommendations are voluntary.
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but have omitted churches and places of worship. It is not good. So I correct this injustice and I call essential places of worship “Trump said during his White House announcement. .
Trump has said he called on governors to “allow churches and places of worship to open now.”
“If there is a question, they will have to call me, but they will not succeed in this call,” added Trump.
“The governors must do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open now, this weekend. If they do not, I will prevail over the governors,” he continued.
Later in the briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus task force, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany stressed that the reopening was at the discretion of the governors and religious leaders.
“I think that each of the leaders of the religious community should be in contact with their local health service so that they can communicate with their faithful. Certainly, people who have significant comorbidities, we want them to be protected. I know these places of worship want to protect them, “said Birx. “Maybe they can’t go this week if there are a large number of Covid cases. Maybe they wait another week. But there is a way to get away from it. .. in places of worship. “
McEnany, when asked about Birx’s response, said the decision to reopen based on the new federal guidelines was “at the discretion of the governors”.
McEnany would not explain what authority Trump would use to “override” governors’ decisions to keep places of worship closed.
The guidelines also provide flexibility for organizations to make their own decisions about what to do to limit the spread of the virus, and the guidelines are described by the CDC as “general considerations”, “suggestions” and “non-binding public health guidelines”. for review only. ”
They do not impose the opening of places of worship on Memorial Day weekends.
A senior administration official told CNN that the guidelines were initially delayed because some officials believed the proposals were too detailed and would be impossible for churches and others to realize. There was also talk of not issuing any directives on religious services, but Trump had conversations with CDC officials and urged them to publish something.
The White House coronavirus task force finalized the guidelines at a meeting on Thursday, the source said.
The president referred to conversations with CDC officials on Thursday, telling participants and the press during a listening session with African Americans: “I said,” You’d better turn it off. “”
“I spoke today to the CDC of churches. We have to open our churches. We have to open our country,” he said.
While Trump has lobbied localities and states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, he has given special weight to the reopening of places of worship.
Before Easter Sunday, he advised religious leaders to wait until the country “is cured” of the coronavirus pandemic before hosting services in person.
But more recently, the President has lamented that digital religious services are not the same as in-person services.
“People want to be in their churches. It is wonderful to sit at home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church and being with friends. And they want it to be open, and I think it will happen … very soon, “Trump said during Thursday’s listening session.
Large gatherings, such as those in places of worship, have been linked to clusters of coronaviruses. This month, two churches in northern California linked the spread of the coronavirus among church members and clergy to Mother’s Day services. A Texas church recently canceled its masses after the death of one of its priests and five others were subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Southern Baptist Convention said Friday that it was “satisfied” with Trump’s decision.
But the Interfaith Alliance and the Council of American-Islamic Relations said on Friday that they opposed the call to open places of worship in the midst of the pandemic.
CAIR said Muslim Muslim academics and community leaders have already determined that public religious activities will be curtailed due to the pandemic and that it is unlikely to change despite the new guidelines.
Representatives from two of the main branches of Judaism, reformist and conservative, said that Trump’s statement did not change their position and that their members should not soon be celebrating religious services. CNN also contacted a representative of the Orthodox branch for comments.
This story was updated on Friday with additional developments.
CNN Konstantin Toropin, Kaitlan Collins, Nick Valencia, Maggie Fox and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.