President Trump says churches and other houses of worship should be considered essential, and allowed to open during the Coronavirus pandemic.
During an abrupt White House press briefing Friday afternoon, he announced that governors should let places of worship to open “right now,” because the country needs more prayer.
Trump then left without taking questions from reporters, and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus task force came up to the podium to discuss deaths from COVID-19.
“Today I’m identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques, as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said during the hastily arranged press conference Friday. He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had prepared a draft of reopening guidelines for churches and other houses of worship weeks ago that included measures like maintaining distance between parishioners and limiting the size of gatherings. But that guidance had been delayed for more than a month by the administration until Trump abruptly reversed course Thursday.
When asked how or what authority the president has to overrule governors’ to reopen churches, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it’s a hypothetical situation that they’d oppose Trump, and turned it on reporters, saying they seemed to want to keep places of worship closed. Several journalists there said they resent that statement.
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