(Liberty Bell) – On Friday, President Donald Trump announced in an unplanned press conference that he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deem houses of worship as “essential,” warning Democrat governors he will “override” their authority should they continue to order churches to remain closed.
This was welcome news to the faithful across the nation who have grown increasingly unsettled with the degree to which their state governors have prevented them from meeting in fellowship and worship.
“Today, I am identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues, and mosques, as essential places that provide essential services. 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. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship ‘essential,'” Trump said during a brief appearance at the press conference, the Washington Examiner reports.
Trump advised the governor to update their social distancing protocols to include the opening of churches by the weekend. He vowed to respond with executive action should any states refuse.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now. For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” Trump said.
While his language was quite strong, as has been the case with all federal guidelines through the course of the coronavirus pandemic, these new guidelines will not be binding on governors and any legal disputes between the states and religious institutions will still need to be addressed through litigation.
Later in the press conference, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Trump simply “wants to see churches reopen in accordance with his guidelines.”
“The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen,” she said.
The Examiner notes:
In California and Illinois, where Gov. Gavin Newsom and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have been particularly strict in their regulations on churches, their orders have provoked widespread outcry and several lawsuits from religious leaders.
In California, a coalition of more than 3,000 churches plans to break Newsom’s order on May 31. Newsom, while assuring churches of his trust in their abilities to social distance, has not yet announced a clear timeline of when they will be able to reopen.
The Justice Department on Monday sent Newsom a letter demanding he allow churches to reopen in the state. The department has weighed in on religious liberty questions during the pandemic twice before.
One of the pastors leading the coalition of churches told the outlet that he and many other religious leaders have felt that the Democrat governor “hasn’t been responsive to our needs at all” throughout the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of us saying, ‘Okay, we just need to move ahead,’” he said. “I don’t think any of us are rebels or activists. We’re just pastors trying to get our churches to go to work. We love our people.”
On Thursday, Trump said that the CDC plans to put out new guidelines for religious gatherings “very soon.”