President Trump on Friday announced that new CDC guidance will classify houses of worship as “essential,” as he called on governors to allow them to open “right now.”
Trump announced the policy for churches, synagogues and mosques, during a briefing at the White House.
“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less,” he warned.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”
“In America, we need more prayer not less,” Trump added.
It’s unclear under what authority Trump has to override governors. But Trump took issue with certain businesses being open, while churches are not. Attorney General William Barr already warned last month that coronavirus restrictions by state and local government should be applied evenly and not single out religious organizations.
“Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential,” Trump said. “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.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released interim guidelines Friday for communities of faith that acknowledge “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life” but also warn that “gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19.”
The guidelines encourage the use of cloth face coverings during services, limiting the size of gatherings, social distancing during services and suspending or decreasing choirs and singing in church since “singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC says.