President Trump declared Friday that churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship are “essential services” and must reopen this weekend.
“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,” Trump vowed.
“In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
TRENDING: ‘No face masks allowed’: ‘Stop listening to dumbass’ governor
The president noted some governors have declared liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential.
He does not have the constitutional power to override state orders, but the Justice Department has supported lawsuits arguing houses of worship are not being treated the same as secular institutions.
Attorneys argued this week that California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan to allow restaurants, schools, malls and other businesses to open sooner than religious institutions amounts to “unequal treatment.”
Meanwhile, the White House’s top coronavirus health adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has warned of particular vulnerabilities in houses of worship if strict social distancing requirements are not followed.
“You have to be careful, it depends on the particular state, city, region, county that you’re in, and what the dynamics of the outbreak are,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Hill Friday.
“So if you’re in an area where there’s a relatively little infection, as there are in certain regions of the country, versus an area where there is still a high degree of infection, how you approach what you do in houses of worship really varies,” he said.
Some governors have put the opening of houses of worship in later stages of their reopening plans, until the rate of COVID-19 transmission slows further.
The White House pointed Friday to guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how houses of worship can safely reopen.
Developing story. More to come …