US President Donald Trump has declared that churches, synagogues and mosques are ‘essential’ establishments. He ordered governors to allow them to reopen immediately, and threatened to override them if they refuse.
“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united,” Trump announced at the White House on Friday, adding that it’s “not right” that some states have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but mandated that houses of worship remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Any governor that has a problem with this can call the president, but will not find understanding, Trump added. If the governors refuse to allow the houses of worship to reopen immediately, this very weekend, “I will override the governors,” he said.
Trump’s announcement comes amid reports that religious communities across several states with Democrat governors have complained they are not being allowed to reopen, even as every state has relaxed the coronavirus quarantines to at least some extent by now.
Both Catholics and Lutherans in Minnesota, for example, appealed to Governor Tim Walz this week to relax the lockdown and signaled they would begin congregating in defiance of his orders.
Lockdown-favoring governors have pointed to the fact that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had not issued guidelines for houses of worship, prompting Trump to order the CDC to do so on Friday.
The president’s critics reacted to the announcement by claiming more people will get the coronavirus and die as a result.
Wow!! Trump has ordered the CDC to label houses of worship as ‘essential’ and they must now admit parishioners. This is madness. Many people will get sick. Many will die. Governors were threatened Trump saying he will override any objections. CDC has lost all integrity.
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) May 22, 2020
Trump took no questions from the media after making his announcement, but his statement was followed with a presentation by White House Coronavirus Task Force chief Dr. Deborah Birx, showing the downward trend of Covid-19 cases across the US with the exception of Chicago, Los Angeles and the Washington, DC area – all of which remain under lockdown orders.