Trump threatened to “override” governors if their states did not follow the new federal recommendations, but it was not clear what authority the President was referring to. Recommendations are voluntary.
“Some governors consider liquor shops and abortion clinics to be important, but leave churches and houses of worship. That is not true. So I am correcting this injustice and calling important houses of worship,” Trump said during an announcement at the White House. .
Trump said he called on the governor to “allow the church and place of worship to be opened now.”
“If there are questions, they must call me, but they will not succeed in that call,” Trump added.
“The governors need to do the right thing and leave these very important places of faith open now, this weekend. If they don’t, I will override the governor,” he continued.
Then in the briefing, the White House coronavirus taskforce coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany underlined that the reopening was at the discretion of the governor and religious leader.
“I think every leader in the religious community must get in touch with the local health department so they can communicate with their congregation. Of course, people who have significant comorbidities, we want them to be protected. I know the house of worship wants to protect them,” said Birx. “Maybe they can’t go this week if there are many Covid cases. Maybe they are waiting for another week. But there is social distance … in places of worship.”
McEnany, asked about Birx’s response, said the decision to reopen based on new federal guidelines was “up to the governor.”
McEnany will not explain what authority Trump will use to “override” the governor’s decision to keep the place of worship closed.
The guidelines also offer leeway for organizations to make their own decisions about what they should do to limit the spread of the virus, and the guidelines are explained by the CDC as “general considerations,” “suggestions” and “public health guidelines that are not binding for consideration.”
They did not mandate that houses of worship be opened on Memorial Day weekends.
A senior administration official told CNN that the guide was initially postponed because some officials believed that the proposal was too detailed and impossible to reach by the church and others. There was also talk of not giving any guidance at all about religious services, but Trump had a conversation with CDC officials and urged them to release something.
The White House coronavirus task force completed the guidelines at a meeting Thursday, the source said.
The president referred to a conversation with CDC officials on Thursday, telling participants and the press at a listening session with African-Americans, “I said, ‘You should turn it off.’
“I spoke with the CDC today about the church. We must open our church. We must open our country,” he said.
When Trump has pressured regions and countries to reopen in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, he gave special weight to reopening places of worship.
By Easter Sunday, he advised religious leaders to wait for the country to be “healed” from the coronavirus pandemic before providing direct services.
But recently, the President regretted that digital religious services are not the same as personal services.
“People want to be in their churches. It’s nice to sit at home and watch something on a laptop, but it will never be the same as being in a church and with your friends. And they want it to be open, and I think it will happen … soon, “Trump said during a Thursday listening session.
Large groups, such as those in places of worship, have been linked to the coronavirus group. This month, two churches in northern California linked the spread of coronavirus among church members and pastors with Mother’s Day services. A church in Texas recently canceled its mass after one of its pastors died and five others later tested positive for the corona virus.
The Southern Baptist Convention said on Friday that it was “pleased” with Trump’s decision.
But the Interfaith Alliance and the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Friday that they oppose calls to open places of worship amid a pandemic.
CAIR said that American Muslim scholars and community leaders had determined that public religious activities would be limited because of a pandemic and that was not likely to change despite new guidelines.
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
Konstantin Toropin, Kaitlan Collins, Nick Valencia, Maggie Fox, and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.