Trump Demands That Churches Reopen ‘Right Now,’ Threatens To Override States
President Donald Trump demanded on Friday that states reopen churches, synagogues and mosques “right now,” threatening to override governors and state restrictions if they fail to do so by the weekend.
Despite the threat of the coronavirus, Trump proclaimed during a last-minute press conference, “Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services.”
It’s unclear what authority Trump has to override state restrictions and governors. The White House has only issued guidelines for states to follow as they try to fight the covid-19 infection rate. It’s the states, not the federal government, that have imposed stay-at-home restrictions and lockdowns on residents and businesses to try to slow down the spread of the virus.
“The surprise announcement marked the president’s latest attempt to ramp up the political stakes surrounding the country’s coronavirus recovery efforts,” Kevin Breuninger wrote for CNBC. “He is facing a tough reelection fight and as he sinks in polls against apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden.”
At least 1,632,629 cases 97,102 deaths have been confirmed in the U.S. so far, according to data from Worldometer.
After state lockdowns went into effect in March, churches that defied the orders and continued holding in-person services were condemned on social media. Many transitioned to live streaming to protect their parishioners.
When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp lifted coronavirus restrictions and re-opened the state ahead of other states, Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle Church in Ringgold, GA, restarted in-person services on April 26. Two weeks later, the church suspended in-person worship services “for the foreseeable future” after several families in the congregation contracted covid-19.
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Trump has criticized Michigan’s Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Michigan is one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic. With some of the most restrictive stay-at-home orders in the country, it has seen weekly protests at the capitol, Lansing. Trump suggested that Whitmer should negotiate with the protesters.
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump tweeted. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
Trece Andrews, a health care worker in metro Detroit, said she is concerned about ongoing shortages of personal protective equipment. “Until President Trump fully addresses the seriousness of the covid-19, and gives states like Michigan enough masks and testing, we are not ready to reopen safely,” Andrews told the Detroit Free Press.
The White House recently tried to force the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lighten up on its guidelines for reopening places of worship, NBC News reported.