STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump deems houses of worship 'essential' amid pandemic

Article Image

President Donald Trump announced Friday that his administration is issuing...

Posted: May 22, 2020 11:54 AM
Updated: May 22, 2020 9:00 PM

President Donald Trump announced Friday that his administration is issuing guidance deeming places of worship 'essential' during the coronavirus pandemic, calling on governors to reopen religious institutions for services.

Trump threatened to 'override' governors if their states did not follow the new federal recommendations, but it was unclear what authority the President was referring to. The recommendations are voluntary.

'Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but have left out churches and houses of worship. It's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential,' Trump said during his announcement at the White House.

Trump said he was calling upon governors to 'allow churches and places of worship to open right now.'

'If there's any question, they're going to have to call me, but they're not going to be successful in that call,' Trump added.

'The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, this weekend. If they don't do it, I will override the governors,' he continued.

Later in the briefing, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany underscored that reopening was at the discretion of governors and religious leaders.

'I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health department so they can communicate to their congregants. Certainly, people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them,' Birx said. 'Maybe they can't go this week if there's high numbers of Covid cases. Maybe they wait another week. But there is a way to social distance ... in places of worship.'

McEnany, asked about Birx's response, said the decision to reopen based on the new federal guidance is 'up to the governors.'

McEnany would not explain what authority Trump would use to 'override' governors' decisions to keep places of worship closed.

The new guidance released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday recommends religious institutions provide soap and hand sanitizer, encourage the use of cloth masks and clean their facilities daily if they want to open while coronavirus is still spreading. These institutions should also promote social distancing and consider limiting the sharing of objects such as books and hymnals, the CDC said.

The guidelines also offer leeway to organizations to make their own decisions about what they should do to limit the spread of the virus, and the guidelines are described by the CDC as 'general considerations,' 'suggestions' and 'non-binding public health guidance for consideration only.'

They do not mandate that houses of worship open on Memorial Day weekend.

A senior administration official told CNN that the guidance had been initially delayed because some officials believed the proposals were too detailed and would be impossible for churches and others to achieve. There was also talk of putting out no guidance at all on religious services, but Trump had conversations with CDC officials and urged them to issue something.

The White House coronavirus task force finalized the guidance during a meeting on Thursday, the source said.

The President referred to the conversations with CDC officials on Thursday, telling participants and the press at a listening session with African Americans, 'I said, 'You better put it out.' '

'I spoke to CDC today about churches. We've got to get our churches open. We've got to get our country open,' he said.

As Trump has pressured localities and states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, he's put particular weight on the reopening of places of worship.

He said in April that it would be 'beautiful' for churches to be open and 'packed' on Easter Sunday. He later said the date was aspirational.

Ahead of Easter Sunday, he advised faith leaders to wait for the country to 'get healed' from the coronavirus pandemic before holding services in person.

But more recently, the President has lamented that digital religious services aren't the same as in-person ones.

'People want to be in their churches. It's wonderful to sit home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church and being with your friends. And they want to have it open, and I think that's going to be happening... very shortly,' Trump said during Thursday's listening session.

Large gatherings, like those in houses of worship, have been linked to clusters of coronavirus. This month, two churches in northern California linked the spread of coronavirus among church members and clergy to Mother's Day services. A Texas church recently canceled its masses after one of its priests died and five others subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Southern Baptist Convention said Friday it was 'pleased' with Trump's decision.

But the Interfaith Alliance and the Council of American-Islamic Relations said Friday that they oppose the call to open places of worship amid the pandemic.

CAIR said that American Muslim scholars and community leaders have already determined that public religious activities will be restricted due to the pandemic and that is unlikely to change despite the new guidance.

Representatives of two of Judaism's major branches, Reform and Conservative, said Trump's declaration does not change their stance and that their members are not expected to hold religious services soon. CNN has also reached out to a representative of the Orthodox branch for comment.

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 4335

Reported Deaths: 157
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah118161
Marion98126
Washington74718
Clackamas31711
Deschutes1270
Umatilla1213
Linn1189
Polk10012
Lane773
Yamhill707
Jackson670
Benton565
Clatsop450
Jefferson440
Klamath440
Malheur320
Coos310
Douglas270
Wasco261
Josephine241
Hood River220
Lincoln170
Columbia160
Morrow120
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117215

Reported Deaths: 4305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles572192448
Riverside8155342
San Diego7554269
Orange6574150
San Bernardino5501208
Alameda351597
Santa Clara2819143
San Francisco258743
Kern237639
San Mateo218884
Tulare200489
Fresno188236
Imperial179829
Santa Barbara166912
Contra Costa150637
Sacramento143958
Ventura116434
Kings11375
San Joaquin98235
Stanislaus75029
Monterey57110
Sonoma5664
Solano54622
Marin50115
Merced3017
San Luis Obispo2781
Placer2289
Santa Cruz2172
Yolo21324
Madera1143
Napa1133
Humboldt1023
El Dorado960
San Benito882
Butte511
Sutter462
Del Norte460
Nevada421
Shasta394
Mono371
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake260
Inyo201
Glenn170
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou80
Colusa70
Lassen50
Tehama51
Plumas40
Tuolumne40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 85°
Brookings
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 64°
Crater Lake
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 83°
Grants Pass
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 84°
Klamath Falls
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 83°
Warm and dry through midweek
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events