U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that houses of worship are “essential” and threatened to override governors who refuse to let those places reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The president, speaking at a White House press briefing, announced new guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pertaining to “communities of faith,” and deemed that “houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques” as “essential places that provide essential services.”
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” said Trump. “It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”
He called on governors to make such a move “right now” and threatened that “if there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me—but they are not going to be successful in that call.”
It is unclear if the president has the legal authority to force the nation’s governors to reopen houses of worship.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at the briefing that the federal government would “leave it to faith communities to reopen,” and referred to “detailed guidance … about the way you can clean your facility [and] promote social distancing.”
Trump claimed on Friday that Americans are “demanding to go to church and synagogue or to their mosque,” and he assured that “the ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe” when they’re open.