May 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump calls for churches to reopen "right now"

Trump spoke to bikers from the White House balcony earlier Friday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced Friday that he was declaring churches and places of worship as "essential places that provide essential services," and said that he would override governors to allow them to open "right now."

What he's saying: "Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It's not right," Trump said from the White House podium.

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

Reality check: The federal government does not have the power to implement nationwide measures to move toward a reopening, though the president has used social media — and formerly, his daily briefings — to influence governors' decisions.

  • Trump similarly tweeted last month that the "decision to open up the states" following shutdown measures taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus lies with him, not governors.

Between the lines: The announcement comes after federal guidelines on reopening churches were delayed over a disagreement between the CDC and the White House over the specifics of what they should look like.

  • The CDC released a 60-page road map for states, restaurants, schools, child care programs, mass transit systems and other businesses about reopening earlier this week, but left out details regarding the reopening of places of worship and faith-based organizations.
  • Some religious leaders voiced concerns about churches being left out, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios, prompting Trump to direct the CDC to quickly finish the guidelines.

The big picture: The Trump administration closely consulted religious leaders as they drafted the guidelines, a White House official told Axios.

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