President Donald Trump on Friday asked governors to reopen churches, synagogues and mosques “right now,” and threatened to “lift restrictions on state leaders if they do not do so by the weekend.”
The surprise announcement marks the president’s latest attempt to bolster political stakes around efforts to restore the country’s coronavirus. He also faces a tough re-election battle as he sinks into the ballot box against outspoken Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Trump said it was an “injustice”
“It’s not right,” Trump said. “I call houses of worship essential.”
“If there is a question, they will have to call me, but they will not succeed in that call,” Trump told state leaders.
“Governments need to do the right thing and allow these very important key places of faith to open up right now, for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t, I’ll cancel the governors.”
States, not the federal government, have imposed severe restrictions on residents and businesses to try to slow the spread of the disease. The White House has released only guidelines that states and regional leaders must follow as they fight the disease.
But as the US economy strains under the rules of social distancing, Trump has loudly called for the country to begin the process of recovery.
So far, more than 1.58 million cases and at least 95,052 coronavirus deaths have been confirmed in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The White House recently fought with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make its forthcoming guidelines for resuming worship zones easier, NBC News reported on Thursday.
President Donald Trump spoke to reporters about the coronavirus in the boardroom of James Brady of the White House on Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington.
Alex Brandon AP
At a veterans’ event earlier Friday, Trump said he would soon issue a “very strong recommendation” to reopen churches. “We want our churches to open, we want our places of faith, synagogues, we want them to open,” Trump said at the time.
“It’s going to start happening. I think they’re important, and that’s one of the things we’re saying,” Trump said.
Many states – including New York, the epicenter of the US crisis – have already eased some social distancing rules for religious councils.
On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued updated guidelines allowing church services for up to 10 people in areas where restrictions are still in place and ordered participants to wear masks. Cuomo encouraged churches to host parking services and ceremonies.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also attended religious ceremonies with large gatherings. In late April, de Blasio said the unapproved funeral of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who attracted thousands of mourners in Brooklyn was “absolutely unacceptable” and warned the New York City Police Department to pursue a “zero tolerance” policy at large gatherings.
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