Trump to states: Reopen churches this weekend or I will

By  | 

WASHINGTON (AP) Saying “In America we need more prayer not less,” President Donald Trump had a terse message for the nation’s governors Friday: Reopen churches or I will.

President Donald Trump had a terse message for the nation’s governors Friday: Reopen churches or I will.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at Mr. Trump’s direction, is issuing guidance for communities of faith, the president said.

The CDC released the guidelines later in the day.

“Today I’m identifying houses of worship—churches, synagogues and mosques—as essential places that provide essential services,” Mr. Trump said.

“I call upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now,” he said.

“If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call,” he said.

“Many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life,” he said.

The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to reopen right now,” he said.

“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” he said, although it wasn't immediately clear whether he has the authority to do that.

Texas officials issued guidelines on April 21 that said churches unable to conduct services remotely should follow guidance from federal officials, instructing employees, volunteers, and guests who are ill to stay home; practicing social distancing; cleaning and disinfecting work areas; encouraging members 65 and older to stay home or providing special senior services; equipping ushers and greeters with gloves and masks; ensuring members and guests sanitize their hands and put on masks before entering; ensuring those attending services sit in family groups and scheduling additional services if needed to facilitate social distancing.

Less than a week later, on April 27, Gov. Governor Greg Abbott said places of worship could expand capacity as part the state's plan to reopen the economy.

Abbott said faith leaders should continue to encourage at-risk members to watch or participate in services remotely, must designate an area inside their buildings for at-risk visitors and keep at least two empty seats between worshipers, although members of the same household may set adjacent to one another.

Some area churches have resumed in-person services.

Bishop Joe S. Vásque of the Austin diocese notified Central Texas parishes on April 30 about plans to resume celebration of Mass on May 5 and asked them to follow protocols consistent with earlier guidance from state officials.

Other churches in Central Texas have remained active online since shelter in place orders were issued in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, streaming services and other activities, choosing to wait until June to resume in-person services.