President Donald Trump has reportedly called houses of worship "essential," and plans to override governors if they resist allowing the religious buildings to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to CNBC, during a coronavirus briefing, Trump stated that states should allow churches, synagogues and mosques to open up "right now."
He added that he intends to issue a "very strong recommendation" on the matter very soon. "We want our churches open, we want our places of faith, synagogues, we want them open," Trump stated. The President noted that he finds it to be an "injustice" that "liquor stores and abortion clinics" have remained open, but houses of worship have been expected to close. "It's not right," he said, then adding, "I'm calling houses of worship essential."
Regarding the state leaders he holds responsible, Trump 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 added, "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." Before the briefing, Trump spoke about the matter at a veterans event and told the crowd, "That's going to start happening. I consider them essential, and that's one of the things we are saying."
Notably, CNBC adds that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently issued an update to state social distancing guidelines. The new rules allow for church services of up to 10 people. Cuomo also has encouraged places of worship to host ceremonies and drive-in services in parking lots, rather than congregating in groups.
Many religious leaders have wound up in the news for defying state "safer at home" orders, such as Tampa, Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne from The River at Tampa Bay Church. Howard-Browne surrendered to authorities in March after holding a packed church service that he was advised was against county laws. Howard-Browne's attorney, Mat Staver, spoke out about the arrest, stating that he found it to be discriminatory. He also said he believes "safer at home" orders to be unconstitutional for churches. The River at Tampa Bay Church also issued a statement. "We feel that it would be wrong for us to close our doors on them, at this time, or any time," the announcement on the church's website read. "In a time of crisis, people are fearful and in need of comfort and community."