Trump declares places of worship essential, orders governors to let them open

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President Trump has ordered the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to classify places of worship as essential establishments with the right to remain open during the pandemic. Trump also pushed state governors to permit all halls of worship to open their doors and start operating immediately. Trump declared that if state governors refuse to do so, he will override them.

During the declaration on Friday, Trump said, “Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

CDC regulations had failed to account for places of worship

Meanwhile, the CDC has recognized that “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life” despite the risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The CDC recommends that religious gatherings remain limited in size and discourages singing in choirs or as groups, as infected singers may project the virus throughout the environment.

Trump’s announcement came after the administration criticized the previously released CDC guidelines for not taking religious institutions into account.

President Trump had been assailed by religious leaders clamoring to be allowed to hold services. As suicides skyrocket across the country in the midst of the pandemic, Trump’s move is eminently needed. Millions of Americans find solace and consolation in their faith, especially in times of crisis.

Faith vital to millions dealing with the crisis

 

The White House’s Friday announcement comes after Trump has been hearing an earful from faith leaders who are unable to hold services due to coronavirus restrictions at a time when their parishioners are grappling with the crisis. Families may be grieving the loss of loved ones from the virus or struggling with job losses but unable to seek respite in their places of worship.

Last Thursday, a day prior to the decision, Trump held a teleconference with 1,600 religious leaders from across the country.

Many religious communities have been holding online services. While better than nothing, there is no substitute for gathering as a community to support one another in a time of crisis. Trump had wanted to re-open the nation’s churches by Easter, but this was not feasible.

There are many questions over whether the pandemic measures, in general, adhere to the Constitution. Among these is the serious concern that closing places of worship violates the First Amendment, which grants freedom of religion.