Trump deems churches ‘essential,’ calls for them to reopen

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President Donald Trump arrives to speak with reporters about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By JILL COLVIN and ZEKE MILLER (AP)

President Donald Trump said Friday that he has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend, even as some parts of the nation remain under coronavirus lockdown.

“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House.

Despite the threat of further spreading the virus. Trump said that, “governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend.” And he warned that if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.

The dictate comes as Trump has been pushing for the country to reopen as he tries to stop an economic free fall months before he faces reelection. White evangelical Christians have been among the most loyal members of the president’s base, and the White House has been careful to attend to religious communities’ concerns over the course of the crisis, including holding numerous conference calls with them.

Following Trump’s announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for communities of faith that include taking steps to limit the size of gatherings and considering holding services outdoors or in large, well-ventilated areas.

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