President Donald Trump deemed places of worship “essential” on Friday and threatened to “override” states who failed to reopen religious institutions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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

He called on governors to reopen places of worship, adding that “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 continued, “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”


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It is unclear how he would override the state governments — so far, courts have been handling issues stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, such as determining whether or not a governor has the authority to postpone an election. (The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in April that they do not).

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany clarified later in the briefing that reopening was up to both governors and religious leaders.

“I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health department so they can communicate to their congregants,” Birx said. “Certainly, people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them. Maybe they can’t go this week if there’s high numbers of Covid cases. Maybe they wait another week. But there is a way to social distance … in places of worship.”

When asked about Brix’s comments, McEnany said the decision to reopen remains “up to the governors.”

Trump has pushed for churches, in particular, to reopen and previously aimed to have the country reopened in time for Easter.

“People want to be in their churches,” Trump said Thursday. “It’s wonderful to sit home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church and being with your friends. And they want to have it open, and I think that’s going to be happening… very shortly.”

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