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caption: President Trump called on governors to allow houses of worship to reopen this weekend.
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President Trump called on governors to allow houses of worship to reopen this weekend.
Credit: AP

Trump Calls On States To Immediately Reopen Places Of Worship

President Trump on Friday said state governors should allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to immediately reopen.

Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET

In brief comments at the White House, Trump said houses of worship are "essential places that provide essential services." Churches have faced restrictions for gatherings and ceremonies as public health officials worked to stop the spread of the virus. Some have chafed at the restrictions.

Trump said governors should allow the houses of worship to re-open "right now for this weekend," and threatened that if they don't, "I will override the governors," he said, adding that "In America, we need more prayer, not less."

"These are places that hold our society together," he said.

It's not clear what authority Trump has to override states who wish to keep houses of worship closed. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany didn't elaborate on what action Trump would take if governors didn't direct churches and other places of worship to open, calling those situations hypothetical.

"We can all hope that this Sunday, people are allowed to pray to their gods across this country," she said.

Trump said the CDC had released guidance to help churches reopen, but did not provide details. White evangelicals have been among Trump's strongest supporters.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said faith leaders considering reopening should be in touch with their local health departments to properly advise their congregants. She also said people with risk factors or comorbidities in communities with a high number of cases may consider staying away for now. "I know those houses of worship want to protect them ... maybe they can't go this week."

"But there is way to social distance ... in places of worship," she said.

Birx also encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors during the Memorial Day weekend, including going to beaches, golfing or playing tennis, as long as 6-feet of social distancing is maintained. [Copyright 2020 NPR]