‘We need more prayer’: Trump orders states to let houses of worship reopen despite coronavirus crisis

President Trump speaks with reporters about the coronavirus in the White House briefing room on Friday.
President Trump speaks with reporters about the coronavirus in the White House briefing room on Friday.(Alex Brandon/AP)

So much for the separation of church and state.
President Trump called on governors Friday to let churches and other houses of worship in their states reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend, threatening to “override” them if they refuse even as the U.S. coronavirus death toll surged above 95,000.
In a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, Trump said he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update its coronavirus guidelines so that houses of worship are deemed “essential."
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential but left out churches and houses of worship. It is not right,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks.
The president continued, “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. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
Without taking questions, Trump then left the briefing room.
Trump’s threat to override governors is highly dubious and likely not possible, since governors have wide discretion in how to run their states and CDC guidelines aren’t mandatory.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, stayed behind after Trump left the briefing room and contradicted the president, telling reporters governors should make up their own minds as it relates to houses of worships with safety being the first priority.
“I really firmly believe a knowledgeable community can really make judgments for themselves,” Birx said. “I think each one of our leaders in the community can be in touch with local departments to communicate to their congregants.”

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