Religious Communities Cautious as Trump Calls for Houses of Worship to Reopen 

President Donald Trump is calling on the nation’s governors to immediately reopen churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship, characterizing them as “essential places that provide essential services” during the pandemic. “At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith,” Trump said Friday. Trump admonished governors who have “deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship” and threatened to override any governors who continue to keep houses of worship closed for safety reasons. “Ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and others faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray,” Trump said. The sign for First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Md., displays information for online services, May 22, 2020.Cool reception While Trump claimed that Americans are “demanding to go to church and synagogue or their mosque,” religious communities are reacting cautiously to the president’s announcement. The In this March 24, 2020, photo, a man walks past the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, R.I.The survey also shows that readiness to return to houses of worship differs across religious traditions and race. Of the white evangelical Protestants who attended services before the pandemic, 63% say they would likely return to the pews if public health officials advised lifting those restrictions, compared with 50% of Muslims, 47% of white Catholics, 46% of white mainline Protestants, 46% of black Protestants, 38% of Hispanic Catholics and 33% of Jews. The decision to return to worship collectively may also be partisan. A recent poll by ABC News/Ipsos shows 73% of Republicans are likely to start attending church, compared with 20% of Democrats. The Trump administration has consulted with religious leaders, mostly evangelical Christians to draft the guidelines. Earlier this month White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens during an event in the Oval Office of the White House, May 6, 2020, in Washington.Discretion of religious leaders Speaking after Trump in the same briefing Friday, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that the decision to reopen houses of worship is at the discretion of 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. Certainly people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them,” Birx said.  It is not immediately clear how Trump plans to enforce his call or override governors’ orders limiting public gatherings that, under the U.S. federalist system, fall under the jurisdiction of the country’s 50 states.  When asked what legal basis Trump has to implement a nationwide push to reopen houses of worship, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president will “strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen.” 

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