Coronavirus, Trump challenges governors: “Reopen churches immediately”

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NEW YORK – “Churches and places of worship are essential, they must be reopened immediately”. So Donald Trump it challenges the governors who manage lockdowns in the United States, and hunts for consensus in the world of churches where it has an important electoral base (especially among evangelical Protestants). The president announced that his government is ready to issue directives in which places for exercising faith and religious ceremonies are equated to essential activities, thus putting pressure on local authorities who set reopening calendars. Trump threatens to “oust” governors if they don’t follow new federal recommendations.

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As on other occasions, the threat has no constitutional basis because it applies to matters falling within the competence of individual states. But the gesture has a strong media resonance: it puts the governors before the uncomfortable alternative of bowing to the diktat of the White House, or of dissatisfying masses of intolerant faithful after two months of suspension of rites and religious assemblies. The president seasoned his announcement with a controversy: ‚ÄúThere are some governors who have called alcohol stores or abortion clinics essential services, but have excluded churches. It’s not right. I correct this injustice and define places of worship as essential. Governors must reopen them immediately. ” He said Centers for Disease Control, the federal epidemic authority, will disclose new rules on reopening by including religious services among those that can begin again immediately.

Trump’s announcement was later corrected by his own collaborators. Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leaders of the White House health task force, urged leaders of religious communities to contact “local health authorities to communicate with their faithful.” The health expert added that “the churches want to protect the faithful from the infection, perhaps they will not be able to reopen immediately if the coronavirus numbers are still high”. He added the recommendation to respect distances even if religious celebrations and gatherings resume.

Trump has chosen to make his announcement the day after meeting 1,600 pastors and leaders of different religious communities in conference calls. Some of them complained that they could not assist the faithful in a moment of pain, after the death of loved ones, and in a phase of acute economic distress for the population. “People want to be in church – said Trump – it is not the same thing to follow a religious function on the computer screen. We need to pray more, not less. ” However, outbreaks of contagion linked to religious gatherings have recently been identified. In Texas, a church canceled masses after the death of a priest and the infection of five others. In California, two churches reported a contagion between priests and faithful after functions were held for Mother’s Day.

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