Trump orders governors to open churches after insisting he wouldn't tell them what to do


He said previously that governors would get to 'call your own shots' on reopening.

Donald Trump demanded that state governors allow churches and other houses of worship to reopen immediately on Friday, contradicting his earlier promise that he would let them make their own determinations about how to safely reopen their states.

"Today, I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services," he announced at a press briefing. "Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential."

Trump said he was calling on all governors "to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now."

"If there's any question, they're gonna have to call me but they're not gonna be successful in that call," he promised, adding that if they do not, he would "override" their decisions.

Constitutional scholars have pointed out in recent weeks that Trump lacks the power to lift state public safety orders that he never issued.

Trump repeatedly refused to issue a national stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that he believed it was important for governors to make their own decisions about how to govern their states.

At a press briefing on April 6, for example, he said there was a "constitutional problem" with such an order, given the principles of federalism.

"Legally I can," he claimed, "but morally, I believe in our Constitution, much more so than most people."

Four days later, when he was asked specifically about Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis refusing to close Florida, he said, "I like to allow governors to make decisions without overruling them, because from a constitutional standpoint, that's the way it should be done."

Without federal action, governors in most states acted on their own, issuing stay-at-home orders and limiting public gatherings.

Despite public health warnings, Trump unsuccessfully pushed in late March for the nation to reopen by April 12, so churches could be "packed" for Easter.

On April 17, Trump announced that he was going to defer to governors on plans to reopen.

"You're going to call your own shots," Trump told them in a  conference call, according to an audio recording obtained by the Associated Press. "We're going to be standing alongside of you."

Trump's latest announcement comes just days after churches in Georgia and Texas reopened — and quickly closed again due to new coronavirus infections in parishioners and clergy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22,860 new daily cases of coronavirus cases on Thursday and nearly 1,400 new deaths.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.