President Donald Trump issued a statement on May 22 declaring all houses of worship “essential.” He also threatened to veto any governors’ attempt to keep houses of worship closed.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing, Trump said: “Today I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services.”
He said it was a travesty that some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but not houses of worship.
“I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now,” Trump said. “If there’s any question, they’re gonna have to call me but they’re not going to be successful in that call. These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united.”
He added: “If they don’t do it, I’m going to have to override the governors.”
NEW: President Trump declares his view that houses of worship should now be “essential,” and calls on governors to open them “right now.” pic.twitter.com/hTJw3BRpOL
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 22, 2020
Trump didn’t take questions on the matter.
On May 20, the Department of Justice sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, warning him that keeping houses of worships closed could put the state in violation of the First Amendment. Newsom responded to the letter in a May 21 interview on MSNBC, saying: “I have deep reverence for congregants and parishioners that want to reconnect with their community and to their faith and be able to practice accordingly. We’re just a few weeks away from meaningful modifications that will allow just that to happen.”
The Washington Post reported in February that Trump doesn’t belong to any church in the Washington, D.C., area but occasionally has attended services at St. John’s Episcopal and an Episcopal church in Florida.