Ian Payne 4am - 7am
Donald Trump calls for churches to reopen despite coronavirus threat
22 May 2020, 20:53
President Donald Trump said he has deemed churches and other houses of worship "essential" and called on governors to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the coronavirus threat.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention had prepared reopening guidelines for churches and other houses of worship weeks ago, but the White House refused to release them until Thursday when Mr Trump abruptly changed course.
He said if governors do not abide by his request, he will "override" them, though it is unclear what authority he has to do so.
During a hastily arranged press conference, Mr Trump said: "Today I'm identifying houses of worship - churches, synagogues and mosques - as essential places that provide essential services.
"I said 'You better put it out.' And they're doing it," Mr Trump said on Thursday at a Ford Motor plant repurposed to make ventilators in Michigan.
"And they're going to be issuing something today or tomorrow on churches. We got to get our churches open."
On Friday, Mr Trump stressed the importance of churches in many communities and took issue with some of the businesses that had been allowed to reopen.
"Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential" but not churches, he said. "It's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential."
"These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque," he said.
Large gatherings such as places of worship have been linked to clusters of coronavirus.
They also tend to attract elderly people who are at a higher risk of catching coronavirus and having complications associated with it.
A Texas church cancelled its masses after one of its priests died and five others tested positive for coronavirus.