Father Roberto celebrates a mass at Santa Teresa D?Avila church, as faithful are allowed to attend Mass again for the first time since lockdown, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Rome, May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

On Friday, President Donald Trump directed U.S. governors to immediately reopen churches and other places of worship, stating he would “override” state leaders if they refused. He called it an “injustice” that “liquor stores and abortion clinics” remained open during the pandemic, while houses of worships did not. 

During the address, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that those with secondary health issues “maybe can’t go this week,” but added that there is “a way to social distance” within places of worship. At least two South Jersey churches will be open Sunday for in-person services following Trump’s directive. Though places of worship were never deemed “nonessential” in the state, gatherings of more than 10 people were prohibited to slow the coronavirus’ spread. Gatherings of 25 people are allowed outdoors as of Friday, indoor gathering restrictions remain.

Some have questioned if the president has the authority to override governors, pointing to a number of constitutional issues related to the 1st and 10th amendments, as well as the Supremacy Clause. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot rejected President Trump’s directive and accused him of “pandering to a base” while running for reelection. This week, the city “fined three Chicago houses of worship $500 each this week after they held services last weekend.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Trump deems houses of worship ‘essential’ amid pandemic, but has no power to force reopening – CNN – 5/22/2020
President Donald Trump announced Friday that his administration is issuing guidance deeming places of worship “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, calling on governors to reopen religious institutions for services.

Thousands Of Churches To Defy Lockdown Orders. It’s About Time. – The Federalist – 5/22/2020
It’s about time. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz is plainly violating the Constitution with his order, which limits attendance at religious services to 10 people, inside or outside. Meanwhile, places like Walmart and Home Depot and a host of other types of businesses deemed “essential” by the governor’s office are allowed to operate at half-capacity.

Judge Napolitano: Trump doesn’t have right to override governors on church openings – The Hill – 5/22/2020
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano said Friday that President Trump does not have the authority to force governors to reopen churches. “As ill-advised as these gubernatorial orders are, as essential as is the right to worship, as fundamental as it is, as absolutely protected by the first amendment as it is, the president does not have any authority to override the governors,” he told Fox’s “The Daily Briefing.”

Trump Deems Houses of Worship ‘Essential,’ Threatens to ‘Override’ Governors if They’re Not Permitted to Open – National Review – 5/22/2020
Trump lacks the authority to override state decisions regarding closures of businesses and institutions since the Constitution delegates police powers to the states. Trump has clashed with governors in the past over the authority to reopen businesses, and received pushback from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers when he argued that he had absolute authority over the status of business closures.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Yvette Nicole Brown on Twitter, 5/22/2020: Don’t let the devil make you think that to speak and commune with God you have to be inside a church. God is essential. Being in a particular building during a global pandemic, is not. #StayHome

Ben Hunt on Twitter, 5/22/2020: The worst part about this political stunt is dragging the CDC into it, requiring them to designate churches as essential operations from a public health perspective. https://t.co/FRMnS8qWOh

ERIN CRUZ FOR CALIFORNIA (CA-36) on Twitter, 5/22/2020: Places of worship are considered essential. We already knew this, the United States Constitution is clear. Thank you President Trump for reaffirming our God Given rights. https://t.co/m1VTXiTK3j

Ben Loyola on Twitter, 5/22/2020: Thank you President @realDonaldTrump for standing up for our places of worship and First Amendment rights. Religious freedom IS essential!

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