At a heated press conference on Friday, President Donald Trump demanded that governors across the nation allow churches and other houses of worship to reopen immediately, no matter the potential public health problem of the continually spreading Coronavirus, which could spread widely in large community gatherings like church. Speaking shortly after the president, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany suggested that Americans had been barred from praying to their God — although most religions allow for prayer wherever adherents actually are — but despite the administration’s melodrama, a group of Catholic bishops in Washington state have now insisted that they will be waiting to reopen until it’s assuredly safe to do so.
.@kwelkernbc: Under what authority would Pres Trump override the governors?@PressSec: You are asking a hypothetical question.
Welker: The president said he do it.@PressSec: Hopefully, people will be able to pray at their houses of worship.
*She is not answering the Q.*
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) May 22, 2020
On Friday, bishops serving Catholic congregations across Washington state wrote, addressing the public:
‘We want to let you know the public celebration of Mass was suspended, not out of fear, but out of our deepest respect for human life and health. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to be instruments of God’s protection for the vulnerable and public common good. Our love of God and neighbor is always personal and not partisan. While we share the desire to bring people back to Mass as quickly as possible, we will wait to schedule our public worship when it is safe and prepared to do so.’
Although they noted that they are working with the office of Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) in the development of plans for reopening their churches, the bishops also noted that at this time, there is no date set for that reopening. Check out their statement below:
Responding to Trump, @AbpEtienne and WA state bishops say “the public celebration of Mass was suspensed, not out of fear, but out of our deepest respect for human life and health.” pic.twitter.com/iZx2ST4l37
— Christopher White (@cwwhite212) May 23, 2020
In his original comments, Trump had threatened to “override” governors if they did not allow churches to reopen right away, although the president has no authority to “override” state authorities on this matter.
I'm sure the ironically named Federalist Society supports Trump's authoritarian claim that he can override governors, but that's not something our federal structure actually permits.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 22, 2020
Still, he ranted:
‘Today, I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I am correcting this injustice and am calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now.’
TRUMP: "Some governors have deemed liquor stores & abortion clinics essential, but have left out churches … it's not right. So I am correcting this injustice & am calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow churches & places of worship to open right now" pic.twitter.com/e0VU8XeLEm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 22, 2020
In fact, there was never any sort of conspiracy against churches or other houses of worship. The idea that religious people were specifically singled out for restrictions amidst the pandemic has no relationship to reality. The U.S. will soon hit 100,000 total deaths due to the Coronavirus — the urgent need for public health protections is obvious.
Washington state Catholic leaders are not the first who’ve had to step in to bring the conversation back towards public health amidst the president’s rants. This week, North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum delivered what one observer noted was a “tearful speech” imploring state residents to take the need for face masks seriously. Burgum noted that “if somebody is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” although that sort of politicization of basic public health is exactly what Trump has pushed.
— The Recount (@therecount) May 22, 2020