President Donald Trump tried to stoke an ugly battle with governors over religion on Friday, demanding that every house of worship in the country reopen “right now” regardless of state rules. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” he said in a blustery, two-minute press briefing. “It’s not right... In America we need more prayer not less.” Trump threatened to somehow override governors who have banned in-person religious gatherings as part of statewide coronavirus lockdowns—but he has no legal authority to do so.
Pressed on what federal powers were available to override governors, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump will “strongly encourage” governors to allow churches to reopen in accordance with CDC guidance. The CDC quietly released 60-page guidance on Wednesday with a three-phased approach to reopening based on six indicators including a “robust” testing program and decreases in newly reported infections. Trump reportedly complained that it was too stringent on churches and demanded new guidance be released on Friday.