President Trump: ‘I want to get our churches open’
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump once again expressed his desire to get the United States and especially churches back to normal, hinting to reporters that his administration may have action on the subject in the works.
“I want to get our country back to normal,” Trump told reporters outside the White House Thursday. “One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open. The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors. I want to get our churches open, and we’re going to take a very strong position on that very soon.”
While Trump did not offer details on what that “very strong position” might entail, he could be referring to an expansion of work his Justice Department (DOJ) is already doing to restore the right of religious Americans’ to gather in person for worship services.
US Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly stressed that public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 outbreak do not suspend the protections of the Constitution, and last month directed the DOJ to monitor states and localities for potential religious-freedom violations. Most recently, the DOJ’s Office for Civil Rights informed California Gov. Gavin Newsom that his reopening plan was discriminatory for holding religious institutions to a different standard than secular establishments.
As of May 21, the United States is estimated to have seen more than 1.6 million COVID-19 cases, with more than 95,000 deaths and 373,000 recoveries. An estimated 40% of those deaths have come from nursing homes (with the percentages for specific states often much higher), and mounting evidence suggests far more of the public has contracted and recovered from the virus than the official count indicates.
At the same time, state bans on “non-essential” activity across the country have caused massive job losses, with more than 33 million Americans filing for unemployment and studies predicting that tens of thousands of small businesses that have closed down will never reopen.
The suppression of religious exercise has been one of the focal points for resistance to the COVID-19 lockdowns across the country, along with prohibitions on peaceful protesting outdoors, even when the protestors abide by “social distancing.”
Advised by Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Trump was previously a supporter of temporarily locking down the country, but over the past several weeks has soured on the lockdowns and come around to favor reopening. He reportedly rejected a CDC proposal for reopening guidelines on the grounds that they were too restrictive of religious liberty and too harmful to the economy.