May 22 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Friday called for the country’s places of worship to be deemed “essential” and threatened to override governors if they don’t allow them to reopen.
He made the remarks at the opening of a White House briefing by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
“Today, I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said.
He added that he would override governors if they don’t open the places of worship by the weekend, calling their continued closure an “injustice.”
Trump left the briefing without answering questions from reporters.
As states continue loosening restrictions put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, some, such as California, have deemed places of worship as non-essential and they remain closed.
More than 1,200 pastors in California signed a petition this week pledging to reopen their churches this weekend despite the state’s stay-at-home order.
“We respect the governing authorities and their role in public safety. However, the governing authorities have suspended our meetings indefinitely, refusing to provide a date upon which we can lawfully commence our practice of worshiping God together in our houses of worship,” the petition reads.
“While we are thankful to the governing authorities for the significant efforts made to protect the public from COVID-19, the remaining threat of COVID-19 is outweighed by the severe restrictions upon the free exercise of our religion that we deem ‘essential.’ We are committed to public safety and will follow reasonable guidelines established and applied to similarly situated organizations.”