President Trump issued orders to the nation's governors to allow houses of worship to open "right now," saying he'll "override" them if they don't. The president made the unscheduled announcement Friday at the White House, taking no questions from reporters. He pronounced houses of worship "essential places that provide essential services," Politico reports, and said the CDC is preparing pandemic guidance for them. Americans "are demanding to go to church, and synagogue, or to their mosque," Trump said, adding that "ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe" when they gather. Trump said that if governors have issues with his instructions, they'll have to call him, "and they are not going to be successful in that call."
The president lacks the legal power to override state orders, reports the Hill. But Justice Department lawyers have told Gov. Gavin Newsom that California's plan to let schools and businesses reopen first makes for "unequal treatment of faith communities." Health officials have said houses of worship are especially worrisome for spreading the coronavirus, and a blanket rule might be a bad idea. "You have to be careful," Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday. "If you're in an area where there's a relatively little infection, as there are in certain regions of the country, versus an area where there is still a high degree of infection, how you approach what you do in houses of worship really varies." (A church that fought the pandemic restrictions has burned down.)