President Trump on Thursday criticized Democratic governors for not allowing churches to open back up and said his administration will be addressing the issue soon.
Trump made the comments to reporters outside the White House, moments before he left for a trip to Michigan.
“I want to get our country back to normal. … One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open,” he said. “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 gonna take a very strong position on that very soon.”
Trump’s comments came the same week the Department of Justice sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, telling him the state’s ban on in-person church services likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Newsom is a Democrat.
“Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” the three-page letter said.
It argued churches can apply social distancing and health rules just as well as businesses and factories that are allowed to be open can.
“Religious gatherings may not be singled out for unequal treatment compared to other non-religious gatherings that have the same effect on the government’s public health interest, absent the most compelling reasons,” the letter said.
In April, Attorney General William Barr wrote, “Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.”
The First Amendment reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”