Trump Is Desperately Trying To Escalate The Culture Wars By Demanding Churches Open
header-image

The president, despite not appearing to have such authority, threatened to override governors’ coronavirus measures—as his press secretary suggested journalists want houses of worship to stay closed. “Hideous and inappropriate,” one shot back.

President Donald Trump, deeming houses of worship “essential places that provide essential services,” called Friday for governors to allow them to reopen immediately—regardless of whether he actually has the authority to impose such an order. In an impromptu press briefing Friday afternoon, Trump criticized governors who deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential while “leaving out churches and other houses of worship,” something the president called “an injustice” that he is “correcting” by identifying them as essential. As the New York Times reports, Trump called upon governors to allow places of faith “to open right now for this weekend,” threatening that “if they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

Legal experts questioned the constitutional merits of Trump’s order. “The president does not have the unilateral authority to override a governor’s decision temporarily to prohibit the assembly of church congregants because of Covid-19,” J. Michael Luttig, a former Republican administration official and circuit appeals court judge, told the Times. Former Obama administration official Harold Hongju Koh said that “there is no legal compulsion of the state governors to comply” with a statement Trump makes—even when he calls it an “order.” The ACLU’s Anthony Romero dismissed Trump’s statement as “more like political grandstanding than any actual enforcement of laws protecting religious freedom,” according to Politico.

But beyond the lack of constitutional authority, the Times’s Peter Baker writes that the president is speaking out “on an issue important to a critical part of his electoral base at a time when his support has been eroding” and embracing the “political priorities” of evangelicals and conservative religious voters, the turnout of which Trump will rely on in this year’s election. Never mind, he notes, that Trump himself “rarely goes to church, displays only a passing familiarity with the Bible, previously supported abortion rights, has been married three times and paid hush money to a pornographic film actress.”

The announcement Friday looks like a cynical ploy to ignite the culture wars; one that the White House, the Times notes, “seemed to be itching for” based on press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s attempt to target the press. When asked about what power the president actually has to override governors, McEnany refused to answer, trying instead to turn the question on the press. “Boy it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these houses of worship and churches stay closed,” she said, an insinuation that Reuters White House Correspondent Jeff Mason took exception to.

“Kayleigh, I object to that. I mean, I go to church. I’m dying to go back to church,” Mason countered. “The question that we’re asking you—and would like to have asked the president and Dr. Birx—is, is it safe? And if it’s not safe, is the president fine to encourage that? Or does the president agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait?”

https://twitter.com/thehill/status/1263901443624521732?s=20

CNN’s Jake Tapper was also among those to condemn McEnany’s suggestion that reporters don’t want churches to open, calling her insinuation “such a hideous and inappropriate thing to say. And just wrong,” he tweeted on Friday. “Many journalists are people of faith. It’s also our job to ask if it’s *safe* for people to go back to churches and other houses of worship.”

Axios notes that the president’s announcement follows a disagreement between the CDC and the White House as to what the guidelines on reopening churches should look like, a conflict that delayed the release of such federal instruction. While places of worship and faith-based organizations were not among the businesses—such as restaurants, schools, and mass transit systems—addressed in the 60-page reopening guidelines released this week by the CDC, Trump told reporters on Thursday that guidance on the matter would be issued “today or tomorrow.”

— In the Hamptons, the Coronavirus Summer Is Going to Be Insane
— Why Trump’s Blame-China Strategy Is Dangerous and Misguided
The Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright Warns Congress “Time Is Running Out”
— Joe Biden on COVID-19, the Stimulus, and Fighting Trump From His House
— How Coronavirus Is Reshaping New York’s Public Transit
— Wall Street Has Had Enough of the Lockdown
— From the Archive: Inside the Search for a “Magic Bullet” AIDS Treatment

Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.

From: VANITYFAIR