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Newsom promises to open churches amid Trump’s demands



Govin Newsom vowed to give plans Monday for the reopening of California churches amid mounting pressure to allow personal religious services from both protesters and President Trump, requiring governors to intervene immediately.

Newsom’s comment comes just days after he said opening churches for church leaders was “a few weeks away.” The governor said he has been meeting with religious leaders for weeks to work out a plan for the safe reopening of churches for services, including efforts to sanitize pews, ensure safe distance, and other security protocols.

“We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner, and we have guidelines that we expected completed on Monday, and we are on track to do just that,”

; said Newsom during a COVID-19 briefing, which was held at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville on Friday.

Newsom’s comments came hours after Trump unexpectedly appeared in the White House briefing room to declare that he designated churches as “essential” businesses so they can immediately reopen.

Trump, who has said he would leave decisions to facilitate public health guidance to states, but has often criticized decisions by individual governors, threatened that he would “override” states that did not follow his directive. It was not clear what authority he was referring to.

His comments in tenor and tone made it clear that the announcement was largely about signaling that he continues to fight religious conservatives, a core element of his political base, with Trump’s support eroded somewhat in recent weeks amid broader questions about his response to the pandemic.

“Some governors have considered liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left churches and other houses,” Trump said. “That is not correct. So I correct this injustice and call houses of worship essential. “

Speaking about the possibility that some governors might not immediately comply with his instructions, he suggested that they reach directly to him, though the case, he argued, would not be open to discussion.

“If there is any question, they will have to call me – but they will not succeed with that call,” he said. “The governors need to do the right thing and leave these very important places of faith open right now, this weekend.”

When asked about Trump’s comments, Newsom overheard the issue, saying his administration has partnered with faith leaders to allow services to resume as soon as possible while protecting public health.

“We have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and their basic needs and desire to exercise their faith,” Newsom said. “We look forward to a very positive collaboration with religious leaders as we publish these documents and look forward to working through this issue in the spirit of collaboration and collaboration.”

During midday, Newsom briefed a subtle blow at the Trump administration, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had yet to release federal guidelines detailing how churches and other religious institutions should resume services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Newsom said CDC guidelines were expected to be released on Friday, saying state health officials will review them to determine if they include safeguards to be added to those drafted by the state.

Newsom emphasized his own religious upbringing in the Catholic Church, saying he had deep admiration and respect for the faith of millions of Californians and the need for them to practice that faith. The governor said the vast majority of religious leaders across the state understand the need to protect public health and have partnered with his administration to ensure services, when resumed, will be performed safely.

Earlier this week, the U.S. The Department of Justice wrote a letter to the Newsom administration warning that the state’s home-based order may discriminate against religious groups and violate their constitutional rights. The letter accused Newsom of “unequal treatment of faith communities” in limiting their ability to gather and resume services.

“In short, there is no pandemic exception to the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” Eric S. Dreiband, an assistant attorney and head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in the letter.

Shortly after this warning, more than 1,200 California priests pledged to hold personal services on May 31, Pentecost Sunday, in violation of the state’s moratorium on religious gatherings.

Robert H. Tyler, a lawyer representing a Lodi church who has challenged the governor’s order in court, said clergy signed an “Essentiality Declaration” which claims their churches are as important as grocery stores and hardware stores and should be allowed to open again.

“We think you’re trying to act in the best interests of the state,” Tyler wrote to Newsom, “but the restrictions have gone too far and too long.”

Newsom said in an interview with Stephanie Ruhle of MSNBC Thursday, California was just a few weeks away from meaningful changes that allow just that to happen.

A Sacramento federal judge recently ruled that Newsom’s stay order did not violate the constitutional rights to free assembly and religion when the Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi was ordered to cease services.

Last week, a San Diego federal judge denied a request by a Chula Vista church for a temporary restraining order against the state that would allow it to hold personal services.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who took questions after the president’s comments on Friday, struggled to cite any legal authority for the president to order governors to resume religious services by trying to divert by suggesting reporters who put questioning the validity of Trump’s move, churches would have to remain closed.

She said the White House would “leave it to the faith communities to reopen,” noting the recently released CDC guidelines and acknowledging the decision would be “up to the governors.”

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