President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he asked health authorities to issue guidelines for reopening churches closed by the coronavirus, after his government refused to do so for weeks.
While visiting Michigan, Trump said he had discussed the matter with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“I said‘ you better get them released. ‘ And they are doing it, ”said Trump in a plant of the Ford Motor Co. converted to manufacture artificial respirators, in the Ypsilanti municipality. “And they are going to broadcast something today or tomorrow about the churches. We have to open our churches. “
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlung said Thursday afternoon that “we hope soon” the measures will be released for churches. A senior official said the announcement is scheduled for Friday.
More than a month ago, the CDC sent documents to the Trump administration that they had prepared with specific measures that different types of organizations could follow as they gradually reopen. The recommendations were for seven types of organizations, including schools, restaurants, and religious facilities.
Those drafts included detailed information for churches wishing to resume services with people in the temples, with suggestions that included keeping distance between parishioners and limiting the number of attendees.
Initially the Trump administration archived all the documents, but they were obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations. Some health authorities censured the measure, stating that organizations need recommendations based on science as much as possible while trying to reopen without causing coronavirus outbreaks.
Provisions for the other six types of organizations were released last week and this week, although government officials had said there would be no announcement soon for places of worship.
Last week, a Trump administration official who requested anonymity said there were concerns about the desirability of the government presenting specific mandates to the temples. And Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Affairs of the Department of Health and Human Services, argued that “protections against religious discrimination are not suspended during an emergency.”
However, Trump presented a different picture Thursday, hinting that he had urged the CDC to come up with measures to help reopen the temples.
“We have to open our churches. People want to enter, “he said.
Two senior officials who requested anonymity to comment on internal deliberations said government officials had concerns about religious freedom, but were resolved. They did not give details on how they were resolved, but stressed that the health recommendations are not a requirement.
After the AP reported on the draft measure for religious organizations, Russell Moore, president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, praised the CDC’s recommendations, saying they were “informative without being overly harsh.” But since those measures were not released, churches in various states proceeded with their plans to reopen while many others remain closed.
Maggie Siddiqi, director of religious initiatives at the liberal organization Center for American Progress, said the delay reflected political concerns within the government that lead to a “confused and problematic” stance. Siddiqi’s organization recommends that no places of worship resume activities.