More than a thousand pastors in Minnesota and California plan to resume worship in the coming weeks, despite state restrictions.
The anticipated release of new federal guidance on in-person religious services comes at a precarious point in the national balancing act that pits the call of worship against the risk of coronavirus.
Even before President Donald Trump said Friday that he considered religious institutions “essential places that provide essential services” and vowed that guidance would be coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Christian leaders in several states made plans to welcome back congregants on the week of Pentecost, May 31.
The new advice could energize houses of worship that might want to reopen their doors, despite evidence of ongoing risk of the virus spreading through communal gatherings.
Tension over when and how to reopen houses of worship has varied depending on the state, as different areas set their own pace for easing pandemic stay-at-home orders. Trump called for the resumption of in-person religious services repeatedly this week, saying Friday that “we want our churches and our places of faith and worship, we want them to open.”
While Trump said delayed CDC guidance for faith organizations could come as soon as Friday, the timetable for release remained unclear.
The president suggested on Thursday that friction over the issue was more common in states run by Democrats because “churches are not being treated with respect” by many their governors.
One of those Democrats, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, was warned this week by Trump’s Justice Department that the state’s phased-in plan to restart economic activity puts an “unfair burden” on worship by not permitting churches to open earlier in the process. More than 1,200 California pastors are planning …