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First Amendment HERO: Trump tells governors “reopen them immediately,” ”houses of worship are ‘essential’

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If the governors fail to step up, he would “override them.” The Democrats may not know it – but that there is Trump’s landslide.

President Trump announced Friday that all houses of worship would be considered “essential services” and urged governors to “do the right thing” and reopen them immediately — adding that he would “override” them if they didn’t.

“Today, I am identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues, and mosques, as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump declared in a sudden White House briefing.

“At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith,” he said.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics [are] essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship, it’s not right. So I am correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now,” the president said, adding that he’d overrule governors who don’t comply.

“If there is any question, they will have to call me, but they are not going to be successful in that call,”’ he asserted.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they do not do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump concluded before leaving the briefing room without taking questions.

Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force said moments later that while the president wants houses of worship opened this weekend, some may want to wait to protect their congregations.

“Certainly, people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them, so really ensuring that maybe they can’t go this week if there’s a high number of COVID cases, maybe they wait another week,” Birx said, adding that faith leaders should contact their local health departments.

“I really firmly believe a knowledgeable community can really make judgments for themselves. I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health departments so that they can communicate to their congregants.”

Trump Finds His Pay Grade

Now we know why it’s the President who gets paid the big bucks — it’s the First Amendment. That epiphany struck in the wake of President Trump’s declaration today that houses of worship will be considered among those institutions that are “essential services.” He called on governors to “do the right thing” and “reopen them immediately.” Plus, too, he said if the governors fail to step up, he would “override them.”

This is being met with indignation in the secular press. Feature, say, the Daily Beast, which describes the President as trying “to stoke an ugly battle with governors over religion” by “demanding that every house of worship in the country reopen ‘right now’ regardless of state rules.” We’re notoriously slow, we admit, but we don’t see where the President ordered any — even one — church, synagogue, or mosque to do anything.

The President, it seems, gets the spirit of the First Amendment. It doesn’t require houses of worship to do anything. It doesn’t even grant religious institutions, or religious persons, rights. They are endowed with their rights by God. What the Constitution’s First Amendment does is prohibit Congress from interfering with God-given rights — a prohibition that the courts have incorporated as binding on the states as well.

So what Mr. Trump is doing is exactly what the Constitution requires him to do — forbear from abridging the free exercise of religion. What a contrast the president is to, say, Governor Murphy of New Jersey. He sent officers to a synagogue and owing to alleged failures to observe social distancing charged 15 men who were there for a funeral. It was a shocking development, and led to Tucker Carlson asking the governor about it on television.

“By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order?” is how Mr. Carlson put it, referring to the governor’s order to regulate religious services. “How do you have the power to do that?” That’s when Mr. Murphy answered: “That’s above my pay grade. I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.” Science,” he explained, says “people have to stay away from each other.”

How many religious institutions will open up to in-person worship in their sanctuaries, and on what specs, we don’t know. Our guess is that each congregation will reason out the most responsible approach for its circumstances. Governors and state authorities are free to make recommendations. If they try to interfere, though, it’s not true that Mr. Trump would lack for authority.

On the contrary, he is sworn to a Constitution that grants him the authority — and obligation — to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. The First Amendment is but one of the most famous of these laws. So Mr. Trump could, need be, take states and governors to court and compel them to comply with the Bill of Rights. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks, and, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s cheap at the price.

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