trump-houses-of-worship-essential by the Forward

Trump says he’ll open houses of worship as ‘essential’ — but he can’t do that

Image by Getty

In a surprise announcement Friday afternoon President Donald Trump said he was deeming houses of worship “essential,” and said he would “override” governors if they push back on the designation — echoing a prior claim about his “total authority” over states that he abandoned.

Trump can try to use political persuasion to sway the states, but according to the constitution, he doesn’t have the power, according to the Brookings Institute.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” Trump said during a hastily arranged press conference. “It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

The president presented no evidence that he has the authority to “override” governors on reopening state businesses or houses of worship.

Trump took no questions after the announcement.

The last time Trump claimed authority over states in reopening businesses, he faced strong pushback from some governors. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo sarcastically called Trump “king” in a strong rebuke of the comments.

On Thursday, Cuomo’s latest order allowing people to hold socially-distanced religious gatherings of 10 people or fewer went into effect, following lobbying from some Jewish groups, such as Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella organization. Orthodox leaders have pressed the governor for guidance on reopening yeshivas as more of them have begun to operate in secret.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman


Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. He covers Jewish religious organizations, synagogue life, anti-Semitism and the Orthodox world. If you have any tips, you can email him at Follow him on Twitter @aefeldman.

Trump: churches essential, governors must open them

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Trump says he’ll open houses of worship as ‘essential’ — but he can’t do that

Thank you!

This article has been sent!