US President Donald Trump said, “In America, we need more prayer, not less,” and said that he will ‘override governors’ on reopening churches.
Trump on Friday urged state governors to allow places of worship to open, citing it as an essential service. However, it is not within the president’s power to force governors to open places of worship. He, however, does have the power to withhold federal aid to states he feels aren’t adequately allowing places to resume religious services.
Governors are responsible for the varying degrees of stay-at-home measures that have been put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
There have been several COVID-19-related outbreaks in the US that were traced back to church gatherings. In April, 70 infections were linked to a church in Sacramento, California.
On Monday, 180 people in Butte County, California were asked to self-quarantine after it was revealed that one person who attended the religious service at a local church was tested positive for COVID-19. State governments are responsible for how their states will react to the pandemic. They have the power to impose varying degrees of stay-at-home measures in accordance with the situation in their state.
The Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to override certain decisions “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.” Congress also had the authority to regulate the national economy and to remove obstacles to interstate trade and could enact a federal law to pre-empt any state order that would cause a business to close.
Trump can try to influence Republican judges to have churches reopened. Being head of the Republican Party, his words might shape the views of many Republicans, some of them, who are sitting judges.
He can also invoke existing laws that give the federal executive branch some power to help manage a public health crisis. These statutes, however, allow the federal government to support ongoing state-instated measures to control a disease.