On Wednesday, both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence advised pastors to either avoid hosting in-door church services altogether or keeping the capacity strictly at 10 people while maintaining a proper social distance.
During his press conference on Wednesday, the president expressed disappointment over the fact that churches cannot meet during this pandemic while ultimately conceding that the closures are a matter of public health.
“Some churches, as you know, have continued to hold services, even though you have advised people that they need to practice social distancing,” a reporter told Trump. “There was a pastor of a mega church in Florida over the weekend who held services that were attended by several hundred people. Should pastors be holding services in the middle of this pandemic, and even if they do, should Americans be going to church?”
“Well, my biggest disappointment is that churches can’t meet in a time of need,” the president responded. “This is really a great time for a church to be together, for people to get together on a Sunday or whenever and meet. And yet, if you do that, if you do it close, then you are really giving this invisible enemy a very big advantage. ”
The president’s statement nearly echoed that of Vice President Mike Pence, who told “Nightline” co-anchor Byron Pitts on Wednesday that churches should host no more than 10 people if they are going to host services at all.
“We’re so grateful to churches and synagogues and places of worship around America that have heeded the president’s coronavirus guidelines for America,” he said. “We really believe this is a time when people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. And, and so, we continue to urge churches around America to heed to that.”
This past weekend, police in Florida arrested Pastor Howard-Browne, 58, for hosting a church service in violation of social distancing guidelines. Though the pastor could have hosted the service online, he invited people to the sanctuary against police advice. Upon the arrest, the pastor and his supporters argued his First Amendment rights were being violated; State Attorney Andrew Warren disputed this stance.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the pastor here is hiding behind the First Amendment,” said Warren. “One, it’s absolutely clear that emergency orders like this are constitutional and valid. Second of all, leaders from our faith-based community across this country have embraced the importance of social distancing.”
On a more somber note on Tuesday, the White House predicted that COVID-19 could cause between 100k to 200k deaths in the United States. President Trump has called upon Americans to brace themselves for a brutal two weeks.
“As a nation we’re going to have a really rough two weeks. Our strength will be tested and our endurance will be tried,” Trump said. “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two or maybe even three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before. The surge is coming, and it’s coming pretty strong. As a nation we face a difficult few weeks as we approach that really important day when we going see things get better all of a sudden. And its going to be like a burst of light.”