Washington, D.C.—Today, the religious equality watchdog American Atheists denounced President Trump’s plan to force the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue guidance allowing places of worship to reopen. American Atheists also condemned Trump’s threat to “override” governors if churches are prevented from opening “this weekend.”
“President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to bend governors to his will. He is a president, not a king,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Government at American Atheists. “Medical science, not cheap political point scoring or culture war rhetoric, is what should be guiding decisions about when to allow large gatherings.”
Ironically, the CDC published a report today connecting high transmission rates of the virus to church events, specifically for a rural Arkansas church. The CDC also detailed the ability of churchgoers to transmit the virus to the broader community.
“Courts that have ruled on the substance of this issue have been clear. Houses of worship are not entitled to special exemptions from public health orders,” said Gill.
“It’s clear that the president is less concerned about the health and safety of churchgoers than he is about signalling special status for his religious backers,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “No one is singling out churches, and no one is celebrating the disruptions to all Americans’ day-to-day lives. His statement today has only complicated the work of governors and public health officials who are trying to save lives.”
“This virus doesn’t discriminate or make exceptions on the basis of religion, and neither should the president,” added Fish.