GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - President Trump announced Friday that churches and other houses of worship are deemed essential and urge all governors to allow them to open this weekend - going so far as to say that he will overrule them if they try to govern otherwise.
Last week, church leaders filed a federal lawsuit to have the right to worship inside in larger numbers than Governor Cooper’s latest order had allowed.
President Trump making the statement Friday, at a press conference saying, "Today I'm identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and houses of worship. It's not right."
He said if governors do NOT comply, he will override their rulings.
Eastern Pines Church minister D.J. Maxey, says he’s happy with the latest progress but remains cautious.
“I’m excited about it and with churches getting back together and fellowshipping. A lot of churches are struggling financially because you have buildings, you have overhead you have staff and so some churches are struggling a lot in that way,” says Maxey.
Governor Cooper’s office says the goal was to keep houses of worship from becoming hotspots for the virus. They warn that large groups sitting together inside are more likely to spread the virus.
Maxey is adding services to their schedule to ensure that each service is staying below 50 percent capacity, but that everyone who wants to attend can still come.
He says if some churchgoers are still hesitant about attending in-person service they’ll still be streamed online.
President Trump said the CDC was in charge of releasing guidelines for church operations.
The CDC suggests that houses of worship provide protection for employees and those who are at high risk of getting the virus.
They say frequent cleaning, social distancing, and hand sanitizer use are encouraged.