Trump says Christian faith 'treated very unfairly' during COVID-19 pandemic

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers his remarks at a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Thursday, March 26, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers his remarks at a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Thursday, March 26, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. | Official White House Photo/Andrea Hanks

President Donald Trump said over the weekend that the Christian faith is being “treated very unfairly” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as state and local governments have enforced social distancing against church gatherings.  

In a press briefing Saturday, the president was asked why he retweeted an April 14 tweet from former Washington bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily Paul Sperry. 

Sperry’s tweet questioned whether authorities across the nation will enforce social-distancing orders for mosques during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which runs from April 23 through May 23. 

“Yeah — no, I would like to see that,” Trump said in a rambling response. “And, you know, I just spoke with leaders and people that love mosques; they love mosques, and I’m all in favor of that.”

Trump seemingly criticized local governments that have enforced stay-at-home orders against church gatherings as some pastors and churchgoers in various regions of the country have been issued citations or fines for attending in-person or parking lot services. 

“So I would be interested to see that because they go after Christian churches, but they don’t tend to go after mosques,” Trump went on. “And I don’t want them to go after mosques, but I do want to see what their — what their bent is.”

Trump also stated that he has “seen a great disparity in this country.” He suggested that Democrats in Congress have a “very strong anti-Israel bent,” especially with the emergence of liberal Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Acasio-Cortez of New York. 

When asked if he is suggesting that Muslim religious leaders won’t follow social distancing policies put in place by states and local governments, Trump responded,  “No … I just had a call [with] imams. I just had a call with ministers, rabbis. We had a tremendous call with the faith leaders. No, I don’t think that at all.”

Trump hosted a call with faith leaders on Friday in which they discussed a phased return to in-person worship. 

“I am somebody that believes in faith,” Trump said during the press briefing. “And it matters not what your faith is. But our politicians seem to treat different faiths very differently.” 

For weeks, many churches across the country have suspended in-person worship services. While many churches shifted services online or to parking lots in which attendees sit in their cars and listen to the service, others have defied local and state orders by continuing to hold in-person services. 

Trump’s comments come after a number of churches across the nation have filed lawsuits in response to local social distancing orders barring them from holding worship services without the fear of government reprisal. 

In recent weeks, pastors have received citations or have been arrested for holding worship services at their church. In one case, some attendees of a parking lot church service in Mississippi received citations and faced the possibility of $500 in fines. 

After the Department of Justice intervened, arguing that churches were being singled out, the Greenville mayor reversed course to allow drive-in worship services.

In his press briefing remarks, Trump stressed that he doesn’t know “what happened with our country. “ 

“But the Christian faith is treated much differently than it was,” he said. “And I think it’s treated very unfairly.”

The Trump administration released its proposed phased approach called “Opening Up America Again.” Among other things, the approach calls for places of worship and other gathering places to be reopened under strict physical distancing protocols under phase one. 

Proponents of holding church services have argued that it is unfair that some governments allow dozens upon dozens of people to pack into stores like Home Depot or Costco but churches are not allowed to hold in-person services even if they maintain proper social distancing protocols. 

In multiple regions across the globe — from Sacramento to South Korea — church services held before social distancing protocols were put into place have been blamed for sparking surges in coronavirus infections. 

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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