The Associated Press reports that President Donald Trump is consulting faith leaders on “a phased-in return to broader in-person worship” after religious services had to move online after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered houses of worship nationwide.
A White House statement said Trump “mentioned his memories as a young child attending Billy Graham’s service at Yankee Stadium, and acknowledged that while he has enjoyed watching services online from the White House, he told the faith leaders it is important for people to soon be able to once again come together, pray, and worship.”
Those who participated in the call, including Jack Graham, pastor of Texas-based Prestonwood Baptist Church, and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council, said religious leaders want to get back to business carefully; Rodriguez himself said religious institutions “want to be a blessing and not a burden.”
Trump’s conversation with representatives of multiple Christian denominations and Jewish and Islamic groups came a day after the White House announced new guidelines on reopening the economy that say places of worship can operate so long as “strict physical distancing protocols” are adhered to.
The president has often courted the support of religious leaders, telling them as recently as last week to support him in November’s general election.
“We have a tremendous year coming up. We’re going to beat this plague. We’re going to beat this virus and we’re going to beat it soon,” Trump told the leaders on an off-the-record conference call. “We’re going to get our country back,” he said at the time. “We have a very, very powerful year coming up because you know what lies ahead. And we have to do it. People of faith have to do it. We have to have victory. So I just want to thank everybody very much. And I’m always here.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.