President Donald Trump recently declared houses of worship essential. On May 23, a Newsday story [“Worship sites ‘essential’”] included the claim that the president was “playing to his political base.” In fact, Trump has asserted the rights of Americans of every faith and political party to worship freely. Beyond the flattening of the COVID-19 curve, many governors and mayors used their power to deny free exercise of religion and singled out worship for continued, stringent restrictions. Churches, synagogues and mosques are essential for sustaining spirituality, comfort and aid in times of fear and uncertainty. Anyone already accepting liquor stores and home-improvement stores as “essential” is, in effect, attacking Trump along partisan lines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interim guidelines for communities of faith are thorough. We are as safe attending worship services as going inside a store. Who decides if shopping is more essential than worship? Constitutionally empowered individuals do.
Editor’s note: The writer is president of Catholics for Freedom of Religion.
I beg to differ with President Donald Trump’s assessment in the article “Worship sites ‘essential.’” The First Presbyterian Church of Greenlawn, where I serve as pastor, has been meeting via Zoom for more than two months. Attendance is up almost 50%, and the congregation continues to be quite generous in its giving. In fact, most of the houses of worship with which I am familiar are holding online services quite successfully. To quote an old children’s hymn, “The church is not a building. The church is people.” And we, the people, are in no rush to return to our buildings until everything is deemed safe.
The Rev. Ann M. Van Cleef,