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White House overrules CDC on church reopenings to please evangelicals

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  • The White House has shelved guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to reopen churches and religious spaces from lockdown measures. 
  • The CDC wanted them to be issued with detailed guidance on how to reopen without risking a new wave of infections. 
  • But according to The Washington Post, the White House believed the advice was too restrictive and could risk angering evangelicals, a key base for President Donald Trump.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A rift has opened between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over guidelines issued to churches about reopening while avoiding a new surge in coronavirus infections, reported The Washington Post. 

The CDC this week issued reopening guidelines for schools, small businesses, restaurants, childcare facilities, and public transport.

Guidelines for the reopening of churches and other religious institutions were conspicuously absent. 

The reason for this, three administration sources told The Post, was anxiety in the White House that the CDC’s advice for reopening churches were too restrictive, and could anger religious voters, such as the white evangelicals who form one of the core elements of President Donald Trump’s support.

Advice such as limits on hymnals, the size of choirs, or the passing of collection plates was disputed by the White House, according to the report. 

The failure to reach a compromise meant that advice for reopening churches was shelved.

“You’re talking about that group that is really vulnerable to this virus, and those are the ones you don’t have guidelines for and that you need to protect,” Tara Smith, an epidemiology professor at Kent State University, told The Post.

White House spokesman Judd Deere told The Post that Trump and “all Americans want to see their churches safely open again. Not only is it good for the community, it’s their right under the Constitution to worship freely without government intrusion.”

The closure of churches has emerged as one of the key battlegrounds between the Trump administration — which favors a quick end to lockdown measures — and state authorities who advocate a more cautious approach to ending the restrictions designed to slow the spread of the disease. 

The Justice Department in recent weeks has issued statements of support for a Virginia church that launched a lawsuit against state authorities for demanding that it limit itself a maximum of ten worshippers, as well as warned California Gov. Gavin Newsom that the state’s gradual plans for easing lockdown could discriminate against religious communities. 

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