Federal Court Backs California’s Order Keeping Churches Closed After Donald Trump Demands They Reopen

A picture of the inside of a church.
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A federal court has affirmed an order from California Governor Gavin Newsom to keep churches closed, rejecting an order from Donald Trump that demanded governors reopen places of worship immediately.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling denying a request for a temporary restraining order against a ban on churches holding in-person services, part of the stringent measures put in place across the state in order to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. As ABC News reported, a group of clerics had argued that the ruling was a violation of their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion, which Trump had also argued in calling for governors to allow churches to reopen.

The two judges ruling against the request for a restraining order noted that the spread of the coronavirus has created a unique public health emergency.

”We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure,” Judges Jacqueline Nguyen and Barry Silverman wrote in the ruling denying the request.

The ruling appeared to affirm what critics claimed of Trump’s order — that he did not have the authority to overrule governors on their decisions of what businesses to keep closed and what can remain open.

In his statement on Friday, Trump said that it was an injustice that churches and other places of worship were closed in the first place.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential,” Trump said.

A report from Politico cast doubt on the true motives behind Trump’s order, saying he was attempting to shore up support among religious conservatives. The report noted that there is growing anxiety within Trump’s campaign about his slipping support with the Christian right, a demographic that was critical for him during his surprise presidential win in 2016.

Trump has clashed with Newsom in the past, though the California governor has taken a more cordial relationship with Trump during the coronavirus outbreak, even praising the president for the federal government’s delivery of medical supplies to California. As The Associated Press reported, Trump returned the compliment at one of the White House’s daily coronavirus press briefings.

“Gavin Newsom was very nice today,” Trump said after the California governor had publicly praised him. “They’ve done very well in California,” he said.