In a bold move last week, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would seek to immediately reopen houses of worship across the country.
Next came an order to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to classify churches, synagogues, and mosques as “essential places that provide essential services.”
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” President Trump said in the White House press room, punctuating his statement with the words, “It’s not right.”
“The people are demanding to go to their church and synagogue, to go to their mosque,” the president said, adding that in America “we need more prayer, not less.”
Spirituality, by virtue of its existence, is essential. In America, its manifestation has historically been safeguarded by the words contained in our inspired foundational document.
Hard to believe that we could ever have been denied the necessity of the soul.
President Trump had another message for officials who have little sense of urgency and seem content to delay indefinitely when it comes to allowing houses of worship to reopen.
“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” the president said.
His remarks have been mischaracterized by the Democrats and the antagonistic media from the moment they were uttered. Many of the same partisan organizations and individuals show little or no regard for a paramount constitutional right—the free exercise of religion.
Some of the so-called experts have weighed in, indicating that President Trump does not have the authority to override governors who are dragging their feet on the reopening of religious institutions.
As head of the executive branch, the president maintains the authority to utilize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to accomplish the objective of securing the cooperation of the governors.
Among the many options, lawsuits can be filed and judges can impose limitations on the actions of governors who are in violation of federal and/or state constitutions. Attorney General William Barr has already demonstrated that he is willing to enter the fray of legal challenges to governors’ orders.
The free exercise of religion is included in our First Amendment precisely because the founders understood the essential nature of religious liberty. To ever have given houses of worship a “non-essential” label not only runs counter to the First Amendment, but it has the potential to hinder a primary life process in which an individual and/or groups engage, particularly in times of distress or anxiety.
Our country’s first president would have been on board with our current president in understanding the necessity for spirituality and religious expression.
As shown in Arnold Friberg’s famous painting “The Prayer at Valley Forge,” the image of then-General George Washington on his knees has inspired Americans since the work of art was first unveiled in 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial.
As the story goes, a young Pennsylvania senator named Isaac Potts was against the war that gave birth to America. His opposition would not last long, though.
One day he happened upon a man who was immersed in deep prayer. At his side a sword lay placid on the ground. The solitary figure turned out to be General Washington himself, asking the Almighty to assist him in his cause of emancipating a nascent country.
Reflecting on the prayer, Potts became convinced that the American Revolution “was the cause of God, and America could prevail.”
President George Washington would later say, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Perhaps much like something President Washington would have said if faced with the same circumstances, President Trump let governors and officials across the land know that religious institutions, and the worship services they provide, play an essential role.
He has spoken for the searchers whose life-sustaining spirituality is, and always will be, essential.
And the people shouted hallelujah.