By Marisa Schultz | Fox News
Trump deems houses of worship ‘essential services’ amid pandemicVideo
Trump deems houses of worship ‘essential services’ amid pandemic
President Trump addresses updated guidance on reopening houses of worship.
President Trump on Friday announced that new Centers for Disease Control guidance will classify houses of worship as “essential,” as he called on governors to allow them to open “right now” after being closed during the coronavirus lockdowns.
Trump announced the policy for churches, synagogues and mosques, during a short briefing at the White House.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”
“In America, we need more prayer not less,” Trump added.
It’s unclear under what authority Trump has to override governors. But Trump took issue with certain businesses being open in certain states, while churches are not.
“Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential,” Trump said. “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.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released interim guidelines Friday for communities of faith that acknowledge “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life” but also warn that “gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19.”
The guidelines encourage the use of cloth face coverings during services, limiting the size of gatherings, social distancing during services and suspending or decreasing choirs and singing in church since “singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC says.
Last week the CDC released new guidelines that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns. The document, however, excluded guidance for churches and faith-based groups because the White House raised concerns about the recommended restrictions, the Associated Press reported.
The announcement comes after Trump has been hearing an earful from faith leaders who are unable to hold Sunday services due to coronavirus restrictions at a time when their parishioners are grappling with the crisis. Families may be grieving the loss of loved ones from the virus or struggling with job losses but unable to seek respite in their places of worship.
On Thursday, Trump had a conference call with 1,600 pastors and faith leaders from around the country, including Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. He reassured them he wants to get churches reopened. The evangelical Christian community was instrumental in supporting Trump during his 2016 White House bid and he’s maintained strong ties with Christian leaders throughout his presidency.
Trump telegraphed the decision Thursday when he announced he spoke to the CDC on finding ways to reopen houses of worship during the pandemic.
“We’ve got to get our churches open,” Trump said Thursday.
Churches across the country had to close down due to stay-home orders necessary to stop the spread of the contagious virus. Faith leaders set up online services and families tuned in Sunday mornings from their computers at home.
Earlier in the pandemic, Trump expressed optimism that churches would be opened by Easter Sunday, April 12. But April turned out to be an extremely deadly month for the pandemic, and parishioners had to celebrate Easter from home.
Some faith leaders have argued that social distancing rules have violated First Amendment religious freedoms. Others have defied state and local rules and tried to reopen.
“The discrimination that has been occurring against churches and houses of worship has been shocking,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the First Liberty Institute, a legal organization dedicated to defending religious freedom. “We applaud the President’s strong stance today demanding that these attacks must stop and that churches and houses of worship be freed to safely open. Americans are going to malls and restaurants. They need to be able to go to their houses of worship.”
Attorney General William Barr warned last month that coronavirus restrictions by state and local government should be applied evenly and not single out religious organizations.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that showed just how quickly the virus can spread at church. The study showed that two symptomatic people who later tested positive for COVID-19 attended church events in rural Arkansas back in early March. At least 35 of 92 attendees at the events contracted the virus and three of them died. Twenty-six other people in the community with links to the church have also contracted the virus, with one person dying
“We stayed home so the virus quieted down and stopped spreading widely where it was spreading widely, but it’s still out there,” former CDC director Tom Frieden told Fox News Wednesday. “So anytime you have a lot of people together in an indoor space and one of them is infectious, you can have a lot of cases.”
Fox News’ Victor Garcia contributed to this report.
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Rick Wiles: ‘There Will Be Blood in the Streets’ If Bill Gates Continues to Push for Vaccinations
Rick Wiles Says Bill Gates Is ‘Building Lucifer’s Antichrist System’ by Supporting Vaccine Technology
End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles’ hatred of vaccines led him to threaten to confiscate all of Bill Gates’ wealth during last night’s episode of his “TruNews” program.
Last month, Wiles attacked Gates as “an enemy of the human race” over the latter’s support for vaccines and technology that could be used to determine who has and who has not been vaccinated. Wiles returned to the topic again last night, warning that if Gates continues to support such measures, Wiles and millions of other Americans will rise up, demand that he be stripped of his wealth, and run him out of the country.
“Bill Gates wants to get a microchip in your body, he wants a microchip in your baby’s body,” Wiles said. “If Mr. Gates and other billionaires continue to push their agenda, then they are going to push people like me to call for the confiscation of their wealth. I mean it. If these guys continue this talk of requiring mass vaccinations, immunity cards, immunity passports, microchips, buddy, you’re starting a fight you’ll wish you never started because the American people will rise up, and we will strip you down to your tighty whities.”
“Christians had better get ready for a confrontation with these people,” he continued. “They’re coming after us and our families. They have an evil agenda and the government needs to know there will be an uprising if they try to do it. There will be blood in the streets if Bill Gates pushes this agenda … The American people, we will rise up and we will march on your mansion in Seattle, we will sink your yacht that you just bought.”
“The American people need to get riled up and ready to defend the sanctity of their lives,” Wiles declared. “Don’t be like the Jewish people who marched into the gas chambers.”
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Q Conference: God using COVID-19 as time to ‘prune the Church,’ says Francis Chan
God is using the coronavirus pandemic as a time to “prune the Church and cut off branches that aren’t bearing fruit,” ultimately allowing the Body of Christ to become more “fruitful,” according to popular speaker and author Francis Chan.
Chan, former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday participated in the Q 2020 Virtual Summit, an annual event that equips Christian leaders to thoughtfully engage culture from a Christian worldview.
“I hear a lot of talk of people being concerned about whether their church is going to survive,” Chan, speaking via livestream, told host Gabe Lyons. “The illustration I think of is, if I had a diamond right here, and I just smash it with a hammer, what would happen to that diamond? Nothing. If it’s a real diamond, if it shatters, it wasn’t real.”
He pointed out that in Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
“This is going to be a group that the gates of Hell can’t stand against,” Chan explained. “No virus, no government, no economic this or that, life, death, nothing. And so we as believers are supposed to trust the words of Jesus and go, ‘The Church is going to be fine. If anything, this is the time where God is going to prune the Church and cut off branches that aren’t bearing fruit, but it’s only going to become more fruitful.’”
“And so with that type of confidence, we have to move forward and go, what’s the worst thing that happened to me? I die and receive the award I’ve been … longing for my whole life. We can be fearless.”
Statistics from a recent Barna Group survey found that six to nine percent of pastors are unsure or not P attractive, credible and influential in the church, our communities and the next generation,” notes the event website.
Founded in 2007 by Gabe and Rebekah Lyons, this year’s conference focused largely on the COVID-19 pandemic and the role and obligation of the Christian church in response.
“We’re trying to understand the cultural moment as best as we can,” Gabe Lyons said at the start of the conference. “And in doing that, really relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us … the power of the Spirit is critical to us understanding. This is what separates us as Christians from the rest of the world and those who don’t believe and don’t understand. We are to have ears to understand and eyes to see.”
“I hope we all can come into this with a posture of worship,” he added. “With a posture of, we don’t know it all, we won’t know it all, but we do know the one who understands, who sees, who knows the future, who we can have hope in. That’s where we want to place our hope.”
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Bible Sales Soar, Google Search for ‘Prayer’ Skyrockets
Bible publishers reporting jump in sales amid coronavirus fears
Publishing companies that sell Bibles have reported an increase in purchases in recent weeks, likely connected to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Tyndale House Publishers, a Christian publisher based in Carol Stream, Illinois, saw a considerable increase in their Bible sales last month compared to March 2019.
This includes their Life Application Study Bible sales going up 44% and sales of the Immerse Bible going up 60%, according to Jim Jewell, an executive at Tyndale.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, Jewell said he believes concerns over the pandemic “has upended almost everyone’s lives in some way.”
“It’s not surprising that people turn to the comfort and clarity of the Bible in times of trouble and uncertainty,” he said, adding that social media engagement for Tyndale was also growing.
“On [our Facebook page for the] New Living Translation, where we post Bible verse memes, engagement was triple what it was last March and up 72% from just last month.”
Jewell told CP that this was not the first time a national crisis has led to higher Bible sales. He said in the month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “Tyndale Bible sales were 57% higher than October of 2000.”
Alabaster Co. of California, which was founded in 2017 and sells books of the Bible individually that have visually artistic features, reported a 143% boost in sales compared to last year.
Brian Chung, co-founder of Alabaster, told Fox News that he believed the sales jump occurred because “people are looking for hope and restoration.”
“Even amidst suffering and financial hardship we’ve continued to see people engage with Alabaster by utilizing our free resources and purchasing Bibles as encouraging gifts for loved ones,” Chung said.
“We believe people are buying Bibles because there’s a longing to connect with God, find meaning, and experience peace.”
The increases in Bible sales reported by multiple publishing companies is not the only evidence indicating growing efforts among the population to find spiritual answers amid the pandemic.
According to Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, internet searches for the word “prayer” have dramatically increased since last month.
In a preliminary draft of a paper titled “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Bentzen found that “search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”
“In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for stress relief and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” wrote Bentzen.
“I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global.”
Bentzen added that the searches “surged to the highest level during the past five years for which comparative Google search data is available, surpassing all other major events that otherwise instigate intensified demand for prayer, such as Christmas, Easter, and Ramadan.”
“Even Denmark, one of the least religious countries in the world, sees systematic increases in internet searches on prayer,” she noted.
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