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Rarely is a politician eager to kill off his own base. But Donald Trump likely thinks promoting the idea of Christian persecution is worth the sacrifice of a bunch of elderly Christians who foolishly attend church this weekend despite the very real threat of COVID-19.

Trump said at a press conference this afternoon that he believed churches were “essential” — they’re not, certainly not in the pandemic sense — and that they should reopen this weekend no matter what.

President Donald Trump on Friday said he has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” and called on governors to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of the coronavirus.

“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said during a hastily arranged press conference Friday. He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.

He doesn’t have that authority. The people who constantly whine about states’ rights don’t seem to know how the 10th Amendment works. It’s also weird that the same president who wanted to ban Muslims from entering the country is now pretending to care about their “religious freedom.” (For what it’s worth, American mosques have, by and large, remained closed during this pandemic because they understand the health risk.)

Trump also added that “We need more prayer, not less,” not pointing out that God can presumably hear you from wherever you are, even if you’re alone, and you don’t need to be in a place of worship for your prayers to “count.”

As it stands, churches that have already opened up have been notoriously awful about following safety guidelines, which is why we’ve seen many outbreaks at places of worship. Unlike grocery stores, which are actually essential, churches are meant to be places where you interact with other people, sing/talk/open your mouth, shake hands and hug, etc. Keeping your social distance is all but impossible for people used to a specific style of worship. And unlike getting groceries, you’re not just going in and out as quickly as possible.

The pastors who open their doors right now are ultimately putting their own members in harm’s way. They don’t care. They think this is about “freedom” because a lifetime of rejecting science has turned following sensible virus protocols into an anti-faith conspiracy theory. And Trump is eager to egg them on because his base is too ignorant to realize he doesn’t give a damn about them.

When asked where Trump would be attending church this weekend, by the way, he ignored the question. Because of course he did. He’s not putting his life in danger if he doesn’t have to; he’s fine with letting gullible Christians do it on his behalf.

Since Trump and a bunch of pastors don’t care about the lives of Christians, let me state the obvious: Stay home. Worship from a distance. Wear masks if you go outside. Respect social distancing. Consider the health of strangers because it’s the decent thing to do.

Or, you know, go sacrifice a bunch of elderly Christians to own the libs. I don’t understand the strategy but a bunch of conservatives seem all too eager to embrace it.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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