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Despite Trump's Demand, Not All Houses Of Worship Reopen


So yesterday, we heard from a pastor in Massachusetts who fought to keep his church open despite stay-at-home orders in his state. And today, we're going to hear about churches in California and Minnesota that are choosing to stay closed even though the governors in those states say they can reopen with some restrictions. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: State and local authorities ordered churches closed in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But in a call with pastors last week, President Trump said he saw the issue in political terms. Some of these Democrat governors - they'd be happy if you never opened again, he said. Rabbi Jill Crimmings of the Bet Shalom congregation in Minnetonka, Minn., says that's not the way she looks at the question.

JILL CRIMMINGS: As rabbis, we do our best to step outside of that political conversation and speak from a space of values.

GJELTEN: Like preserving life, she adds. Crimmings is co-chair of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association. All 42 rabbis in the association say they'll keep their synagogues closed. Rabbi Aaron Weininger is her co-chair.

AARON WEININGER: We're not divided based on our political affiliation but united in our resolve to uphold science and uphold safety.

GJELTEN: Catholic churches in Minnesota will resume in-person Masses today in a limited capacity, as Archbishop Bernard Hebda last week said would happen regardless of the governor's position. The Minnesota branch of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will also be reopening churches, but other Lutheran churches will remain closed, as will United Methodist churches in Minnesota and mosques in the Minnesota wing of the Muslim American Society.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom's new guidelines for church reopenings represent a retreat from his previous ban on in-person worship, but the size of church gatherings will be limited, and strict social distancing will be required. Guy Erwin is a bishop in the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

GUY ERWIN: All these things are going to make it very difficult to resume worship in anything like a normal form. So I think it will be challenging for people to actually gather for worship in this way, and we don't realize yet how challenging it will be.

GJELTEN: Several polls suggest that Americans are reluctant to go back to church as long as the coronavirus remains a threat.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF POPPY ACKROYD'S "CROFT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

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