On Thursday, President Trump declared houses of worship as "essential" and demanded governors to let churches reopen "right away." Governor Inslee's office responded hours after trump threatened to "override" state leaders' restrictions if they do not do so by the weekend.
The various "stay-home" orders set in place have not acknowledged religious activities as essential, and unlike recognized essential businesses, churches have been forbidden from gathering. While governors have begun to reopen non-essential business gradually, the religious organizations weren't handled primarily by the governor's office.
According to the KOMO News Radio, a spokeswoman for Inslee rebuked the president's statement.
The spokeswoman said in a written statement, "Our office continues to work with spiritual leaders and health experts to identify ways to do this safely. While we have read the president's comments, there is no order and we think he understands at this point that he can't dictate what states can or cannot open."
So far, Washington state only allows drive-in services per governor Jay Inslee's mandate.
Some accuse Inslee of political favoritism toward some businesses mentioning that there is no announced plan for the reopening of religious organizations.
"Meanwhile, a virtual laundry list of Governor Inslee's favored or politically connected businesses and organizations, like big box stores, pot shops, abortion clinics, manufacturing plants, and government operations are allowed to open in a prudent and safe manner. Today, there is no expectation or plan that Governor Inslee will allow churches or religious services to open any time this year. One routinely sees this sort of religious suppression occurring in Communist China; now, we see it happening here in Washington State," said Mark Miloscia from the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW).
Several religious leaders were anxiously waiting for the state to announce the guidelines that would allow them to begin reopening their doors.
One of them is pastor Kevin Gerald from Champions Centre in Tacoma.
"We certainly want to open up safely," said Kevin Gerald "We want to open up smaller than normal. We want to have only a certain capacity of people within the building. My hope is that we would be treated like other gathering places."
Gerald said he wants a similar approach that restaurants get when counties move to phase 2 along with a limit to how many worshippers are allowed in. Church visitors will also be required to maintain social distancing.
Currently, Washington state authorities are progressing with a phased approach to reopening the state. Those phases are below:
- Phase 1: Some outdoor recreation are allowed but the state's ban on large gatherings will remain and only certain businesses, including construction, landscaping, automobile sales and curb-side pick-up for retail sales.
- Phase 2: Outdoor recreation of five or less are permitted along with in-store purchases retailers, with some restrictions, real estate transactions and hair salons and barbers are allowed to resume their operations. Restaurants can reopen provided they can accommodate half of their capacity with tables that seat no more than five people.
- Phase 3: The size of outdoor groups grows to up to 50 peoples and non-essential travel is permitted; The capacity of restaurants grows to 70 percent but tables cannot seat more than 10 people; movie theaters can reopen.
- Phase 4: Public interactions resume with physical distancing; gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed; clubs, concerts and large sporting events are permitted.