Trump White House officials overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on rules for religious services, The Washington Post reports.
The White House in May removed CDC advice urging churches to hold virtual services to combat the spread of Covid, according to newly-released emails.
The CDC planned to send out the guidance after the virus had infected 87% of attendees at a Washington state church event but Trump officials called the advice “problematic.”
“This removes all the tele-church suggestions, though personally I will say that if I was old and vulnerable (I do feel old and vulnerable), drive through services would sound welcome,” wrote White House lawyer May Davis Mailman, attaching a version of the guidance with the religious service advice scrubbed.
The CDC ultimately published guidance that did not include virtual or drive-through recommendations.
Officials pushed to delete:
The emails show that officials like Kellyanne Conway and Paul Ray pushed to delete the guidance.
“I have proposed several passages for deletion,” Ray wrote, arguing that recommendations “raise religious liberty concerns.”
Ray suggested that the agency be allowed to publish only “contingent on striking the offensive passages.”
Conway praised Ray for “holding firm against this newest round of mission creep.”
“Each faith tradition—not the federal government—is best situated to understand the demands of its own beliefs and therefore to choose, among the multiple effective means of preventing the virus’s spread, those means that best comport with its beliefs,” Ray told the Post. “The edits proposed to this document were designed to keep Americans safe while respecting their right to worship as they believe they should.”
CDC officials worried:
CDC officials worried that deletions could lead to more outbreaks.
“I must admit, as someone who has been speaking with churches and pastors on this (and as someone who goes to church), I am not sure [I] see a public health reason to take down and replace” the original guidance, senior CDC official Jay Butler wrote in an email.
“This is not good public health — I am very troubled on this Sunday morning that there will be people who will get sick and perhaps die because of what we were forced to do," he wrote in another email a day later.