Religious leaders weigh risks of reopening earlier


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Places of worship are split on whether they support President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen them earlier than New York state currently allows.

Places of worship are considered a part of Phase 4 of New York’s reopening process.

President Trump deemed places of worship essential, pushing governors to open them immediately, along with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

“We still want to be safe, but we want to be open,” said Victory Church Pastor Charlie Muller.

Muller said he didn’t understand how liquor stores are considered essential and churches aren’t.

“There’s people struggling that need spiritual counseling, so we had to do everything online,” Muller said.

With crowds in his Albany and Colonie church totaling 300 parishioners. Muller said the online model has not worked for them, and they are not receiving the same revenue from collections that goes toward some of their community efforts.

Rabbi Matt Cutler of Congregation Gates of Heaven said his move to online services have shown a growth in attendance at his synagogue.

“Our spiritual connection has grown significantly. Our attendance in worship is, I kid you not, three to four times what we normally get,” Cutler said.

While the president doesn’t have the power to enforce the reopening of places of worship, Cutler said he would be hesitant to do so without the approval of local leaders.

“I’m going to yield to our local officials in the county and I would yield to our governor to give us directions as to what’s specifically happening in our area,” Cutler said.

The only restriction that has eased for places of worship is an order from the Governor allowing non-essential gatherings of 10 people or less, declared Friday night.

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