President Donald Trump keeps falsely declaring that various states run by Democratic governors are “closed” or “shut down.”
On Monday, when he made three speeches in Pennsylvania, Trump added an extra detail to his usual inaccurate criticism of pandemic restrictions imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf. He suggested that Wolf is preventing state residents from attending church.
Trump’s claims were all part of his concerted effort to win the votes of Christians by suggesting — while running against churchgoing Catholic Joe Biden — that Democrats oppose religion and God.
“The only thing you can do in Pennsylvania is a protest,” Trump said in his first speech of the day, in Allentown. “You can’t go to church. You can’t pray to your God. You can’t be with your pastors, your priests, your rabbis. You can’t be — none of that. You can’t do anything.”
He repeated the claim that “in Pennsylvania, you can’t go to church” at his third Monday speech in the state, in Martinsburg.
Facts First: This is entirely false. Pennsylvania’s government is not banning residents from going to church. In fact, Wolf has not prohibited in-person religious gatherings at any point during the pandemic.
Wolf’s April 1 stay-at-home order made an exemption for religious institutions. While Wolf issued new “guidance” the same week to add that people “should not” gather for religious services and that religious leaders were “encouraged” to find alternatives to in-person gatherings, this guidance was not an actual ban.
Wolf then lifted the stay-at-home order on June 4.
Many Pennsylvania churches made their own decisions to switch to virtual services during at least some of the pandemic. But many of them continued at least some in-person activities, and large in-person church services have been happening in the state for months — often with modifications like social distancing and mandatory masks.