Trump plans to watch Pastor Robert Jeffress's Easter service remotely

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE said Friday he plans to remotely watch Easter Sunday services hosted by one of his most ardent evangelical supporters as the nation avoids large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump told reporters at the daily White House COVID-19 briefing that he would watch Pastor Robert Jeffress’s services on a laptop. He said he has "great respect" for pastors who have insisted on hosting in-person gatherings in defiance of social distancing guidelines but urged them to let the virus subside.

"We have Easter Sunday, and I’m going to be watching Pastor Robert Jeffress, who’s been a great guy," Trump said. "And I’m going to be watching on a laptop. Now a laptop is not the same as being in his church or being in another church. It’s not."

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Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a member of Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board. He has been a staunch supporter of the president and has a history of controversial remarks.

During a 2011 interview on Trinity Broadcasting Network, Jeffress said the Bible claims “every other religion in the world is wrong.” He also suggested during a 2008 sermon that Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and Jews will be sent to hell. 

“Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” he said. “Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”

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The president has in past years spent Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate and attended services in Florida. 

Vice President Pence, who is devoutly religious, says he will be attending services virtually on Sunday.

Most states have imposed stay-at-home orders or restrictions that limit in-person gatherings amid the pandemic. Federal guidelines urge Americans to avoid groups of 10 or more people. Still, some religious leaders have maintained they will hold large services at their houses of worship.

Trump on Friday did not explicitly criticize those leaders, but urged them to prioritize public health.

"I know there are some pastors and ministers and others that want to get together. And I have great respect for them. Two of them I know," Trump said. "But I would say first … heal our country. Let’s get healed before we do this."