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Judge Napolitano: Trump doesn't have right to override governors on church openings

Fox News legal analyst Andrew NapolitanoAndrew Peter NapolitanoFox's Napolitano says grand jury erred in Taylor case: 'I would have indicted all three of them' Fox's Napolitano: Supreme Court confirmation hearings will be 'World War III of political battles' Fox's Napolitano: 2000 election will look like 'child's play' compared to 2020 legal battles MORE said Friday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE does not have the authority to force governors to reopen churches.

"As ill-advised as these gubernatorial orders are, as essential as is the right to worship, as fundamental as it is, as absolutely protected by the First Amendment as it is, the president does not have any authority to override the governors," he told Fox's "The Daily Briefing."

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His comments follow a White House press conference where Trump called churches "essential" and ordered governors to reopen them regardless of restrictions meant to slow the spread of coronavirus by limiting gatherings of large groups of people.

“If they don't do it I will override the governors. America, we need more prayer, not less," Trump said.

Napolitano said Trump could "dispatch the Department of Justice to file lawsuits in federal courts, and judges can override the governors."

"But the president on his own, no matter how well-intended he may be, and I believe he's well-intended here, has no authority to do that," he said.

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Napolitano has opposed the stay-at-home orders that most state governors have issued in order to restrict movement amid the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week on Fox News, he called such orders "unconstitutional" and “made-up laws.”

Napolitano on Friday noted that Trump's threat to override governors is "done to appeal to the president's base."

"The governors will back down, Dana, when they think they have lost public support," Napolitano told Fox News host Dana Perino.

"So if the president can, with this kind of a threat, undermine the public support of the governors, then they will recognize that the free exercise of religion is absolutely essential and they are wrong to use force — police officers — to prevent people from going to church," he said.

While a number of states including Florida and Michigan exempted churches from bans on large social gatherings that are recommended by federal health experts, pastors in states like Louisiana and Illinois have defied governor's orders in order to hold services.

Police prevented cars from parking at a Chicago-area church last Sunday in order to enforce the state's stay-at-home order.

And a pastor in Baltimore recently said he would ignore the city's cease-and-desist letter and continue to hold services.