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Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said Friday that President Trump does not have the authority he says he does when it comes to overriding governors who will not allow churches or synagogues to reopen.
However, Napolitano told “The Daily Briefing” that the governors’ bans are “ill-advised” and that the president does have one major recourse should a state executive fail to listen to his orders.
“In a word, no,” he said of Trump’s authority on the matter.
“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 said.
Instead, Napolitano said Trump can order Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department to file federal lawsuits against states that infringe on the First Amendment rights of their citizens.
Federal judges, thereby, are the ones with the legal power to override governors’ orders.
“The president on his own, no matter [how] well-intended he may be and I believe he’s well-intended here, is without authority to do that.”
Napolitano added that in his home state of New Jersey, he has been anxious for a similar lawsuit to be filed against Democratic Gov. Philip Murphy, who has to-date considered places of worship “non-essential,” even as liquor stores and other facilities remain open.
In the early days of the Garden State lockdown, New Jersey authorities notably raided religious services in the city of Lakewood, home to a large Jewish population. The state government was lambasted for their actions at the time.
“Here [in New Jersey], the doors are locked and you cannot go in for private prayer on your own, much less an organized prayer service or a Catholic Mass,” Napolitano said. “Judges can interfere with governors when governors violate the state constitution or the federal constitution. But the president is without authority to exercise that interference on his own.”