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Church gatherings become center of debate amid COVID-19 pandemic

Technically, churches will be open on Sunday, but they will be limited to 10 people or fewer despite President Trump declaring houses of worship as 'essential.'

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Sundays, some people would normally go to church, or would spend time with religious communities.

But what exactly does that mean in Western New York during the coronavirus pandemic?

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said religious gatherings with 10 or fewer people could take place, so long as people continued to follow guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Now those gatherings have become a national debate.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared houses of worship as "essential" and demanded that governors allow them to open.

"I call upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now. If there's any question they're going to have to call me but they're not going to be successful in that call," President Trump said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines to help houses of worship return to normal. That included communicating with state and local authorities.

But does the president actually have the authority to make such a declaration?

2 On Your Side took the question to one of our legal analysts.

"If the President attempts to order that the churches be open, that really is a state issue," Paul Cambria said. "The 10th Amendent to the Constitution is basically the state's rights issue, and what it says is what is not specifically delegated to the federal government and not specifically prohibited to the states is reserved for the states.

"Really, the president doesn't have much authority in this kind of crisis with the states."

Technically, churches will be open on Sunday, but they will be limited to 10 people or fewer.

So what's the best advice? Check with your parish or organization before you decide to go.

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