Washington DC’s Episcopal bishop was “outraged” on Monday after policemen used teargas to disperse a crowd of protesters near the White House to make way for Donald Trump the Guardian reports.
Immediately after his Rose Garden address about the value of “law and order” to quell the riots surrounding the killing of George Floyd, Trump crossed the street to St John’s Episcopal church, where all U.S presidents since James Madison have prayed.
But to get there, police fired teargas to clear the streets to make way for the president’s solidarity visit.
— Michael Galant (@michael_galant) June 1, 2020
Upon his arrival at the church, Trump held up a Bible that read “God is love”, while posing next to the church’s sign.
The the Episcopal bishop of Washington, Rev Mariann Budde, told the Washington Post: “I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop.”
Trump’s message conflicts with the values of love and tolerance espoused by the church, Budde said. She then described the presidential visit as an opportunity to exploit the church, and the Bible, as a “backdrop”.
“Let me be clear, the President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” she told CNN.
“We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others. And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen,” Budde added.
Bishop Budde comments on President Trump’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church: “He was proceeded by a violent clearing of nonviolent protesters to make his way and he was using our church as a backdrop and the bible as a prop in ways that I found to be deeply offensive.” pic.twitter.com/03903emZQP
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) June 2, 2020
“I don’t want President Trump speaking for St John’s. We so dissociate ourselves from the messages of this president,” she told the Washington Post. “We hold the teachings of our sacred texts to be so, so grounding to our lives and everything we do, and it is about love of neighbor and sacrificial love and justice.”
Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. God is not your plaything. pic.twitter.com/RZwPeqrwoZ
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) June 2, 2020
Other Christian clergy weighed in.
Reverend and rector of St. John’s Church in Georgetown Rev. Gini Gerbasi accused Trump of turning the church grounds into a “BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second.” Adding: “I am DEEPLY OFFENDED on behalf of every protester, every Christian, the people of St. John’s, Lafayette square, every decent person there.”
Primate of the Episcopal church Bishop Michael Curry, accused the president of exploiting the Bible and the church for “partisan political purposes”. He tweeted: “For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
Catholic priest Father Edward Beck accused Trump of using the Bible “in a disingenuous and exploitative way?”
Has the Bible ever been used in a more disingenuous and exploitative way? pic.twitter.com/3G948kG0K9
— Father Edward Beck (@FrEdwardBeck) June 1, 2020
Washington DC has been hit with riots for days as regular demonstrations took place outside the White House.