Story at a glance
- Trump visited the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op after making remarks at the White House condemning the demonstrations following George Floyd’s death and threatening military action.
- The reverend said she felt in no uncertain terms that she “had to disassociate us from that symbolic gesture and to speak a word of justice and peace to the nation.”
- Trump also drew criticism from Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory after the president visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine adjacent to The Catholic University of America Tuesday.
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington who oversees the church President Trump visited Monday evening for a photo-op after law enforcement violently broke up a crowd of peaceful protestors in the area called the president’s message “antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.”
“The president, after speaking the remarks that you summarized and clearing with tear gas and riot gear police the park and the courtyard of our church, stood in front of St. Johns and held up a bible as if it were spiritual validation and justification for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and to the God of justice,” Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday.
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“I felt in no uncertain terms that I had to disassociate us from that symbolic gesture and to speak a word of justice and peace to the nation,” she said. “He is not entitled to use spiritual symbolism of our sacred spaces and sacred texts to promote and justify a completely different message.”
Her critical comments of the president come after police officers and National Guard units fired rubber bullets, used flash bangs and set off tear gas bombs to force protestors from Lafayette Square across from the White House Monday evening. It happened just as Trump, from the Rose Garden, threatened to use military force across the country to halt violent protests if local officials did not activate the National Guard.
After police forced peaceful protestors out of the area, Trump walked across the street with aides and senior administration officials to stand outside St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op while holding a bible.
The church was damaged by a basement fire earlier this week during protests.
When asked if she knew Trump planned to visit the historic church, Budde said she had no idea.
“I was sitting watching the news with my mother when I saw what everyone else saw,” she said.
Several governors, mayors and other lawmakers condemned the removal of protesters peacefully demonstrating against the death of George Floyd from Lafayette Square, with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) calling the incident “shameful.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump briefly visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine adjacent to The Catholic University of America, where the president posed for photos and stood quietly for a few moments without making any remarks.
Shortly before Trump’s arrival, Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory criticized the visit by the president.
“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement Tuesday.
Protests have occurred in Washington, D.C., and other cities since the death of George Floyd on May 25. Demonstrations have mostly remained peaceful during the day but intensify overnight. Violence and looting has occurred in some cities.
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