The widely criticized photo-op was the president’s idea because he “wanted the visual,” sources told NBC News.
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and religious leaders — including the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington — voiced outrage after police used tear gas against peaceful protesters outside the White House before President Donald Trump‘s photo-op at nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday evening.
The Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Washington diocese, said Tuesday that Trump held up the Bible in front of St. John’s “as if it were a prop or an extension of his military and authoritarian position.”
Budde, in an interview with Craig Melvin on NBC’s “TODAY” show, said that what Trump did in front of the church she oversees “was an abuse of the spiritual tools and symbols of our traditions and of our sacred space.”
“He didn’t come to church to pray, he didn’t come to church to offer condolences to those who are grieving,” she said. “He didn’t come to commit to healing our nation, all the things that we would expect and long for from the highest leader in the land.”
Budde said Trump didn’t inform the diocese about his visit to the church. Asked if he is a frequent worshipper at the church, Budde responded: “No, never. The only time that President Trump has been at St. John’s church as president was on the morning of his inauguration.”
The Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest and author, said in a statement, “Using the Bible as a prop while talking about sending in the military, bragging about how your country is the greatest in the world, and publicly mocking people on a daily basis, is pretty much the opposite of all Jesus stood for.”
He added: “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. And God is not a plaything.”
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, said in a statement Monday, “Seeing President Trump stand in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while holding a Bible in response to calls for racial justice — right after using military force to clear peaceful protesters out of the area — is one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen. This only underscores the president’s complete lack of compassion for Black Americans and the lethal consequences of racism.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement that Trump is “ripping” the country apart when Americans are crying out for unity over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week in police custody.