Top leaders of the church that President Trump used as a photo backdrop after tear-gassing peaceful protesters are outraged at the president’s callous action.
“There was no reaching out, no sense that it would require some sort of authorization before using the church as a backdrop in that way,” Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, told NPR. Budde is the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, which has oversight of St. John’s Church, located steps from the White House and has hosted every previous administration since James Madison.
On Monday, however, Trump held up a bible for photos but could not be seen praying or quoting verse from its pages.
“It almost looked like a prop,” Budde told NPR. “That is the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It speaks messages of love, of God, love of neighbor. I was outraged that he felt that he had the license to do that, and that he would abuse our sacred symbols and our sacred space in that way.”
Budde wasn’t the only leader of the Episcopal Church who criticized the president. Gini Gerbasi, a former minister at St. John’s, was helping provide medical aid to peaceful protesters in front of the church when the police started tear gassing and throwing concussion grenades.
“We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT [President Trump] COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!”
And Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Monday evening said Trump’s photo opportunity was purely partisan.
“This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, lifted up a bible, and had pictures of himself taken,” Curry said. “In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us.”