Washington, D.C. – The bishop of the Washington Episcopal Diocese strongly criticized President Donald Trump for his visit to the historic San Juan church where he held up a Bible for the cameras, after police cleared a park where there were peaceful protesters.
Reverend Mariann Budde said she was “outraged” by Trump’s visit, noting that the president did not stop to pray at the church, a place where all presidents have attended since the early 19th century.
“He took the sacred symbols of our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer hoping it would be a time of celebration,” Budde said in an interview. The diocese reported Trump’s visit via Twitter.RELATED
“I could not stop speaking out against that,” added the reverend, who asked to focus on “the deep wounds of the country,” as protests against racial injustice continue.
Tonight President just used a Bible and a church of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for. To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. 1/1
– Mariann Budde (@Mebudde) June 2, 2020
Trump’s visit “did not serve the spiritual aspirations or moral leadership we need,” Budde told NBC on Tuesday. “It did not belittle the painful wounds we suffered and the agony of our country.”
He said the visit caught the church off guard.
Amid protests across the country following the death of George Floyd, he was killed by Minneapolis police, the church of St. John suffered minor damage from a basement fire. Budde said “our suffering was minimal” compared to that of businesses destroyed by looting. At the same time, he defended the objectives of protesters who peacefully respond to Floyd’s death.
“We can rebuild the church. We can replace the furniture in a nursery, ”he said of the damaged area. “We cannot bring a man back to life.”
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry lashed out at Trump for “using a church building and a Holy Bible for partisan political purposes.”
“He did it at a time of deep wounds and pain in our country, and his action did not help or heal us,” said Curry, the first black man to preside over the church in the United States.