American religious leaders are outraged as President Donald Trump has made two visits to Christian religious sites in the last 24 hours. On Monday, Trump visited an historic church near the White House, and on Tuesday he laid a wreath at a shrine in honor of Saint Pope John Paul II.
The historic St John’s Episcopal church, across the street from Lafayette Park, opposite to the White House has been the epicenter of the protests in Washington since Friday.
The church was vandalized with graffiti and damaged in a fire during a demonstration on Sunday night.
On Monday, the law enforcement including military police used tear gas and violently cleared peaceful protestors from the surrounding area clearing the path for the Trump to visit the church where he posed with a Bible for the photograph.
“It was traumatic and deeply offensive, in the sense that something sacred was being misused for a political gesture,” Washington’s Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde said on public radio station NPR.
The Republican billionaire, whose supporters include many evangelical Christians, used “the symbolic power of our sacred text, holding it in his hand as if it was a vindication of his positions and his authority,” she added.
The protest was broadcasted and as the images were spreading, the backlash took a swift and furious mode.
“The protest at that point was entirely peaceful,” Budde said. “There was absolutely no justification for this.”
Trump on Monday adopted an aggressive war-tone in a nationwide address that he delivered just before the church visit, in which he threatened a military crackdown against the biggest civil unrest in decades.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been demonstrating their anger since May 25, the day of George Floyd’s demise, a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed by police in Minneapolis.
The gatherings have been largely peaceful, out of which some have worsened with each day and took shape of the riots.
Other Episcopalian leaders denounced Trump’s visit to the church as “disgraceful and morally repugnant.”
“Simply by holding aloft an unopened Bible he presumed to claim Christian endorsement and imply that of The Episcopal Church,” bishops from New England said in a statement.
On Tuesday the President and the first lady visited to the St John Paul II National Shrine in the capital’s northeast, which immediately provoked the country’s Catholic leadership as well.
“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,” said Washington’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory in a statement.