Bishops across the US condemned Donald Trump for using the Bible as a “photo op” for “partisan political purposes” after threatening military action against protestors.
Minutes after telling reporters he would deploy the military if state officials could not contain protests against police brutality across the nation, the president walked across the street from the White House to St John’s Episcopal Church.
A crowd of peaceful protestors outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets to make way for him.
Trump then held up a Bible that read “God is Love” as he posed for cameras outside the historic church used by American presidents for more than a century.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” he said.
He was surrounded by aides including national security adviser Robert O’Brien, attorney general Bill Barr, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows, defence secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said she was “outraged” that Trump had visited her church without advance notice.
“I am going to do everything in my power to disassociate our church from what the president did tonight,” she told HuffPost.
She emphasised in a separate statement that the diocese wanted to “distance ourselves” from Trump’s “incendiary language”. “We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love,” she said.
“We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others. And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen.”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Primate of the Episcopal church, tweeted: “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,”
“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.”
For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
— Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (@PB_Curry) June 2, 2020
Bishop Greg Brewer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, said he was “shaken” by the event, saying: “As a bishop in the Episcopal Church, and an American citizen, I am shaken watching protestors in Lafayette Park gassed and cleared so that the President of the United States can do a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible.
“This is blasphemy in real time,” he added.
Other religious figures across the country also denounced Trump’s appearance.
Father James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest and author, said: “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. God is not your plaything.”
"We have the greatest country in the world"
"Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Blessed are the meek....
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...
Blessed are the merciful...
Blessed are the peacemakers."
(Matt 5) pic.twitter.com/VXB4BBASr5
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) June 2, 2020
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.