As the very moment Trump was saying those words, across the street, federal law enforcement officers, police were using using tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bangs to clear peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Park.
The law enforcement officials who were assaulting peaceful protesters, were acting at the direction of
So with the church closed, Trump used instead said a much needed prayer for the nation to heal its division and for the 104,000 Americans who have died from a pandemic. Of course, Trump did nothing of the sort. Instead, the President posed for a photo op in front of the church, awkwardly holding a bible as if it he were confused what the book is. He certainly never opened it.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who is responsible for St. John's, criticized the use of the church for a presidential photo op. NPR reports:
"He used violent means to ask to be escorted across the park into the courtyard of the church. He held up his Bible after speaking [an] inflammatory militarized approach to the wounds of our nation."
"He did not offer a word of balm or condolence to those who are grieving. He did not seek to unify the country, but rather he used our symbols and our sacred space as a way to reinforce a message that is antithetical to everything that the person of Jesus, whom we follow, and the gospel texts that we strive to emulate ... represent."
The president had used the Bible, and her church, as a prop, she said. "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," the bishop told Gjelten.But Trump did not stop there. Today, the President and First Lady Melania Trump traveled across town to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine adjacent to The Catholic University of American. The place is a place of prayer and reflection for Catholics and people of other faiths. The Trumps posed for photos in front of the statue of Pope John Paul, II.
Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory criticized Trump being allowed to put the shrine to political use:
“I find it baffling that and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement.Polls are showing Trump's once solid support with evangelicals, regular church-going Christians, and Catholics is lagging. The Trump campaign believes our President, who consistently exhibits very un-Christian behavior, can regain his standing with those groups by going to churches as well as religious shrines and having his picture taken. In short, the Trump campaign thinks people of faith are stupid.
Of course, another reason for yesterday's walk to St. John's Episcopal Church was to give Trump to exhibit a show of force against protesters. Donald "I Got Out of Military Service by Pretending to Have Bone Spurs" Trump did not like reports of his being ushered off to an underground bunker a couple days ago, which narrative undercuts the ridiculous macho man persona he sells to his gullible followers. Trump does not see any difference between people protesting and rioters committing violence. That fact was illustrated by Trump's support of the attack on peaceful protesters. Trump's hostility to the free speech rights of Americans guaranteed by the First Amendment is nothing new. He is the President most hostile to political speech since John Adams.
So, Trump is trying to combine his support for violence against peaceful protesters with an outreach to people of faith. We will see how well that works.