The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is criticizing President Donald Trump for clearing protesters in front of the White House and then posing for photos while holding the Bible in front of St. John’s Church.
As NBC News reported, on Monday afternoon police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds that were peacefully protesting in front of the White House. Afterward, Trump and his team walked to the nearby church, where the president posed for pictures in front of the historic building while holding a Bible.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 2, 2020
The Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Washington diocese, spoke to Craig Melvin on NBC’s Today show about the event. In the interview, Budde said Trump held the Bible “as if it were a prop or an extension of his military and authoritarian position.”
“He didn’t come to church to pray, he didn’t come to church to offer condolences to those who are grieving. He didn’t come to commit to healing our nation, all the things that we would expect and long for from the highest leader in the land,” she added.
Police and members of the US military were deployed to clear out a protest so Trump can hold up a Bible outside of church. pic.twitter.com/2i0TFCveNp
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 1, 2020
Budde also noted that the diocese wasn’t informed that Trump was coming to the church. And when asked if he was a frequent worshiper at the church, she responded, “No, never.”
“The only time that President Trump has been at St. John’s church as president was on the morning of his inauguration,” she said.
Budde is joined by other religious leaders in condemning the photo op.
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, said that Trump’s photo op while holding a Bible, juxtaposed with a prior show of military force, represented “one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen.”
“This only underscores the president’s complete lack of compassion for Black Americans and the lethal consequences of racism,” he said.
Similarly, Jesuit priest Rev. James Martin joined Budde in suggesting Trump was using the Bible as a prop.
“The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. And God is not a plaything,” he said.
This is not the first time that Trump has been accused of using the Bible as more of a piece of set dressing and less of a sacred religious tome. For example, as The Atlantic reported in 2016, Trump has been photographed more than once holding a Bible and has even said that the Judeo-Christian text is his favorite book. However, he has also struggled to name a favorite verse, and when he did cite a favorite verse — an Old Testament passage about criminal law — he was accused of taking it out of context and misunderstanding it.
Similarly, as The Chicago Tribune reported in 2016, Trump claimed that the Bible is his favorite book and that he reads it frequently. However, when pressed to name a favorite verse, he was unable to do so. He also claimed at the time that he is a Presbyterian and frequently attended Marble Collegiate Church, which is not a Presbyterian church. Officials at the church said that he is not an active member of the congregation.