WASHINGTON - Clerics of several different denominations and faiths took to their figurative pulpits this week to criticize President Donald Trump for what they consider posturing at religious institutions in the D.C. area.
The administration drew criticism Monday evening when police used smoke devices and pepper bombs to clear protesters from the President’s path as he walked to St. John’s Church across from the White House.
When the president arrived at the church, he stopped to be photographed while holding up a Bible.
St. John’s was burned during Sunday night’s unrest in D.C. when protest over the death of George Floyd devolved into property damage and looting.
Local pastors took exception to what they viewed as violence in the service of a photo opportunity.
“To hold up a Bible in front of a space that you had just cleared out with weapons we are innocent people were hit with rubber bullets and tear gas and I and my collar was literally wiping away peoples tears from the teargas. I was driven off from that holy ground. The opportunity for someone to stand in front of not and pretend to be or claim to be somebody of that book,” said Reverend Gini Gerbassi, of St. John’s Church Episcopal Church in Georgetown.
Gerbasi was caught up in Monday’s protests outside of the church. She wrote about her experience in an online post.
Also on Tuesday, members of the Missionary Baptist Ministers of D.C. held a news conference outside of St. John’s on Capitol Hill to express their outrage at the president’s actions.
The pastors area asking the president to institute new policies to help demilitarize the police, and to reduce police violence.
Finally, Archbishop Wilton Gregory issued a statement following the president’s visit to St. John Paul II National Shrine.
“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, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” according to a statement released by Archbishop Gregory. “Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”