Bishop Budde calls Trump photo at St. John’s Church ‘antithetical to the teachings of Jesus’

The head of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has responded after President Donald Trump held a Bible and had his photo taken in front of St. John’s Church on Monday after police used tear gas to clear out protesters.

Bishop Mariann Budde has spoken in support of those engaging in peaceful protest and criticized Trump’s response to the protests that have gripped the nation following the death of George Floyd.

trump bible
President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. Park of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Budde said that Trump allowed the use of tear gas by police in order to use St. John’s Episcopal Church as a backdrop for a “message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for.”

The church was damaged by fire during Sunday night’s protest.

Budde said in a statement Monday night that the diocese in no way supports Trump’s “incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation.”

The diocese expressed support for those seeking justice for Floyd through the “sacred act of peaceful protest.”

Floyd was an African American man who was killed last week in Minneapolis after a white police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck while taking him into custody.

Budde said Trump used the Bible as a “symbol of division,” and he did not come to the church to pray, lament Floyd’s death or acknowledge the plight of people of color.

Before police under federal command forced back peaceful demonstrators with tear gas so he could walk to the church and have his photo taken, Trump threatened the nation’s governors that he would deploy the military to states if they did not stamp out violent protests over police brutality that have roiled the nation over the past week.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called the use of munitions on protesters near the White House “shameful,” and the Arlington County board ordered county police to withdraw from the District following the incident.

Budde is the first woman to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which has 88 Episcopal congregations and 10 Episcopal schools in D.C. and four Maryland counties.

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