Bishop 'outraged' by Trump's church visit after protesters tear gassed
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said that she is "outraged" after President Donald Trump visited her church without advance notice to share "a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus."
Her pointed comments came after the President walked from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church, a house of worship used by American presidents for more than a century.
Peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. It was all, apparently, so Trump could visit the church.
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"I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John's, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now," Budde told CNN's Anderson Cooper on "AC360."
"And in particular, that of the people of colour in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever -- anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred words. And who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.
"I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love ... we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love."
"We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others," she continued.
"And I just can't believe what my eyes have seen."
Trump held a Bible in front of the church and 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, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
He remained at the boarded-up building for a matter of minutes before returning inside the White House.
"We have the greatest country in the world," he said.
Beyond using the church as a backdrop, Budde criticized Trump's use of a Bible during the visit, which he held up as he posed for cameras.
"Let me be clear: The President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus," she said.
The episode follows nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
While still at the White House Monday evening, Trump declared himself "your president of law and order," and vowed to return order to American streets using the military if widespread violence isn't quelled.
"If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said.
The address came after he had been angered by news coverage depicting him holed up in an underground bunker amid protests in Washington.
He told aides on Monday he wanted to be seen outside the White House gates, according to a person familiar with the matter, which is part of what drove the decision to stage the photo-op at St. John's Church.
But Budde stressed Monday that his presence in front of the church -- and his response to the nationwide protests -- were both unwelcome.
"What I am here to talk about is the abuse of sacred symbols for the people of faith in this country to justify language, rhetoric, an approach to this crisis that is antithetical to everything we stand for."