PoliticsWilliam J. Ford

Church Leaders Chide Trump for Photo-Op Amid Protests

President Donald Trump provides weekly criticism against Democrats, American citizens who oppose his views and even some allies.

On Tuesday, Trump’s visit to Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Northeast received criticism from church leaders.

The words against Trump come one day after the Republican president walked from the White House and stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Northwest and posed with a Bible. This happened after federal police used munitions to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park near the church to clear a path for the president.

The demonstrators were protesting the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25. His death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and the killing of Black people.

“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,” Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement Tuesday. “Saint Pope John Paull III 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.”

The Washington Archbishop and church officials denounced the appearance of President Trump at St. John's Episcopal Church in northwest D.C. for a photo-op after he commanded the National Guard and Secret Service to disperse peaceful protesters using tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bangs. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
The Washington Archbishop and church officials denounced the appearance of President Trump at St. John’s Episcopal Church in northwest D.C. for a photo-op after he commanded the National Guard and Secret Service to disperse peaceful protesters using tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bangs. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

According to a statement from the shrine, Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the shrine for the president to sign an executive order for religious freedom.

The John Paul II shrine represents a holy space maintained by the Knights of Columbus since 2011.

As for the more than 200-year-old St. John’s church in Northwest, looters damaged part of the building Sunday.

The Rev. Rob Fisher, rector at St. John’s church, said in a statement Trump’s visit came at a “surprise.”

“We at St. John’s Church were … even more appalled at the violent clearing of Lafayette Square to make the visit possible,” Fisher said. “St. John’s is a community that welcomes all — from the powerful presidents to the homeless — to worship God.”

Other religious leaders in the D.C. area expressed outrage at Trump, especially using a Bible as a prop.

“I think that it is unjust for the president of the United States to stand in front of a D.C. church and hold up a Bible when he is not demonstrating the principles of the Bible in the White House.” said the Rev. L.K. Floyd, pastor of Heart Changers Baptist Church and president of the Coalition of Churches and Community. “Because of institutional racism and oppression our youth are expressing themselves through rioting and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said rioting is the language of the voiceless, but in addition to protesting there needs to be organizing.”

The Rev. William Lamar, pastor of Metropolitan AME Church in Northwest, said churches must not be controlled by “kleptocratic capitalists and imperialists.”

“We must build power to topple regimes that work against the flourishing of humans and the earth. God’s wind and fire seek to create something new in us and in the world,” he said. “Will we bold enough to abandon the mendacity of the American myth and to embrace the reign of God? That is the question.”

Political leaders such as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called it “shameful” that federal police used tear gas to move protesters out the way for Trump to walk from the White House to St. John’s Church.

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) said in an interview Tuesday the country faces an assault not only by the Trump administration but also by “rogue and lawless police” against Blacks.

Brown said one activity that can help improve lives is voting. Maryland and D.C. both held their respective primary elections on Tuesday.

“People are looking for ways to be active and I’ve always said it begins with the most fundamental, civic activity which is voting,” he said outside the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington. “I think the protest is good and it’s constructive that we’re seeing in cities around the country. But if you’re not coming out to vote, you’re not doing the one thing that’s going to ensure your voice is heard in elected offices up and down the ballot.”

Hamil Harris contributed to this story.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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