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Trump church photo-op backfires

A US Episcopal bishop has sharply criticized US president Donald Trump for staging a visit to the historic St John’s Church across from the White House, where he held up a bible after authorities had cleared the area of peaceful protesters, some say using tear gas.

The Rev Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which St John’s belongs to, said she was “outraged” by Mr Trump’s visit amid widespread protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

She noted that the president did not pray while stopping by the church, a landmark known for its regular

We are followers of Jesus. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. We stand with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd through the sacred

Ms Budde said: “He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer in full expectation that would be a celebratory moment. “There was nothing I could do but speak out against that,” she added, calling for a focus on “the deeper wounds of the country” amid ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice.

Ms Budde said the church was “just completely caught off-guard” by the visit, with “no sense that this was a sacred space to be used for sacred purposes”.

In order to facilitate Mr Trump’s statement there, she said, she believed tear gas was used in the area between the White House and the church.

As protests nationwide flared following the police killing of Mr Floyd, St John’s suffered minor damage on Sunday night after a fire in the church basement. Ms Budde said “our suffering was minimal” compared with businesses that were destroyed by recent looting, even as she defended the goals of peaceful protesters responding to Mr Floyd’s killing. “We can rebuild the church. We can replace the furnishings of a nursery,” she said, referring to the damaged area. “We can’t bring a man’s life back.”

The White House issued this video of the Trump gesture.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, issued his own statement saying that Mr Trump had “used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes”. “This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us,” added Mr Curry, the first African American to hold that leadership post for US Episcopalians.

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