St. John’s Bishop, Religious Leaders Condemn Trump Visit to Church Rioters Torched: ‘This Is Blasphemy’

US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s effort to restore order and respect for historic institutions in the nation’s capital is being slammed by religious leaders who said his visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church after it was set on fire by rioters was “blasphemy.”

“This is blasphemy in real time,” Greg Brewer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida said on Twitter, adding that he was “shaken watching protestors in Lafayette Park gassed and cleared so that the President of the United States can do a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible.”

“I am outraged,” Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, the diocese of St. John’s, said in the CNN report. “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 said what Trump did was contrary to Jesus’ teaching and “his way of love” and that Christ lived a life of “non-violence,” but the bishop did not condemn the violence of rioters who targeted the church.

And Democrat lawmakers joined the chorus of criticism of Trump, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

“The Bible can’t help you if you don’t open it,” Cortez Masto tweeted, according to an NBC report. “He handled the Bible like the ape handled the bone in ‘2001:A Space Odyssey.'”

Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban refugees who fled the violence of dictator Fidel Castro, came to Trump’s defense for visiting the church and rejected the false claims that peaceful protesters were attacked to clear the way for the president.

“Many in the media fell for the calculated & deliberate tactics of professional agitators,” Rubio tweeted. “They knew the street needed to be cleared before 7pm curfew.”

“But they deliberately stayed to trigger police action & get the story they wanted, that ‘police attacked peaceful protestors,'” Rubio tweeted.

Trump made remarks about his plan to end the violence and destruction in D.C. following the murder of George Floyd before making the walk from the White House to the church that read, in part:

All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. 

I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.

But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others. A number of state and local governments have failed to take necessary action to safeguard their residence. Innocent people have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas, who was left dying on the street, or the woman in Upstate New York viciously attacked by dangerous thugs.

Small-business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York’s Finest have been hit in the face with bricks. Brave nurses, who have battled the virus, are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct station has been overrun. Here in the nation’s capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African American enforcement hero, was shot and killed.

These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.

More than 300 people were arrested on Monday night for violating the curfew but not until they were repeatedly warned that they would be arrested if they did not leave, according to authorities.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.

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