The Episcopal bishop of Washington, the Right Rev. Mariann Budde, didn't know that President Trump was visiting St. John's Church on Monday evening until she turned on the news.
The church is across the street from the White House, and was damaged in a fire set during protests on Sunday night. Before Trump walked over on Monday, peaceful demonstrators at Lafayette Square were dispersed by police using tear gas. Once he arrived, Trump stood in front of the church for photos, and announced that the book in his hand was a Bible. He stayed for a few minutes, then strolled back to the White House.
This left Budde "outraged," she told The Washington Post. Budde said she "was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop." Before he went to the church, Trump held a briefing where he threatened to send the military to cities in order to crush protests. Seeing him just minutes later, holding a Bible which Budde said "declares that God is love," stung the bishop.
"Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence," she said. "We need moral leadership, and he's done everything to divide us, and has just used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition." Rev. Robert Fisher, the church rector, told the Post St. John's is "a space for grace" and "a place where you can breathe. Being used as a prop, it really takes away from what we're trying to do." He doesn't want the main story to be about the fire at St. John's, but rather the "more important message that we have to address racism in this country." Catherine Garcia