Episcopal church leaders condemn Trump's visit to St. John's Church

The president was holding a Bible outside of the church on Monday

Updated: June 2, 2020 - 6:25pm

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    President Trump on Monday night faced backlash from Episcopalian leaders for leaving the White House to visit nearby St. John's Episcopal Church while clutching a bible.

    The president and members of his White House team visited the historic church, damaged in the protest, after police purportedly cleared a path by firing tear gas to scatter protesters.

    But in a Tuesday statement United States Park Police Acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan said tear gas was not used. 

    "As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls," the statement said. "No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed."

    Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington on Monday night told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Trump "used a Bible ... and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for."

    "And to do so, as you just said, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. I am outraged," Budde said.

    According to CNN, authorities on Monday also used rubber bullets and flash grenades to scatter protesters outside of the White House.  

    White House Conselor Kellyanne Conway during a Tuesday Fox News interview pushed back against Budde's criticism of the president, pointing to Trump's record on religious issues, including an executive order he signed earlier in the day "furthering his policies with respect to religious liberty here in this great country and worldwide."

    "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 and in particular that of the people of color in our nation ..." Budde said on Cooper's TV program.

    Others also condemned the president, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who said that Trump "used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes."