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Bishop blasts Trump for staging visit to church after protesters were tear-gassed

DC bishop on the president's church visit
DC bishop on the president's church visit 04:51

A bishop criticized President Trump for making an appearance in front of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, without even stopping to pray. Mr. Trump held a Bible and took photos outside the church Monday after authorities used tear gas to clear the yard of protesters.

Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, who oversees the church and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday that she wasn't informed in advance that the president would visit. She called Mr. Trump's photo-op a "symbolic misuse of the most sacred texts of our tradition."

"After speaking so harshly and with militaristic overtones to the nation, he had the park of peaceful protesters cleared with tear gas and officers in riot gear to make a symbolic gesture, holding a Bible as if to spiritually condone a message and a posture that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything as a church we stand for," Budde said.

Budde said in a statement on Twitter on Monday night that Mr. Trump did not go to the church to bring people together. 

"The President did not come to pray; he did not lament the death of George Floyd or acknowledge the collective agony of people of color in our nation. He did not attempt to heal or bring calm to our troubled land," she tweeted.

Before his stop, Mr. Trump said he would deploy the military against protesters if local officials couldn't stop violence that has broken out in some U.S. cities.

"I will fight to protect you — I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters," Mr. Trump said. However, prior to his speech, peaceful demonstrators and journalists across from the White House were tear-gassed, clearing them from the area.

After his statement, the president and his staff walked through a cleared-out Lafayette Park and posed for pictures in front of St. John's Church.

Reverend Gina Gerbasi, a former rector at St. John's, told CBS affiliate WUSA-TV that she along with other clergy were tear-gassed.  She was handing out medical supplies to Black Lives Matter protesters when federal law enforcement started throwing flash bombs. She said Mr. Trump needs to "start behaving like a Christian instead of selling yourself as one." 

"And it would be far more Christian if he would behave according to the words in that book instead of just carrying it around with him as a prop," she told WUSA. 

According to Budde, the last time Mr. Trump was at the church was the morning after his inauguration and wasn't aware of any times he's attended the church after that. 

Protests have erupted across the country since the death of George Floyd last week. Budde said the country has to look in the mirror in order to move forward. 

"The fundamental cause of the pain is something that we all must look at and all must address... until we look at that primal sin, address it and seek true reconciliation and justice in our country," she told "CBS This Morning." 

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