President Donald Trump was earlier this month accused of exploiting sacred symbols “for purely political purposes” by the clergy of the Palm Beach, Florida, church where he married Melania Trump in 2005, it emerged this week.
Federal authorities’ use of tear gas to disperse peaceful anti-racism protesters on Jun. 1 so that Trump could pose for pictures with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church was criticized by members of the clergy at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, The Palm Beach Post reported Thursday.
“The problem is not that Mr. Trump stood outside a church with Bible in hand,” three clergy members wrote in a statement first shared on the church’s website on Jun. 2, the day after the photo-op, which gained traction online toward the end of this week.
“The problem is that he used violence to get there and exploited sacred symbols for purely political purposes,” they said.
The church’s clergy noted how “we regularly pray for the president and other political leaders” so “that they might be led to govern with equity and justice, bringing life to those in the shadow of death.”
“Our prayers for the president will continue, as they should,” they added. “But because we pray for equity and justice, we cannot condone the use of violence against peaceful protesters. We cannot condone the exploitation of a church and Bible as props that only further division.”
“I think it was very symbolic,” Trump said last week. “I did hold up a Bible. I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”