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Clergy were gassed for Trump photo op, leaders outraged

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WASHINGTON — Clergy at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington were among those who were attacked with tear gas and flash grenades to make way for Trump’s photo op on Monday night.

WUSA9, a CBS affiliate in Washington, reported that clergy were given no notice and were not asked for permission by the administration for the photo op.

“We cannot have been driven off of that patio with tear gas and horses and concussion grenades, so that that man can have a photo op, in front of a church, holding a Bible,” Rev. Gini Gerbasi told the station. “I am so [expletive] offended that he would have the nerve to do that, no one knew about this stunt.” 

WUSA9 reported that Gerbasi and other clergy were keeping watch on the church, which had been damaged in unrest the night before, and handing out water to Black Lives Matter protesters when the attack came.

“I was coughing with tear gas in my clergy collar, and my gray hair, and my old lady reading glasses, so that that man could stand there and hold a Bible in his hand and look Christian,” Gerbasi said. “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.”

The station said that Gerbasi had been assistant rector at the church during the Obama Administration and currently served at St. John’s sister church across town.

The Episcopal bishop for the DC area was also outraged.

“I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and 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,” The Right Rev. Mariann Budde told the Washington Post.

“Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence,” Budde of the president. “We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.”

The head of the Episcopal Church in America, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, condemned the action, saying Trump used “a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes.”

Trump continued with using religious locations as props, going to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and earning the condemnation of the Catholic archbishop of Washington.

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement around the time Trump arrived at the on Tuesday morning and received by The Hill.

Gregory said in the statement that Saint Pope John Paul II, for whom the shrine is named, “certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

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