Trump's visit to church vandalised in George Floyd protests splits opinion

Donald Trump outside St John's Episcopal Church near the White House(Photo: C-Span)

Donald Trump has been accused of using a visit to a church vandalised in George Floyd protests as a photo op for "partisan political purposes", but some Christians have defended him. 

St John's Episcopal Church, near the White House in Washington DC, was graffitied during protests against the death of Floyd on Sunday night.  Its parish office was also set alight. 

On Monday, Trump walked over to the church and stood outside holding up a Bible moments after delivering a speech at the White House in which he threatened to deploy the military to quell widespread unrest over Floyd's death. 

The head of the US Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry, said Trump's actions had done "nothing to help us or to heal us". 

"This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, lifted up a bible, and had pictures of himself taken. In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes," he wrote on Twitter. 

"This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us.

"The bible the President held up and the church that he stood in front of represent the values of love, of justice, of compassion, and of a way to heal our hurts.

"We need our President, and all who hold office, to be moral leaders who help us to be a people and nation living these values.

"For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

The Bishop of Washington, the Rt Rev Mariann Budde, said she was "outraged" by Trump's visit, which she said showed "no sense that this was a sacred space to be used for sacred purposes". 

"He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer in full expectation that it would be a celebratory moment," she told told The Associated Press.

"There was nothing I could do but speak out against that."

Others, however, thanked Trump for his visit to the church, among them Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham.

"After his speech from the Rose Garden Monday afternoon, President Donald J. Trump made a statement by walking through Lafayette Park to St. John's Episcopal Church that had been vandalized and partially burned Sunday night," he wrote on Facebook.

"He surprised those following him by holding up a Bible in front of the church. Thank you President Trump. God and His Word are the only hope for our nation." 

Dr Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas, said: "Thank God for a President like @realDonaldTrump who is intent on protecting our great country from anarchists who are trying to destroy it. As the Bible says, 'Sin is lawlessness' (1 John 3:4)."