Local religious leaders ‘confused’ by President Trump’s ‘political’ photo op at Washington D.C. church

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The leader of the Episcopal Church says President Trump took a photo in front of historic St. John’s Episcopal Church for “partisan political purposes,” and North Carolina religious leaders are weighing in.

As President Trump stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. holding up a Bible, Pastor Nancy Petty, of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh was confused. “It’s hard to understand what this photo op was even about,” she said.

Protesters in the area say they were hit with tear gas to clear the crowd before the president made his way to the church.

“It’s just beyond understanding what that was about and how any individual, the president of the United States particularly, could use violence to walk through a crowd to a holy site and hold a holy book that clearly condemns violence.”

The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who served the church in Raleigh for 15 years, issued a statement saying the president “used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. 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.”

But Pastor Ronnie Baity, who recently filed a lawsuit to reopen North Carolina churches that were limited in capacity under the stay at home order, says he’s glad the president made this appearance – especially after a fire was set in the church basement during protests over the weekend. “I think it’s great that he did that,” said Baity. “In the last few weeks especially there’s been a limitation placed on churches and it was refreshing to me to see him walk over to this church that’s been damaged by fire just to put an emphasis on the fact that church is still important.”

A spokesperson for the White House said the protesters were dispersed in advance of a curfew. A Washington DC reverend said those protesters were peaceful, and clergy members were among those who felt the effects of the tear gas.

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