President Donald Trump paid his second visit to a religious site this week as he went to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine just one day after his outing to the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. both of which outraged church leaders. In his most recent photo-op Trump appears to be asking his wife Melania Trump to smile before she quickly walked away from him.

In video footage that was taken of the couple’s trip to the shrine, Trump whispers something to his wife before turning to pose for photographers. He then looked at his wife as if noticing that she was not smiling and said something in her ear again. Melania then gave a quick smile and walked away from photographers.

Archbishop Wilton Gregor, who is the highest ranking African American bishop in the United States, was not pleased with Trump’s use of the shrine. He said in a statement, “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.”  

On Monday, Trump walked across Lafayette Square where protestors once stood in order to get to St. John’s. Police force and the National Guard cleared the square by spraying tear gas and rubber bullets at those protesting so that Trump could take a picture with the Bible. 

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington Rev. Mariann Budde made a statement after the event. “The president just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” she said. “To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the churchyard.”

Rev. Gini Gerbasi, who is from a church in Georgetown, was participating in the protests in Lafayette Square, but had briefly left to get supplies. She told Religious News Service, “I was suddenly coughing from the tear gas. We heard those explosions and people would drop to the ground because you weren’t sure what it was. They turned holy ground into a battleground.”

Protests have broken out across the country in major United States cities as a result of the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody by an officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

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