Group of SoCal Religious Leaders Denounces the President's Photo-Op at Church

An interfaith group will assemble Wednesday in Los Angeles to rebuke President Donald Trump for standing in front of Christian landmarks in the nation's capital earlier this week to have his picture taken. 

Attending Wednesday's Santa Monica event will be the Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, who organized the event, representatives of the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice - Los Angeles, and The interfaith Guibord Center - Turning Religion Inside Out. The rally is set for noon at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory condemned President Trump and first lady Melania Trump for using a Catholic shrine in Washington, D.C. as a “photo opportunity.” This is the second time this week that Trump has been accused of misusing places of worship for political gain.

“The President's attempt to hijack the spiritual richness of America cannot go unanswered," said Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, who organized the event. "We, clergy and lay leaders of many faiths in the Los Angeles region, gather together to demonstrate what a true spiritual/religious response to racial injustice looks like, provide some spiritual solace and highlight the values that call us to do all we can to fight racism."

On Monday, Trump walked from the White House to pose in front of St. John's Episcopal Church while holding a bible after security officers cleared away protesters with tear gas.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, the spiritual leader for the Washington area's 88 Episcopal congregations, was outraged and made no effort to conceal it, accusing the president of using St. John's as a "prop," visiting "without permission" or advance warning and "acting like an authoritarian dictator."

She said she wanted to speak out to make sure that the image of the president standing in front of St. John's holding a bible in his hand was “not the definitive word that night, that that was not going to go unchallenged."


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On Tuesday, as Trump prepared to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine a few miles from St. John's, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, denounced the event in similar terms, calling it "baffling and reprehensible."

Both prelates criticized the president for what they said was an opportunistic attempt to embrace faith in a moment of crisis.

Trump defended his actions Wednesday.

"Well, my response is simple: Most religious leaders loved it," Trump told Fox News, citing positive reactions from evangelical leaders Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress. "And, it's on the other side that didn't like it. You know, the opposition party, as the expression goes. They burned down the church the day before. I heard how nice and wonderful the protesters were over there. Really? Then why did they burn down the church the day before?”

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