WASHINGTON — Clergy members declared in horror that there was no heads up and no permission asked to use St. John’s Church as the backdrop for a defining presidential photo op Monday, as President Trump defiantly held a Bible in front of the historic parish.
"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 said. "I am so [expletive] offended that he would have the nerve to do that, no one knew about this stunt."
Gerbasi and several other Episcopal clergy members spent the day at the historic parish, keeping watch after protesters set a fire to the building’s basement Sunday night.
Gerbasi was handing medical supplies to Black Lives Matter protesters after 6 p.m., when federal law enforcement used flash grenades to clear the area.
"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."
Gerbasi served as assistant rector of St. John’s Lafayette Square during the Obama administration and has since transferred to a sister church in Georgetown.
She anticipated the president would hear reports of the clergy’s dismay, and offered this message for Mr. Trump:
“I would say you need to start behaving like a Christian instead of selling yourself as one,” Gerbasi said. “Instead of selling yourself to people as one. Your behavior should speak for you.”