American religious leaders harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to pose with a bible in front of a temple Tuesday, minutes after ordering a crackdown on a protest at the death of a black citizen by police.

“It was traumatic and deeply offensive in the sense that something that is sacred was misused for a political gesture,” denounced on NPR public radio Mariann Budde, the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington, to which Saint John, the temple, belongs. in question.

The president used “the symbolic power of our sacred text, holding it in his hand as if it were a vindication of his positions and his authority,” added Budde.

Saint John’s Church, a historic building near the White House, is a Protestant Episcopal temple that was damaged on Sunday night on the margins of the protests, when a group of protesters set fire to an entrance.

But on Monday protesters were protesting peacefully when they were dispersed with tear gas to clear the area for Trump to pose, who walked a few meters from the White House for the photo.

The protest and repression was broadcast live on many channels, so criticism came quickly.

“At that time the protest was totally peaceful,” said Budde. “There was no justification for this,” he added.

Trump on Monday adopted a martial tone in a solemn speech to the nation just before visiting the temple, in which he threatened to deploy the military to quell the biggest protests the country has been experiencing since the 1960s.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest since May 25 when George Floyd, a 46-year-old black citizen, died while pinned down by police in Minneapolis.

The protests have been mostly peaceful, but riots were recorded at night, despite the curfew imposed in several large cities.

Other leaders of the United States Episcopal Church denounced Trump’s visit as “an embarrassing and morally repugnant event.”

“Simply by holding an unopened bible, he assumed he was going to win support from Christians,” the New England bishops, a region on the east coast of the United States, said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the Republican magnate seeking re-election in November visited the monument to Pope John Paul II in northeast Washington, generating discomfort among Catholic leaders.

“I find it puzzling and reprehensible that a Catholic place is allowed to be used and manipulated in a way that violates the most basic religious principles,” Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory said in a statement.

The pontiff, who died in 2005, “would certainly not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, disperse, or intimidate” to take a photo of himself in a place of worship, he added.

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