A German Jesuit has blasted US President Donald Trump for “exploiting” the Church and the Bible in his response to the George Floyd anti-racism protests.

– “A political instrumentalisation of the current state of emergency”

Priest and USA expert Godehard Brüntrup was speaking to Domradio in the wake of Trump’s June 1 visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington.

The president has been heavily criticised for that visit, after police and National Guard troops cleared out protesters from nearby Lafayette Square with tear gas and flash-bang explosions to make way for the photo-op.

After the church was damaged in the ongoing protests over the police brutality and systemic racism uncovered in the May 25 killing of unarmed black man Floyd in Minneapolis, Trump advisors hatched the plan to have the president walk over from the White House to the ‘church of the presidents’.

Trump wanted the photo of him outside the church with the Bible in hand, and Brüntrup said with that gesture the president “want[ed] to show that he is on the side of the Bible, and that the demonstrators… who burn and tear down churches… are not on the side of Christianity”.

“It is about winning Christian voters. It is a political instrumentalisation of the current state of emergency”, the Jesuit deplored.

– “The Churches are in fact on the side of the demonstrators”

Brüntrup decried the “political show” Trump gave the US and the world Monday at St. John’s Church, and also the fact that protesters were cleared away “quite roughly” from the site in order to make space for the president.

The Jesuit explained that with his “choreography” Trump was playing above all to “the biblical-fundamentalist, Protestant churches, the so-called evangelicals, who elect and support him particularly strongly”.

“He wants to show them with the Bible in his hand: ‘I stand for the Bible. I stand for Law and Order. And the protesters, they set churches on fire. They rob businesses. They don’t stand for the Bible. They’re not for Law and Order’. That’s the message”, Brüntrup revealed.

“Even if you are president, of course you can’t just go [to the ‘church of the presidents’] and use it as a backdrop or as scenery, as a stage, for a political show. One should at least announce [the visit]”, the Jesuit continued, hitting out at Trump for his “tactless” trip to the church.

Brüntrup said that, in contrast to what the president was trying to show, the Churches are in fact “on the side of the demonstrators because, like most Americans, they are appalled by this horrific act of the policeman” in not attending to Floyd’s pleas for air and water, which in the Jesuit’s opinion “is more like murder”.

“The lawyers now see it that way too”, he recalled.

– Catholic Archbishop of Washington hits out at president’s instrumentalisation of John Paul II

After his controversial visit to St. John’s church, Trump attracted fresh criticism June 2 over a trip to the St. John Paul II National Shrine also in Washington.

Catholic Archbishop of Washington Wilton Gregory deplored that new visit of the president’s to a place of worship, and accused Trump of “egregiously misus[ing] and manipulat[ing]… our religious principles”.

John Paul II “certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace”, Gregory reminded the US president.

More on Novena on the Floyd killing:

Pope deplores “sin” of Floyd murder: “We cannot tolerate racism and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every life”

George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” an expression of the “cry of the poor”, Cardinal Turkson denounces

Floyd killing: Vatican official calls for “revolution of brotherhood” to fight “virus” of racism

World Council of Churches expresses “revulsion” at George Floyd murder, calls for “full accountability”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.