Two of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders have very different reactions to continuing protests and unrest after President Donald Trump used force to clear peaceful protesters for a photo op at a church near the White House.
Rev. Franklin Graham thanked Trump for appearing at the church and for raising a Bible in his hand.
But Pat Robertson, who once ran for the Republican nomination for president himself, criticized the president on his long-running television show ”The 700 Club.”
“It seems like now is the time to say, ‘I understand your pain, I want to comfort you, I think it’s time we love each other,’” Robertson said Tuesday. “But the president took a different course. He said, ‘I am the president of law and order.’”
“He issues a heads up. He said ‘I’m ready to send in military troops if the nation’s governors don’t act to quell the violence that has rocked American cities.’ Matter of fact he spoke of them being ‘jerks,’” the 90-year-old televangelist said. “You just don’t do that, Mr. President. It isn’t cool.”
Graham struck a different tone in a Facebook post published at about 2 a.m. Tuesday.
He said, “After his speech from the Rose Garden Monday afternoon, President Donald J. Trump made a statement by walking through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church that had been vandalized and partially burned Sunday night. He surprised those following him by holding up a Bible in front of the church. Thank you President Trump. God and His Word are the only hope for our nation.”
Graham quoted Hebrews 4:12 in his post: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Religious leaders and politicians, including some Republicans, criticized the president’s use of force to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park so he could have his picture taken posing in front of St. John’s Church.
Police, Secret Service and members of the National Guard used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the protesters from the park in front of the White House so Trump could walk to the church Monday, Politico reports.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, was one of the few members of the GOP critical of Trump’s church photo op. In an interview with Politico, he said Trump’s actions to clear the park were unhelpful.
“But obviously, if your question is, should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo op, the answer is no,” he told Politico.
In a story breaking down what led to police using gas and rubber bullets to force peaceful protesters in front of the White House, The New York Times wrote, “When the history of the Trump presidency is written, the clash at Lafayette Square may be remembered as one of its defining moments.”