SANTA MONICA — An interfaith group gathered this Wednesday in Santa Monica to discuss the recent photo op President Trump posted on Monday, June 1. 

Earlier this week President Trump walked out of the White House to make his way over to a boarded up St. John’s Episcopal Church where he later posed in front of a camera holding up a Bible. Trump called his photo op “very symbolic” during these pressing times and said that “most religious leaders loved it,” in a Fox News Radio interview. 

White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, responded to backlash and commended Trump for the photos he took, saying that it was a message being sent out to rioters across the country. 

“It was powerful and important to send a message that the rioters, the looters, the anarchists, they will not prevail — that burning churches are not what America is about,” McEnany said.

Evangelical leader, Franklin Graham, defended Trump saying in a statement on Twitter, Tuesday June 2:

“Yesterday @POTUS Trump made a statement by walking to @StJohnLafayette that had been vandalized & set on fire in Sunday night’s rioting. God & His Word are the only hope for our nation,” Graham said. 

On Wednesday, Rabbi Neils Comess-Daniel of the Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, had other things to say, as he hosted an event to speak with other religious figures about Trump’s photo op. Rabbi Commes-Daniel was not pleased with what he saw, stating moments before the gathering: 

“The President’s attempt to hijack the spiritual richness of America cannot go unanswered,” Rabbi Comess-Daniel said. “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.” 

Rev. Eric Shafer, a senior pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church who also attended the gathering, expressed in an interview with Patch News that “the main premise is to make a statement to the president in his use of sacred scriptures.”

Rev. Shafer continued to say that there is a big problem in America that has not been dealt with yet and continues to carry on to this day.

“The issue of racism in America is something we should have been dealing with all our lives,” Shafer said.

Pastor Art Cribbs, of Los Angeles Filipino-American United Church of Christ, has had first hand experience with the National Guard in 1965 growing up in Watts, as well as watching the 1992 riots in L.A. 

Pastor Cribbs wanted to highlight more than just photos of Trump in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Instead, he wanted to spread a message about the injustices that America has seen through so many years, the work that has to be done, and reassure the memory of George Floyd in this movement.

“Today I remind us the unfinished work of America is to heal this nation from its sickness of violence, its sickness of racism, its sickness of tolerance of innocent people who are taken to the ground by law enforcement and having their lives snuffed out,” Cribbs said. “George Floyd has been elevated from an unknown to an international martyr, but he is not alone.”