, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As ticked off as I was yesterday over the truly deranged reactions of the District of Columbia’s Episcopalian leaders to the torching of their own church and to President Trump’s decision to express support for the need to protect the entire nation from arsonists, I’m ever angrier today – and justifiably so.

For Episcopal Rev Bishop Marian Budde and her colleagues, along with many prominent clerics from other religions, not only apparently lack the instinct for self-preservation that’s a hallmark of minimal sanity. They’re intellectually dishonest and unethical as well – unless you think it’s perfectly OK for them or anyone else to jump to the most convenient conclusions possible about those you disagree with politically.

To start off, although the Episcopalians’ responses to the church fire were especially unhinged, they weren’t unique among the nation’s so called faith leaders. It’s easy to find statements from these clerics blasting Mr. Trump’s actions. Just Google the relevant words. But good luck trying to find these figures criticizing the St. John’s attack. (BTW, if you come across any, please let me know. No one would like to be proven wrong on this score more than I.) At least some clerics have done a better job denouncing the violence that erupted nationwide over the last week. (See here and here for examples.)

As for the St. John’s Church positions of many religious leaders, on top of singling out the so-called Trump photo op for their slings and arrows, they have uncritically swallowed the (widespread) claim that federal police used unjustifiable and excessive force when they cleared out supposedly peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square to make way for the President. (See, here for the Episcopalians, and e.g., here and here.)  

Here’s the problem: It’s clear that not all the protesters were peaceful the day of the Trump walk. In fact, not all of them were peaceful half an hour before the Trump walk. At least that’s the claim of United States Park Police (USPP) acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan. Yesterday, Monahan – whose agency was one among several involved in the clearing operation – released a statement contending:

On Monday, June 1, the USPP worked with the United States Secret Service to have temporary fencing installed inside Lafayette Park.  At approximately 6:33 pm, violent protestors on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids. The protestors also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson days prior. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats and metal poles hidden along the street.”

P.S. Monahan is hardly your supposedly typical brutish cop. Before his appointment by President Trump, he was accused by the Fraternal Order of Police of being soft on defendants – including defendants who allegedly assaulted officers of the USPP San Francisco field office he then heads.

But maybe it’s likely that Monahan has undergone a Jekyll-Hyde-like transformation? Nothing’s impossible. But it’s certainly noteworthy that the Washington Post, whose news coverage of the clearing operation explicitly tarred it as “a show of aggression,” in literally its next breath proceeded to describe the victims as “ a crowd of largely peaceful protesters. Talk about weasel words. By the way – I’m pretty sure the bad guys (and gals?) weren’t wearing signs announcing, “We’re the crazies!”

The religious leaders who treated this episode as a latter-day Boston Massacre didn’t see Monahan’s statement – which came a day after theirs. But isn’t that the point? Is there any evidence that the clerics tried to confirm their suspicions – and apparently prejudices – before getting on their high horses? Again, let me know if you find some. In its absence, it’s clear they were determined to shoot first and ask questions later.

A book with which I trust all these clerics are familiar quotes someone who I trust they all revere as advising, He that is without sin among you let him first cast a stone….” Time for these religious leaders to resume paying attention. Unless they view themselves as exceptions?