Ep. 15: Protests, the president, and the photo op with a Bible

Jun 4, 2020

After President Trump publicly addressed the unrest following the killing of George Floyd, peaceful protesters were violently dispersed and the president posed for a photo holding a Bible in front of a church. This week, Amanda Tyler and Holly Hollman talk about the photo op and what it means in terms of religious liberty and Christian nationalism. They also review the most recent legal developments related to houses of worship and the coronavirus, including a late-night Supreme Court order and an unexplained change on the CDC’s guidance for houses of worship. In the third segment, Amanda and Holly answer listener questions and share important books for self-reflection and action to take a stand against systemic racial injustice.

Segment 1: New developments related to religious liberty, presidential statements and the coronavirus (starting at 00:40)

Amanda shared her reflections on responding to racial injustice in this piece on BJC’s Medium channel: Reflections in solidarity: Our work to do

See President Trump’s comments from Friday, May 22, about re-opening houses of worship at this C-SPAN link.

The story Holly mentioned on the changing CDC guidelines is this article by Lena H. Sun and Josh Dawsey for The Washington Post: White House and CDC remove coronavirus warnings about choirs in faith guidance. Read the original guidance for houses of worship from the CDC at this link, and read the current version at this link, which no longer includes the suggestion to consider suspending or decreasing choirs and congregational singing as “singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19.” You can view a report on the CDC’s website about the spread of COVID-19 at a choir practice in Skagit County, Washington, at this link.

Read the Supreme Court’s order from May 29 denying a church’s request to halt California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on in-person worship services at this link.

You can hear their earlier discussion on various lawsuits regarding stay-at-home orders and the importance of comparing like things to like things on episode six of this podcast series.


Segment 2: A photo op in the middle of protests about racial injustice (Starting at 19:15)

Holly mentioned this article by Toluse Olorunnipa and Sarah Pulliam Bailey in The Washington Post. The online title is Trump’s naked use of religion as a political tool draws rebukes from some faith leaders.

Amanda quoted this Episcopal News Service article by Egan Millard about the fire in St. John’s Church, which quotes both Rev. Rob Fisher and Bishop Mariann Budde: Fire causes minor damage to St. John’s, the ‘church of presidents’ in Washington, during night of riots.

Amanda Tweeted this statement after the president’s photo op: “The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo backdrop. Trump’s version of Christianity provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. My fellow Christians who feel the same: join us in denouncing #Christiannationalism.”

Amanda mentioned Bishop Mariann Budde’s appearance on Anderson Cooper 360. You can read more about that interview at this link.

Read the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement and add your name by visiting christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org.

Amanda mentioned the article written by Andrew Whitehead for Religion News Service about Christian nationalism: With Bibles and flash grenades, Trump walks the Christian nationalist walk


Segment 3: Resources for educating yourself and learning more (starting at 39:09)

Amanda mentioned the following books:

These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby

Listen to Amanda’s conversation with Jemar Tisby on our previous podcast series about the dangers of Christian nationalism at this link.

Holly mentioned the following books:

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight

Pulpit and Politics: Separation of Church and State in the Black Church by Marvin McMickle (and you can hear Dr. McMickle’s address to BJC’s 2015 luncheon about Juneteenth at this link)

White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert P. Jones

You can hear a conversation with Robert P. Jones and journalist Joy Reid about white supremacy at our BJC Luncheon, which will be a virtual event on June 26. Learn more and register for free at BJConline.org/luncheon.

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC.