For the second day in a row, US President Donald Trump has cloaked himself in the church, while justifying his hard line against demonstrators protesting the killing of another black man in police custody.
Trump signed an executive order on international religious freedom on Tuesday and travelled to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, where he and the first lady laid a ceremonial wreath and observed "a moment of remembrance."
A day earlier, he held up a Bible and posed for photos in front of a historic church across from the White House that had suffered fire damage from protesters. Police forcefully broke up peaceful protests there to clear a path.
Trump's religious visit marked his latest efforts to mobilise conservative voters of faith, particularly the white evangelical Christians who are among his most loyal supporters.
However the response suggests the strategy could backfire by turning off other religious voters. Religious leaders across denominations accused Trump of trying to coopt religion at a time of deep national strife.
The Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said she was "outraged" by Trump's Monday visit to St. John's Church and noted that Trump didn't pray while visiting the landmark that has been visited by sitting presidents since the early 19th century.
As for Tuesday's trip to the Catholic shrine, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington's Catholic diocese said he found it "baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated."
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump's St. John's visit as a powerful symbol to those who set the church ablaze.
Some Republicans have also joined the criticism .
I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop," said Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.
Sen. James Lankford, from Oklahoma, called Trump's walk to the church "confrontational" and said it "distracted from his important message in the Rose Garden about our national grief, racism, peaceful protests and lawful assembly."
Australian Associated Press