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The burning of the Church of the Presidents

The burning of the Church of the Presidents

During the protests in Washington, D.C., arsonists set fire to St. John’s Church – across Lafayette Square from the White House.

The Episcopal place of worship has come to be known as the Church of the Presidents – or more simply and poetically as “The Church on Lafayette Square.”  Every President since James Madison has participated in services in the iconic yellow building – with the exception of President Kennedy, who was assassinated just before his scheduled visit to St. John’s.

It was built specifically to serve the newly constructed Presidential Mansion on the opposite side of the square.  It was assumed by the Founders that most, if not all, presidents would likely be Episcopalians.  That idea was short-lived when Unitarian Thomas Jefferson assumed the presidency.

St. John’s was where President Lincoln would humbly take up the back pew to pray and meditate during his Civil War visits.  He would occasionally come when the Church was empty and quiet.  One can imagine that Lincoln was seeking what he called “the angels of our better nature” as the nation was gripped in the throes of the bloodiest conflict in American history.

I have a personal association with the Church since I was a parishioner during my days in Washington.  It was the site of my marriage – with the reception across the street at the historic Hay-Adams Hotel.  President Ford was a regular attendee – and my wife and I would often be sitting behind or near the President – who would arrive with no fanfare.  Just him, his wife and a couple of secret service agents. He was just another parishioner.   It was a surreal experience.

The mere idea of torching a house of God – and one so intimately connected to our nation’s history – is an act of heinous depravity of the first order.  It is evidence of unspeakable evil that can consume the heart and soul of morally malignant human beings.

On the other hand, the evil is no less than when those same individuals burn, destroy and loot the shops and homes of innocent Americans – and even kill.  The individuals and organizations that promote, participate and even tolerate such actions are a cancer in our body politic.

Fortunately, the fire at St. John’s was confined to one room – the nursery where young children are attended to during Sunday services.  The room was gutted, but early reports indicate that the fire did not spread to the sanctuary or create any structural problems.  Considering the age and the wooden construction of the building, that might be considered a miracle.

Hopefully, St. John’s will continue to be a sanctum sanctorum for the moral elevation of America’s Presidents for centuries to come.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. vicky irons

    this is not a protest well-organized militia they the criminal thugs are guaranteed bail money and a lawyer and are paid 1500 per week to carry out orders soros you are not going to win….

  2. Andrew Robinson

    Funny to me that you suggest “The individuals and organizations that promote, participate and even tolerate such actions are a cancer in our body politic.” When the church you speak so fondly of is among those supporting the protests and protesters. They have been providing water, food, and aid to those demonstrating before and after the fire. In fact their pastors experienced the brutality of law enforcement first hand when the President insisted on his photo op.

    • Larry Horist

      You seem to be conflating peaceful protesters with arsonists. That is the kind of “tolerance” that has these demonstrations evolving life-threatening criminality. While I think the President’s photo op was stupid, it also can be said that no one got hurt or killed. A few protesters got moved. You cannot say the same for the officers and citizzens that were injured and killed by rioters