Robert Nicholson, is president of the Philos Project, which aims to foster and advocate for religious engagement in the Middle East.
Nicholson told CNA Tuesday that while the timing of the president's shrine visit was "is ill-timed and unfortunate," he is nevertheless "grateful that the United States has been leading the campaign for religious freedom around the globe."
"We need more religion in this world, not less. At a time when chaos reigns and mankind lies entangled in chains of his own making, the need for faith in transcendent truth becomes even clearer. Suppression of religion doesn't stop the religious impulse. Still driven to worship, men will make new gods of race and state," Nicholson added.
"The crisis we are witnessing in America today is ultimately rooted in a loss of shared moral culture, a common vocabulary of truth on which the rest of society is built."
"International religious freedom is the cause of all causes. It stands for the principle of free thought that God built into the world, a key component of the imago Dei. If there is just one cause we should promote, and promote tirelessly, it is this one," he said.
During the president's visit to St. John's Episcopal Church, Trump held up a Bible in front of cameras in an apparent photo-op. The church had suffered fire damage during protests on Sunday night.
According to the Washington Examiner, police dispersed crowds around the church's location shortly before Trump visited, allegedly to enforce a 7 p.m. curfew declared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. The Examiner, however, reported that protests in nearby areas continued well after curfew, and that protesters around the church were reportedly driven away to make room for the President's visit to St. John's.
Conway told reporters on Tuesday that she was told "there was a plan to expand the perimeter" of police in the area, and that Trump was not aware "how law enforcement is handling his movements."
She said on Tuesday that the signing of the religious freedom order, together with the visit to the shrine and recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on reopening houses of worship, is part of "a pretty consistent continuum for this president in standing up for religious rights."
"I think it's very unfortunate for people of faith to call into question what is in anyone's heart, including the President's, what compels him to go over to St. John's and hold up his Bible," Conway said.