Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) on Sunday said people who criticize his church for evicting residents from its low-income apartment building "attack the church of Jesus Christ" and are motivated by the "rulers of the darkness of this world."
Warnock has come under fire following a Washington Free Beacon report that the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he serves as senior pastor, owns an apartment building that moved to evict residents during the pandemic for as little as $28.55 in past-due rent. Warnock on Sunday alluded to the criticisms while delivering a sermon at Ebenezer, telling the congregation he was "troubled by the folk who have the nerve and the unmitigated audacity to attack the church," which he called "the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr., America's freedom church."
Warnock did not disclose the identity of his foes, or the nature of their attacks. But his comments came just two days after the Free Beacon reported that the Georgia secretary of state is weighing whether to file a formal subpoena against a charity controlled by Warnock's church for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into its charity registration. Walker's Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, on Thursday launched the "Evict Warnock Bus Tour" ahead of Georgia's Dec. 6 runoff election.
Warnock dodged questions about the evictions throughout October, but on Sunday, while he preached at his church, the Democrat suggested something more nefarious was at play.
"We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spiritual wickedness in high places that creates hellish situations, and then cause a lot of folk to bite one another," Warnock said on Sunday. "They attach themselves, even in church. Sometimes especially in church. They poison the warmth of the fellowship with vicious and venomous words. Vicious. And Venomous. Words. Lying. And backbiting."
Ebenezer pays Warnock a $7,417-per-month, tax-free housing allowance. Its finances are intermingled with the Ebenezer Building Foundation, the charity facing a subpoena threat from Georgia authorities. Warnock is the principal officer of the charity, which owns 99 percent of an Atlanta apartment building that is plagued by filth and maintenance issues.
Warnock said in October that no one has been evicted from the property, a claim undermined by publicly available court records. The apartment building is in the process of evicting seven residents as of Tuesday afternoon, two for just $115 in past-due rent, Fulton County Magistrate Court records show.
The Democratic senator in October also accused Walker of trying to "exploit" the residents facing eviction from his church's apartment building and of sullying the name of civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. for "short-term political gain."
The evictions were filed by Ebenezer's business partner, Columbia Residential, one of the nation's leading eviction filers. The church tapped Columbia Residential to manage the property on its behalf, the Free Beacon reported.
Warnock and Ebenezer did not return requests for comment.