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Camper Recounts Abuse at Warnock Church Camp

Anthony Washington, now 30, tells the Washington Free Beacon counselors tossed urine on him, forced him to sleep outside

Raphael Warnock
Raphael Warnock / Getty Images
• December 28, 2020 12:00 pm

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Among the indignities 12-year-old Anthony Washington endured at the church camp overseen by Reverend Raphael Warnock: counselors who tossed urine on him and locked him outside his cabin overnight.

Washington, now 30, recounted the events in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon and said his experience at the camp resulted in a 2003 lawsuit that ended two years later, when Washington says he and his family received a large financial settlement.

Washington’s account of the 2002 events provides the first direct insight into the alleged abuse and neglect that transpired at Camp Farthest Out, which Warnock oversaw as senior pastor of Maryland's Douglas Memorial Community church, and raises new questions for the Democrat, who is currently vying for a Senate seat in Georgia.

Washington expressed surprise when he was told Warnock is currently running for U.S. Senate in Georgia. "I don’t think nobody like [Warnock] should be running for damn Senate nowhere, running a camp like that," he told the Free Beacon. "He should not be running for government."

Warnock has faced scrutiny over his 2002 arrest for allegedly obstructing a child abuse investigation by Maryland State Police that centered on the camp's treatment of children. Washington's account is buttressed by records from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, obtained by the Free Beacon earlier this month, which indicated that campers were routinely left unsupervised; staffers were not subject to required criminal background check; and at least five cases of child abuse or neglect were brought against the camp's director, who was ultimately forced to resign.

Warnock served as senior pastor at Baltimore's Douglas Memorial Community Church from 2001 until around 2005. His job included overseeing the expansion of the church’s sleepaway camp, Camp Farthest Out, which served inner city children. Warnock's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Free Beacon reached out to Washington and members of his family because his name appears on a lawsuit filed against Warnock, the camp, and several of the counselors.

"I just wanted to get the hell away from that camp," Washington said in an interview. "I didn’t want to spend another day there. … That camp was real messed up."

A court docket from the case shows that lawyers from both sides moved to dismiss the case "with prejudice" in May 2005, a resolution that frequently occurs when lawsuits are settled out of court. Officials from the courthouse and the Maryland state archives told the Free Beacon that they are unable to locate any records from the case. The lawyer who represented Washington’s family said he was unable to discuss the matter on the record.

Washington’s sister, Dominique, who also attended Camp Farthest Out the summer her brother says he was abused, corroborated the family’s involvement in the lawsuit when contacted by the Free Beacon. Another source close to the Washington family told the Free Beacon that the lawsuit was related to an incident when counselors "poured urine on [Anthony], at the camp."

Washington said the camp was his first extended trip away from his parents as a child, and his first time in such a rural environment. His mother sent the two children because they had recently moved from California to Baltimore and she hoped they would make friends in the area, according to Washington.

Counselors were young, in their late teens or early 20s, and showed little interest in taking care of the campers, Washington said. As a punishment for wetting his bed, he said a counselor forced him to spend the next night sleeping outside by himself on the basketball court.

"I’m like, ‘Hell no I’m not, it’s cold out there,’" he said. "[The counselors] wouldn’t let me in the house, not at all. … Shut the door to the cabin, locked it," he said. "It was dark. There wasn’t nothing out there but the basketball court. I ain’t never experienced nothing like that. Like, you’re not in a tent, you’re not in nothing. You’re just out, God knows where."

Counselors also threw urine on him from a bucket they used when there wasn’t a bathroom nearby, he added.

"I went through that experience myself. I don’t even like talking about this shit. That shit happened. … It was like in a bucket. They would keep that shit in a bucket," he said.

Washington said he saw counselors "grab kids," but didn’t know the extent of abuse at the camp or whether others had experiences similar to his. "I just knew that shit happened to me, and that’s what I was worried about, me and my sister," he said.

Campers were prohibited from calling their parents, he said. When he was finally able to tell his mother what happened, she was furious at the camp. "I can hear her in there, screaming at them," Washington said. "Next thing I knew, my mother was going to court. … I thank my mother for doing what she did. She is a life saver."

The family eventually received a financial settlement in the case, said Washington.

At least three state agencies—the Maryland State Police, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Health—looked into allegations of child abuse at the camp between 2002 and 2003, according to government records obtained by the Free Beacon.

Warnock was arrested at Camp Farthest Out on July 31, 2002, after a Maryland state trooper said he repeatedly disrupted her interviews with counselors while she was investigating allegations of child abuse. Warnock and another reverend were charged with "hindering and obstructing" police, but the charges were later dropped by the state prosecutor.

When inspectors from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene visited Camp Farthest Out in 2002, they also found multiple health and safety violations.

"Staff are not supervising campers," wrote a health inspector in a July 31, 2002, report. "Conversations w/ medical staff & pool staff indicate that this is routine among the counselors. It was observed during inspection today."

In June 2003, the Department of Health denied Camp Farthest Out's certificate to operate a youth camp. One reason for the denial, according to the records, was that the camp failed to report at least five findings of child abuse levied against its director, Brian Carter, by the Department of Social Services.

Published under: Georgia Senate, Raphael Warnock