Church leaders tell Loeffler to back off Warnock’s religious views

Open letter calls senator’s support for Trump lawsuits ‘seditious’

A coalition of clergy members wants U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler to stop maligning her opponent’s progressive brand of Christianity, calling her attack ads against the Rev. Raphael Warnock also attacks on the Black church.

“We call upon you, Kelly Loeffler,” said the letter from more than 100 religious leaders, “to cease your false attacks on Reverend Warnock’s social justice theological and faith traditions which visualizes a just and ardent world where love, fairness and equal justice under the law for marginalized people of all races is not only accepted as an authentic prophetic message in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, but also a central message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The letter made public over the weekend was signed mostly by Black church leaders from throughout Georgia, but also included some Muslim leaders and pastors from South Carolina, Alabama and Colorado.

The group told Loeffler to stop falsely calling the Rev. Warnock a “socialist” and a “radical,” saying there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons suggesting that to be the case.

Democratic senatorial candidate Raphael Warnock addresses a crowd at a Gwinnett County rally in October. Throughout the tight and tense campaign, his opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, has repeatedly made issue out of his mix of theology and political activism.

Credit: Olivia Hayden

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Credit: Olivia Hayden

At the same time, they accused Loeffler of “naked hypocrisy,” pointing to her support for President Donald Trump’s failed attempts to challenge elections results in court. “What can be more radical, more seditious than supporting 59 attempts to overthrow the will of the people by tossing Black votes?” the open letter says.

Loeffler, though, has never spoken out on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters trying to end violence against Black people by police officers, the church leaders said.

“You characterized these campaigns as mobs and lawlessness but remained silent on the antics of the Proud Boys, and the Wolverine Watchmen, both far right neo-fascist groups that engage in political violence, the latter of which attempted to kidnap the seated Governor of Michigan; an act for which 13 members have been indicted,” the letter says.

Asked for comment, Loeffler’s campaign pointed to a tweet Sunday in which the senator, responding to Warnock’s post about the open letter from clergy leaders, brushed off its message and doubled down on Warnock’s past words from the pulpit.

“No one attacked the Black church,” Loeffler tweeted to Warnock. “We simply exposed your record in your own words. Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with. If you can’t — you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate.”

Throughout the tight and tense campaign, Loeffler has repeatedly made issue out of Warnock’s mix of theology and political activism, with ads characterizing him as anti-military for saying “nobody can serve God and the military” and anti-Israel for saying “Palestinian lives matter.”

Some religious leaders have also piled on, with more than two dozen conservative Black ministers sending an open letter to Warnock earlier this month criticizing his support for abortion rights, and two prominent Orthodox rabbis from Georgia sending his campaign a letter condemning the candidate’s past statements about Israelis and Palestinians.

Warnock’s campaign, meanwhile, points to the types of people who repeatedly show up to Loeffler’s campaign events and her penchant for winding up in photos alongside far-right extremists.

Earlier this month, a photo emerged of Loeffler smiling alongside Chester Doles, a longtime white supremacist who spent decades in the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazi National Alliance, was sentenced to prison for the 1993 beating of a Black man in Maryland, and who marched with a racist skinhead gang in 2017′s violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A Loeffler spokesman later said she didn’t know who Doles was, would have kicked him out of the campaign event if she had, and that the senator condemns “in the most vociferous terms everything that he stands for.”