Report: Georgia Sen. Warnock’s church in 2021 paid for his home, evicted struggling tenants

by WorldTribune Staff, October 11, 2022

As senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Georgia Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock was in 2021 receiving more than $7,000 per month for a housing allowance. The church also owns 99 percent of a residential building in Atlanta and has filed 12 eviction lawsuits against its residents, including a lawsuit against one tenant owing just $28.55 in back rent, a report said.

As the Covid pandemic was raging and Democrats were demanding landlords not evict tenants over back rent, Warnock’s church was filing eviction lawsuits against residents of Columbia Tower at MLK Village, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Oct. 11.

Sen. Raphael Warnock / C-SPAN

Along with a salary, Warnock was being paid a monthly housing allowance of $7,417 by Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The average rent owed by the residents at Columbia Tower at MLK Village was $125 a month. The building has received over $15 million in taxpayer funding.

According to documents obtained by the Free Beacon, the building in Atlanta is a home for the “chronically homeless” and those with “mental disabilities.”

The lawsuits were filed by Ebenezer Baptist Church’s business partner, Columbia Residential, the 1 percent owner of the building, which manages its day-to-day operations. The first eviction lawsuit was filed in February 2020. The most recent was in September 2022.

The total sum of past-due rent cited in the lawsuits is $4,900, a figure that could have been almost entirely covered by one of Warnock’s monthly housing stipends from the church.

“The revelations threaten to undermine Warnock’s efforts to cast himself as an ally of struggling Georgians working to meet rent in the face of pandemic-era challenges,” Andrew Kerr wrote for the Free Beacon.

Warnock’s Republican challenger in the November midterms, Herschel Walker, said on Tuesday that he will pay the rent owed by those facing eviction at Columbia Tower.

“I have never known a preacher that likes abortion even after birth, won’t pay his child support and evicts poor people to the street. I will pay the $4,900 in past due rents,” Walker said in response to the Free Beacon’s report.

Residents of the building owned by Warnock’s church told the Free Beacon the landlords don’t hesitate to go to court to evict them and their neighbors, even if they’re just a few days short on rent.

“They treat me like a piece of shit. They’re not compassionate at all,” Columbia Tower resident Phillip White, a 69-year-old African American told the Free Beacon. White said he received an eviction notice on Sept. 20 for failure to meet a $192 rent payment. It was Columbia Tower’s second attempt to evict White, who received his first eviction notice in September 2021 for $179 in past-due rent. That case was dropped after White paid up, plus an additional $325 in fees, he told the Free Beacon.

According to the records obtained by the Free Beacon, on Aug. 17, 2020, the Fulton County Marshal’s Department executed a court-ordered writ of possession against a Columbia Tower resident who was sued in February 2020 for $28.55 in past-due rent. Court records show the resident had already vacated the apartment when the order was carried out. Had she been present, the authorities would have forcibly ejected her from the building.

Audited financial statements obtained by the Free Beacon show that Ebenezer Baptist Church closed out 2021 with cash and “cash equivalents” exceeding $1.2 million.

Five lawsuits sought rent that was less than one month late. Two resulted in court-ordered evictions carried out by the Fulton County Marshal’s Department. Six other eviction lawsuits were either voluntarily dismissed by the building administration or closed out by a judge for inactivity. Four others, including White’s, were filed in late September and remain open.

While the church that he is senior pastor of was filing lawsuits to evict tenants from Columbia Tower at MLK Village, Warnock was railing against his Republican opponent in the 2020 election, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, for failing to support a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic.

In late August, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp awarded Warnock’s Ebenezer Baptist Church $5 million in leftover federal Covid relief funds to renovate all the apartment units in Columbia Tower.

Because Ebenezer is a charitable operation, almost no property taxes are paid on the building, the Free Beacon noted. While the property has a market value of $1.72 million, Ebenezer and Columbia Residential have paid just $77.77 in property tax over the past seven years, according to Fulton County tax records.

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