“We see your attacks against Warnock as a broader attack against the Black Church and faith traditions for which we stand,” the letter said.
Loeffler and Warnock are in a heated race for one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, a runoff election taking place weeks after President-elect Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992. The contest next month, along with the race between Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D), will determine which party controls the Senate.
Warnock backed the letter’s allegations on Sunday.
“My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life,” he said in a tweet. “It guides my service to my community and my country. [Loeffler’s] attacks on our faith are not just disappointing — they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia.”
Loeffler replied to her opponent with a tweet of her own Sunday, saying, “No one attacked the Black church.”
“We simply exposed your record in your own words,” she said. “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.”
In the letter, the pastors criticized Loeffler for her stance on the summer’s racial justice protests and for her failure to condemn far-right extremists.
“Through your silence you demonstrated your disdain for Black elected officials and Black Lives Matter marches,” the letter said.
Loeffler recently came under fire for taking a photo with Chester Doles, a white supremacist with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi National Alliance and the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Doles, who went to prison for assaulting a Black man in 1993, told the Associated Press last week that he had renounced racism in recent years.
The senator’s campaign spokesman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Loeffler did not know who Doles was when the photo was taken.
Warnock has also been recently criticized by faith leaders. A group of two dozen conservative Black ministers urged Warnock, who has become known as a “pro-choice pastor,” to change his position on abortion in an open letter published earlier this month.
Last week, a coalition of Orthodox rabbis criticized the pastor for his past statements on Israel, including a sermon that condemned the killing of Palestinian people and a letter that compared military occupation of the West Bank to apartheid South Africa’s occupation of Namibia, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Loeffler published her own open letter on Saturday in which she characterized her opponent as “radically liberal” and accused him of supporting anti-Semites and using anti-Israel rhetoric.
But other Jewish leaders in Georgia defended the pastor as a longtime ally.
“The recent attacks against Rev. Warnock misrepresent his position on Israel,” Rabbi Peter Berg, who leads The Temple, Atlanta’s oldest Jewish congregation, told the Journal-Constitution last month.
The congregations at The Temple and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock is the senior pastor, joined in the ’50s and ’60s to fight racism and anti-Semitism after violent attacks on the Black and Jewish communities in Atlanta. Berg told the Journal-Constitution he and Warnock honor that legacy by speaking to each others’ congregations each year on the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Warnock has said he supports the partnership between the United States and Israel and supports a two-state solution.
In Saturday’s letter to Loeffler, the coalition of Black pastors urged her to abandon the labels of “radical” and “socialist,” which she has peppered throughout attack ads on Warnock.