Citing the biblical commandment “love thy neighbor as thyself,” Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock says he believes wearing a mask during the pandemic is a Christian act responsible leaders should model and encourage.
“People should be wearing a mask right now because it’s the right thing to do. For me, it’s as basic as love your neighbor — love your neighbor, love your country, love yourself, socially distance, put on a mask, wash your hands,” said Warnock on a call with reporters Monday.
Warnock, 51, who leads the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastors, is seeking to defeat Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a Jan. 5 runoff election that will determine which party controls the Senate along with a twin runoff election between Republican Georgia Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.
The pastor who would be Georgia’s first black senator if elected, argued that the state needs a senator who will do the right thing for the people of Georgia by supporting the wearing of masks.
“I think we should look at why we are here in the first place. Look, the pandemic did not start here but we watched what happens when we see feckless leadership that is uncoordinated and unfocused on the issue, on the virus. And so it’s unfortunate that this virus has become a political issue. The virus is not red or blue and the thing that we need to do should be based on science and not on politics,” Warnock said when asked if he would support a national mask mandate.
“I think part of the reason why you are not seeing people wear a mask is you’re seeing silly season and politics where politicians are playing games with a health issue,” he said.
“One of the things that I know as a pastor is that when you have a platform, you have a moral obligation to use that platform to influence hopefully for the sake of the … community, to use that platform to embody good behavior and good practices and people pay attention,” he said. “And so my loudest sermon as a pastor is not necessarily what I say on Sunday but what I do. And so I try to model good health, which is why I wear a mask. And our leaders, whether they are gathered at the White House or at some other political event, it would go a long way if they would put on a mask.”
Warnock said Congress needs to take action and pass another COVID-19 stimulus relief bill to assist individuals and small businesses affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
He also criticized Loeffler for showing more interest in protecting her family’s financial portfolio than looking out for the interests of the people she was appointed to represent.
“The wealthiest member of Congress who dumped millions of dollars of her own stock when she heard about the pandemic, when she got a chance to stand up for you, she got a chance to stand up for ordinary families, she thought $600 a week of additional support was too much for ordinary families. She resisted it,” he said. “Fortunately, we had enough votes and it managed to pass but then four months later, Loeffler who grudgingly, finally voted for it after trying to get it removed from the original package, allowed it to expire.”
Loeffler has denied using confidential information to make a private profit. A Senate Ethics Committee investigation cleared her of breaking any rules. Loeffler campaign Communications Director Stephen Lawson told PolitiFact that she and her husband had no role in the stock transactions made by "third-party advisers" between January and March.
Since the CARES Act was signed into law in March, Congress has not agreed on any further economic relief despite the threat of eviction being faced by many struggling Americans and the decimation of many businesses.
“Georgians have not seen any relief since then. The Congress has managed to go on vacation but I’ll tell you what is not going on vacation — the threat of evictions, people who are concerned about their businesses closing, unemployment — none of these things have gone on vacation,” Warnock said.
“It’s been months since Kelly Loeffler has provided any relief to ordinary families and I think it’s time she be held accountable for her lack of representation in the United States Senate,” he said. “She was appointed, the people of Georgia are deeply disappointed … It’s time for Georgia to have a United States senator who will stand up for ordinary people on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”
His comments come months after he defended his support for abortion rights as a minister.
When asked by WGAU host Tim Bryant how the Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights fits with his role as a “minister, a leader of the church, (and) a man of God," Warnock said that healthcare is a human right and that "reproductive justice is consistent with my commitment to that.”
“I believe unequivocally in a woman’s right to choose,” he said. Such a decision is “between her and her doctor and her minister.”