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Maryland state police in 2002 investigated child abuse allegations at a youth summer camp run by a Baltimore church. Raphael Warnock was the church’s pastor, but was not the camp director and was not the subject of the allegations.
A Maryland state agency denied the camp an annual operation permit for 2003. It did not cite findings of child abuse in ordering the shutdown.
The state cited several regulation violations in denying the permit, including that the camp “did not ensure that child abuse allegations or incidents are reported” as law requires. The camp reopened in 2004 after making corrections.
In an ad related to Georgia’s still undecided Senate midterm election, Republican candidate Herschel Walker claimed his rival, incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is hiding secrets.
"Warnock was arrested for interfering in a police investigation of a summer camp that he was running," the ad’s narrator said. "His camp faced numerous allegations of abuse, including an incident where a camp counselor threw a bucket of urine on a child. Warnock’s camp was shut down for failing to report five findings of child abuse and neglect."
The ad ran Nov. 16 to Nov. 24 on Facebook and Instagram; a similar ad ran on YouTube before the Nov. 8 election.
The claim is partially accurate in that the camp was shut down for one summer, partly because of unreported allegations of abuse. But the ad also leaves out important details. Warnock did not direct the camp, and authorities did not cite findings of child abuse in ordering the shutdown.
In 2002, Maryland police investigated Camp Farthest Out, a youth summer camp run by Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. Warnock was the church’s pastor, but did not direct the camp and was not the investigation’s target.
Warnock and the church’s youth minister were arrested at the camp in July 2002 after blocking officers who tried to interview teenage counselors. Warnock argued that lawyers should have been present for the counselors.
A prosecutor dropped charges against Warnock, citing miscommunication. He said Warnock and the youth minister were "very helpful" with the investigation.
To back its claim, Walker’s campaign cited December 2020 reporting by conservative websites, The Washington Free Beacon and the Daily Caller.
The Daily Caller article said the camp was "nearly shut down" for "unreported child abuse allegations and repeated safety code violations." The Daily Caller cited reporting by The Washington Free Beacon based on Maryland state documents.
The Maryland Department of Health would not comment to PolitiFact on Walker’s claim, but provided documents from 2002 to 2004 relating to the camp.
In June 2003, the agency, then known as the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, denied Camp Farthest Out an annual certificate to operate, citing violations found in the agency’s July 2002 inspection and the camp’s failure to address them.
The agency’s denial letter and the inspection report cited no findings of child abuse.
However, one of the dozen violations listed in the inspection report related to reporting child abuse: "Camp child abuse procedure should be updated to include local phone number for reporting incidents of abuse or suspected abuse." And the denial letter said the camp "did not ensure that child abuse allegations or incidents are reported" as law required.
The camp appealed the permit denial. Baltimore attorney Paul Shelton, who represented the camp and its director, Brian Carter, told the state agency in a July 2003 letter that the camp had not been notified of five "pending actions of indicated child abuse or neglect" against Carter.
Shelton told PolitiFact he had no recollection of the camp being shut down because of child abuse findings.
The camp and the department negotiated a settlement. The camp agreed to take corrective actions, including developing protocols for reporting child abuse and staff neglect.
Carter and two other employees, Drenard Tucker and Corey Ferguson, were removed from their roles.
The state allowed the camp to reopen in 2004.
Separately, Tucker and Ferguson, along with Warnock and the camp, were sued by the mother of Anthony Washington, a 12-year-old at the camp, in December 2003. The case was settled in May 2005, online court records show.
Washington told the Free Beacon in December 2020 the lawsuit was filed because counselors tossed urine on him and locked him outside his cabin overnight.
Paul Weber, the attorney who represented Washington’s mother in the lawsuit because Washington was a minor, told PolitiFact that the settlement is confidential and that he could not comment.
Warnock’s campaign did not comment for this article.
Walker claimed that "Warnock’s camp was shut down for failing to report five findings of child abuse and neglect."
The camp was shut down for one summer, in 2003, partly because of unreported allegations of abuse. But no findings of abuse were cited in the shutdown.
Warnock was the pastor of the church that ran the camp, but he did not direct it.
The ad is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.
Meta, Herschel Walker campaign "You might think you know Senator Raphael Warnock" ad, started running Nov. 16, 2022
Email, Herschel Walker campaign spokesperson Will Kiley, Nov. 18, 2022
Email, Raphael Warnock campaign spokesperson Michael Brewer, Nov. 21, 2022
Email, Chase Cook, spokesperson, Maryland Department of Health, Nov. 22, 2022
Daily Caller, "Report: Warnock Summer Camp Was Nearly Shut Down After Allegations Of Child Abuse, Neglect," Dec. 11, 2020
Washington Free Beacon, "Abuse Allegations and Health-Code Violations Plagued Warnock Summer Camp, Records Show," Dec. 10, 2020
Washington Free Beacon, "Camper Recounts Abuse at Warnock Church Camp," Dec. 28, 2020
YouTube, Herschel Walker "What Else is Warnock Hiding?" ad, Sept. 13, 2022
FreeBeacon.com, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene letter to Douglas Memorial Community Church, June 5, 2003
FreeBeacon.com, correspondence between Paul Shelton and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, accessed Nov. 22, 2022
PolitiFact, "No proof Warnock ‘ran over’ wife; obstruction case dropped," Nov. 16, 2020
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "In Georgia Senate runoff, guilt by insinuation," Dec. 10, 2020
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Former camper’s allegation drives new Loeffler attack," Dec. 31, 2020
TheWarnockFiles.com, "What Else Is Warnock Hiding?", accessed Nov. 22, 2022
Circuit Court of Maryland, "Anthony Kevin Washington, et al vs Camp Farthest Out Inc, et al," filed Dec. 11, 2003
Interview, Baltimore attorney Paul Shelton, Nov. 22, 2022
Interview, Annapolis, Maryland, attorney Paul Weber, Nov. 28, 2022
Nexis, Baltimore Sun, "Pastor set to tackle issues; Reverend Warnock to be installed Sunday at Douglas Memorial; HIV, AIDS are priorities," Sept. 28, 2001
Maryland Health Department, various Camp Farthest Out documents and correspondence, 2002 to 2004
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