Hate-filled, racist flyers have been popping up at religious and community centers and events in the Modesto area. They have prompted concern that the intolerant images and language could turn into something much worse.
Mike Schiefelbein, the pastor at the College Avenue United Church of Christ in Modesto, never thought messages like loving your neighbor could be controversial. But last Sunday, the anti-Semitic flyers were posted on his church and he believes his messages of tolerance may be why.
“I looked at the flyer and it was horrible,” Rev. Schiefelbein told FOX40. “I don’t know, maybe that message for people who want to spread hatred is kind of a challenge to them.”
One active church member, Lisa Battista, posted the image to social media, condemning its message. She said the image invoked thoughts of churches and synagogues being targeted by violence in recent years.
“That’s something that’s been on our minds here,” she said. “We’ve convened a security team here.”
But it was not an isolated incident. Within the last eight weeks, flyers like the ones posted at the church have appeared at a congressman’s town hall event, a local synagogue and at the Central Valley Pride Center.
“The fact that they’re targeting spaces that are meant to be safe, like churches, for example, used to be, you know, that’s a sanctuary,” said Central Valley Pride Director Veronica Ambrose. “They’re just trying to push people back in the closet.”
“We’re all concerned about security,” Rev. Schiefelbein said.
Schiefelbein said he met with local Muslim and Jewish faith leaders Wednesday to discuss a response.
Local Rep. Josh Harder and his Republican challenger, Ted Howze, also condemned the flyers.
“This was a disgusting and cowardly act,” Harder said. “The people who are sneaking this hateful garbage into public places and houses of worship will not divide us. The Central Valley is the proud home to people of all ethnicities and faith traditions and we will stand together against discrimination in whatever form it takes.”
“America soundly defeated similar hate during World War 2, and we must always stand tall against this type of bigotry,” Howze said.
One city official said Modesto Police Department was aware of the flyers and are investigating its source.