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This flyer was found at a Ferndale church during Labor Day Weekend.
This flyer was found at a Ferndale church during Labor Day Weekend.

Hateful Message – at Ferndale Church

Anti-Semitic flyers found at Ferndale church

The Anti-Defamation League Michigan office is working with local and federal investigative authorities to uncover who plastered a Ferndale church with anti-Semitic flyers during the Arts, Beats and Eats festival. The flyers were also found at businesses along Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak and streets in Southfield and Detroit over Labor Day weekend.

This flyer was found at a Ferndale church during Labor Day Weekend.

This flyer was found at a Ferndale church during Labor Day Weekend.

The flyers contained the wording “brought to you by the Daily Stormer Book Club” and expressed support for the white supremacist website, The Daily Stormer, as well as for anti-government conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

The Rev. Robert Schoenhals and his wife, Jill Warren, arrived 8:43 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, at the First United Methodist Church at 22331 Woodward Ave. to find three of the building’s doors had been plastered with the flyers depicting ugly caricatures of Jews.

Though Schoenhals is not certain why his church was a target, he suspects it may be because his congregation is active in social justice and equality causes; its openness and acceptance to people of all faiths, races and orientations; and the outdoor art installation protesting the racially charged violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., in the summer of 2017.

Schoenhals said he is working with local police but has not yet been contacted by federal authorities such as the FBI.

First United Methodist Church members stand outside their art installation, a response to the hateful riots that took place in Charlottesville, Va., last summer.

First United Methodist Church members stand outside their art installation, a response to the hateful riots that took place in Charlottesville, Va., last summer.

“Our church has a strong reputation for involvement in social activism, and we stand against prejudices of all kinds,” Schoenhals said. “Personally, I do not feel threatened. We have a very good security system, but we will remind the groups who use our building to always close the doors behind them when they enter.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 4, Ferndale police released a video of a white man in sunglasses and a hat who appears to be posting the offensive flyers on the outside of the church. Ferndale police officials said they filed a report, but because of First Amendment issues, this may not be a criminal matter and may fall under the protection of free speech.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Daily Stormer Book Clubs are small crews of young white men who follow and support neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin and his Daily Stormer website, which contains hateful, racist content. Anglin and other contributors use the site to promote Adolf Hitler, Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. The website’s propaganda includes trolling instructions and urges readers to use these techniques to harass Jews and other minorities, as well as women and journalists.

Carolyn Normandin, ADL Michigan regional director, said she sees no correlation to the timing of the flyer distribution and the approaching Jewish High Holiday season. In any case, she said the ADL is working with synagogues and the community-wide security arm of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Normandin said the ADL also saw similar flyers distributed in California over the Labor Day weekend.

“Whether it be a church, a synagogue or simply targeting people enjoying activities over a long holiday weekend (like Arts, Beats and Eats), haters are going to hate,” Normandin said.

“What we all need to do is to stand up to the haters and say we are not going to be targeted or afraid by your despicable flyers. The more of us who stand up and speak out, the better.”

Watch video of Person Suspected of posting the flyers

Stacy Gittleman

Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com

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