Valley Voices

Valley religious leaders take exception to their portrayal in Nunes’ mailer

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, leaves after speaking with reporters outside the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, following a meeting with President Donald Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, leaves after speaking with reporters outside the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, following a meeting with President Donald Trump. AP file

We, as faith leaders in the Central Valley, stand with and for the people of the Central Valley as we champion justice. We expect all of our elected officials and candidates for office to do the same. Therefore, as members of a nonpartisan organization, Faith in the Valley, we strive to build partnerships between local, state and federal elected officials, civic organizations and houses of worship, in order to shape a better future in the Valley for its families and communities.

As part of our unique work with our congregations, we highlight those at the margins and advocate on their behalf to help fulfill the needs of our community. Our work is based upon building relationships and sacred partnerships, which are desperately needed in these divisive times. We, alongside the free press, have a right to participate in the democratic process with our representative in Congress.

Unfortunately, the Devin Nunes campaign committee’s recent multipage campaign mailer grossly misrepresented us. The campaign's propaganda identified us as being associated with his opponent's campaign, which is completely false. We also were identified as “activists,” a label that has been assigned a disapproving connotation by the Nunes campaign.

Those pictured in the publication are pastors, priests, rabbis and parishioners, all residents of California congressional district 22, who are called to seek justice, dignity and peace for all residents of the Central Valley. Many of us are members of Faith in the Valley, a nonpartisan, multiracial, multifaith coalition of more than 120 Central Valley, congregations which represents thousands of people.

Alongside Faith in the Valley, we are working for policy changes grounded in justice and human dignity for those at the margins, whether it is those suffering in substandard housing, those threatened by pay-day lenders, or immigrants in fear of family separation. We are here to ensure all of our representatives, including Congressman Nunes, hear what justice demands.

The gathering that is pictured in the mailer took place in August 2017 at Congressman Nunes’ Visalia office and represented a further attempt to open a conversation with him. We have, and would be happy to share, a written record of attempted communications with Congressman Nunes and his staff that demonstrate our desire to meet with him as faith leaders. Those communications are regularly ignored. He continually disregards our requests to respond to questions and engage in dialogue about his position on federal policies affecting residents in our district.

We live in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, with hundreds of thousands of people living with vulnerable health, fear of family separation, and housing that is fast becoming less and less affordable, just to name a few of the real issues at stake in this election and district.

Our invitation to Congressman Nunes to meet with us to discuss these and other urgent issues facing our communities remains open.

Rev. Natalie Chamberlain, formerly of First Congregational Church, Tulare

Rev. Dr. Carl L. Jones, Carter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, Fresno

Rev. Tim Kutzmark, Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno

Pastor B. T. Lewis II, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, Fresno

Deacon Bill Lucido, St Paul Newman Center, Fresno

Hajj Reza Nekumanesh, Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno

Thomas Weiler, Chapter Director, Faith in the Valley, Fresno

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Fresno

Rabbi Rick Winer, President, Faith in the Valley

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