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The District government’s interest in adding a for-profit, taxpaying business to the city’s property-tax base is certainly a legitimate consideration in the matter of the sale of Giddings School (“Baptism by Fire,” 1/15). An equally legitimate consideration is the interest of neighborhood residents, who are concerned about the effect on their community of a social-service ministry to poor people. What is illegitimate is the hostility expressed toward Fellowship Christian Church and its members by your writer, Colin Bane. Bane calls Fellowship’s membership a “corps of suburban do-gooders.” He attributes to the church’s pastor “rightist politics and religious intolerance,” and says that the pastor “spews conservative family-values rhetoric.” Bane says the church and its leaders are unwanted in Southeast because of their “Bible-thumping influence” and “righteous-outsider condescension.” These phrases, all of which appeared outside quotations, were obviously intended as pejorative by Bane. And we find that Bane’s contempt for Fellowship is chiefly political: The pastor supported a “right-wing Republican” for Congress, and acted to “restrict Internet access…because of pornography fears.” Most ironically, Bane accuses Fellowship’s pastor of “religious intolerance” for opposing a Saudi-funded Islamic school in his community, but then expresses his own hostility toward the “Bible-thumping influence” of the church.
Bane characterizes the Saudi government’s intolerance of Christianity with the word “allegedly”but that intolerance is both very real and very well-documented. The pastor of Fellowship, as well as other citizens of Loudoun County, was quite justified in asking why their community should extend tolerance to an institution funded by an intolerant foreign government. What would the residents of Southeast have said had the Saudi academy sought to purchase the Giddings School? For that matter, what would the residents of Southeast have said if an Internet pornography firm had sought to purchase the Giddings School?
But whatever one feels about such concerns, the political leanings of the congregation and pastor of Fellowship had no legitimate place in the story about Giddings School. The property should be sold to the highest bidder or, if the future tax status of the property is a concern, the bids should be adjusted to reflect the revenue differential between a taxed property and a tax-exempt property. In the meantime, Bane should learn to keep his political and religious biases out of his stories.
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