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As Long as We Remember...

It Isn't a Religious Issue

October 30, 2007

I wish you and others in the local media would please stop twisting the issue concerning the Ahmadiyya Muslims desire to purchase 224 acres in Walkersville for a national conference center, a worship center, gymnasiums and offices into a religious issue. It is not a religious issue.

Walkersville residents that I have spoken to do not wish to deny anyone the opportunity to worship God however they wish. The issue is whether the AMC proposed national conference center to host up to 10,000 people - which is double the present size of Walkersville's population - is appropriate for our community.

If the AMC had purchased a small tract of land to host a worship center, offices and gymnasiums for 20 or so families - with no conference center - I don't think this would have even raised an eyebrow, particularly if these families were already members of our community, investing in our town's businesses, supporting our high school's football team, attending towns meetings, or by participating in Walkersville Day.

But I will guess that only a tiny fraction of these 10,000 people are members of our immediate and surrounding community. So, what should we think when people who are not a part of this community suddenly appear on the scene this summer and innocently say that they simply want to purchase 224 acres for a worship center for 20 families throughout the year - oh yes, and they would also very much like to build a conference center to host 10,000 people that will "only" be used once or twice a year? They embark on an aggressive PR campaign to try to convince me and other townspeople that they love our town just as much as we do, and purchase ads in local papers to try to convince us as much.

I question their wisdom in wanting to pay $8 million+ for property that will "only" be used for a worship center for 20 families and an occasional mega-conference? It doesn't sound like a very good business venture, but that's just me. Maybe they are wise investors and they have planned additional uses for that 224 acres that they don't wish to reveal to us at this time? Maybe they will want to lease out the conference center to other mega groups every weekend to try to recoup their costs. Or maybe they will seek to build other structures much larger on their property in the future for "religious" purposes.

Because the scope of their plans are so enormous as compared to any other group that gathers in Walkersville, residents are justifiably concerned. Frankly, I would be just as alarmed if the Girl Scouts, or the National Wildlife Association, or the Future Farmers of America, or the Southern Baptists wished to purchase this land and build a mega conference center to host their own national conventions of 10,000 people.

So why can't you be honest and stop making this into a "religious" issue. It isn't, and I resent your saying that it is and so do my neighbors.

Annette Royster, Walkersville

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