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Imagine School's C Street connection

There's an interesting connection between two Fort Wayne charter

schools and the subject of a Washington Post

story We published today.

The C Street Center, a $1.8 million townhouse in Washington, leases

living space to several conservative congressmen (several of whom have

been exposed for extramarital affairs). The property qualifies for

tax-exempt status through its affiliation with the Fellowship

Foundation, a Virginia-based group that sponsors the National Prayer

Breakfast.

Thirteen Ohio clergy members have filed a complaint with the IRS,

alleging that the C Street Center is "an exclusive club for powerful

officials ... masquerading as a church."

The Fellowship is also known as the Family, according to the New York

Times -- "a secretive international Christian network" whose "purpose

is to cultivate relationships with politicians, business people and

military leaders, bringing them together for prayer and Bible study

and sometimes getting involved in matters of diplomacy and foreign

policy."

Here's the local connection: Dennis Bakke, founder of the two Imagine

schools in Fort Wayne and two in Indianapolis, is a Family insider,

according to a book written by Jeff Sharlet. This excerpt from an

NPR story recounts the creepy details of the Family and Bakke's

involvement in a controversial dam project in Africa. Bakke's

assertion in the piece of "we don't go away" sounds strikingly

similar to the language he used in his infamous Imagine Schools memo.

While the IRS is investigating tax-exempt status of properties, it

might also want to consider if the Imagine Schools properties now owned by

a real estate investment trust and leased back to taxpayers (for $740,000 a year, in the case of the Imagine MASTer Academy) should be

on the tax rolls.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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