UIC worries about cult recruitment; three cases this fall

Mike Ginsburg, associate chancellor for student affairs, received three disturbing phone calls this semester.

University of Illinois News/December 1, 1993
By Daniel Buckman

The callers were parents of UIC students with a distressing situation in common: they said their children had been recruited by religious cults on campus and were at various stages of indoctrination. They wanted to know what legal action the university was planning to take, and when.

Ginsburg could only offer his personal sympathy and vow to help raise cult awareness among UIC students.

"Given the current laws, there is nothing that can be done," says Ginsburg.

"Unless these organizations do something illegal, the administration cannot stop them from recruiting on campus."

Ginsburg said two of the cases reported to his office deal specifically with University Bible Fellowship, an organization based in the campus neighborhood. The third student became involved with a Chicago fundamentalist church.

University Bible Fellowship is known by UIC students for its passive/aggressive recruiting techniques in and around Circle Center.

"Both of the students were initially approached by UBF people on campus," Ginsburg said.

"One student has totally withdrawn from the university and is now living in Evanston, recruiting for the organization at Northwestern. The other student is currently enrolled in classes at UIC."

University Bible Fellowship professes membership within the Christian mainstream and claims its sole purpose is Bible study. But cult specialist Ronald Enroth, author of six books on North American cults, reports that "UBF is part of a new wave of authoritarian mind control groups quickly replacing traditional youth groups like the Hare Krishnas and the Moonies."

Marty Butz of Chicago's Cult Awareness Hotline verified reports that University Bible Fellowship's leadership has required arranged marriages, forced alienation from families and excessive tithing from its members.

"UBF has no formal affiliation with UIC," says Ginsburg.

"But by calling themselves University Bible Fellowship and recruiting at Circle Center with their invitations to Bible study, they create the impression that they are affiliated with the university."

Located in a building just one block from the east side of campus, University Bible Fellowship has long been one of the most active cults at UIC. Another group, known by the acronym CARP and affiliated with the Unification Church, or "Moonies," has not been active recently.

In 1985, University Bible Fellowship lost its organizational status at UIC when its campus adviser resigned, saying the group had misrepresented itself. The same year, several UIC students were arrested after two incidents of violence between members and former members.

Private universities can keep many groups from coming on campus -- whether they are religious, political or social activist organizations, Ginsburg says. But public universities cannot restrict these groups as long as their behavior remains within the law.

Next Tuesday, Ginsburg will testify before a group of Illinois legislators about the practices of groups like University Bible Fellowship in the hope that the General Assembly will amend the laws that protect cult recruitment on campus.

Ginsburg and campus minister Frank Anderson are investigating how other campuses deal with cults. They are revising a cult awareness pamphlet to give to students and discussing new ways to educate students about the potential danger of cult involvement and practices.

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