"High Pressure groups" recruiting at Penn

"New religious movements" recruit Penn students with "high pressure tactics"

News Summary/May 1, 2012

"The Daily Pennsylvanian" reported that "high pressure tactics" have been used by "new religious movements" to recruit and retain members on college and university campuses.

Students have reportedly complained specifically about "International Youth Fellowship, founded by Korean preacher Ock Soo Park".

Temple University student Di Tang described an "English Camp Mission Trip" to Mexico sponsored by the Korean group also known as "Good News Mission" (GNM) founded by Ock Soo Park.

"They seem to say, if you want to be a true Christian, you have to follow by the rules of the organization," he said. "That aspect seemed questionable to me", Tang told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

GNM is not affiliated with the Penn religious community. But it does apparently operate on campus.

"The quality of their leadership and the willingness of their members to sign over their autonomy to the group," has caused concern said religious studies professor Stephen Dunning.

Dunning teaches a course titled "Understanding the Cult Controversy." He claims that certain new religious movements use "'high-pressure' tactics to attract and keep their members".

Dunning stated that some groups use what he referred to as a "reward scheme" for recruiting, which includes promises for "an easier path toward salvation".

University Chaplain Chaz Howard said some groups have even offered money to students to attend bible studies.

"For every 10 kids who take the money, eat the free pizza and never come back, one might stick around and say that this is really interesting," Chaz said.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that "GNM did not respond to multiple requests for an interview".

"Most of these groups do normal service activities, identify with normal religious beliefs, but in practice, what they do can be harmful", Howard said.

Dave Brindley of Philly Bridges, the international student ministry of Penn Cru told the Daily Pennsylvanian that such groups can "suck the life out of its members..."

Marsha Goluboff Low, a 1970 College graduate of Penn who wrote the book "The Orange Robe", described her 18 years with a neo eastern group called Ananda Marga.

"When you join Ananda Marga, you get a new name, you get a new identity, and I felt limited by the identity I had," Low said.

It took many years before Low began to notice "oppressive" practices, such as strict hierarchical authority and sexism.

Dunning said that groups like the Unification Church may perform "a lot of good works", but have a "darker side."

Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon is the founder of the Unification Church, which has been called the "Moonies". He is the author of the group's pivotal spiritual book titled "The Divine Principle".

Moon claims that Jesus essentially failed in his mission and that he is now the world's "messiah".

The Pennsylvanian interviewed Unification Church Pastor Crescentia DeGoede who discussed ongoing recruitment efforts.

The Unification Church (UC) now also uses the name "Lovin' Life Ministries" in the United States and is led by Rev. Moon's 44-year-old daughter In Yin Moon.

It seems that the UC, which has a long history of targeting college students, is seeking new recruits at Penn.

DeGoede said her congregation has 100 members, including Penn undergraduate and graduate students.

Brindley warned, "If there is a group that's kind of in the shadows, that's not officially or openly a part of the Penn community, be wary."

Dunning said that former members of high-pressure groups need some form of psychological "deprogramming" after leaving.

Note: This news summary is based upon an article that appeared within "The Daily Pennsylvanian" titled "Some religious organizations near campus show 'darker side'" by Glenn Shrum published April 5, 2012

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