What will the University of Arizona do about "cult" recruiting on its campus?

News Summary/April 29, 2015

By Rick Ross

The Arizona Daily Star reported that University of Arizona (UA) officials have met with the president and faculty adviser of Faith Christian Church campus recruitment group regarding "allegations of wrongdoing" based upon the complaints of former members and affected families.

UA Senior Vice President Melissa Vito claimed the group would be required to "answer questions.” Vito claims that she was unable to act without a written complaint.

Several former members told the Arizona Daily Star that they had complained to UA officials by phone, but had apparently not filed formal written complaints.

Former University Religious Council chairman Dan Hurlbert told the Arizona Daily Star that UA was aware of problems concerning Faith Christian Church "as early as 1999."

The Arizona Daily Star published the complaints of 21 former members and affected families. UA has also received complaints since the news report was run from additional affected families and students.

Vito told reporters that UA has restricted the group regarding access to dorms due to its aggressive recruiting tactics.

Faith Christian Church, which has been called a "cult" by its critics, is led by head pastor Stephen M. Hall and executive pastor Ian A. Laks. Hall's background includes involvement with a controversial organization known as "Maranatha Ministries," which was also called a  "cult" amidst allegations of abuse. Both Hall and Laks have refused to answer any questions posed by the press and apparently instructed the membership of their church to do the same.

But former members continue to speak out. Former member James Peeken, a UA alumnus, reportedly said "he was disturbed by leaders' control over members, their intense focus on tithing and the pressure to confess sins publicly, during Bible study groups."

Peeken also told the Arizona Daily Star, “They would get a word from God about what classes you should take, what car you should buy. If you didn't’t follow that, you would be accused of having a rebellious spirit."

The Arizona Daily Star reported that Cody Nicholls, an assistant dean of students in the UA dean of students' office, is a member of Faith Christian Church.

Faith Christian Church is reportedly a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, but is no longer a member of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Note: This news summary is based upon the report "UA asks church's campus recruiting arm for answers" by Emily Bregel and Carol Ann Alaimo published by the Arizona Daily Star (March 12, 2015).

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