Marquette University slaps ban on evangelists

School says fundamentalists badger students to convert

Journal (Marquette University)/April 13, 1988
By Marie Rohde

Marquette University has banned from its campus evangelists from a fundamentalist Protestant church who university officials say are harassing students to convert.

"We object to people proselytizing on our campus," Father David Haschka, the Jesuit priest who heads Marquette's Campus Ministry, said Wednesday. "Marquette has, for years, agreed not to proselytize its students on behalf of Roman Catholicism and similarly is not likely to allow some other church or religion to do so."

Mark McCarthy, associate dean of students, said his office had issued the order to ban non-student evangelists. He said it was his understanding that the students who were members of the fundamentalist church had agreed not to proselytize other students. He said there were about 10 students involved who had been warned. None has been disciplined, he said. Discipline can ultimately lead to suspension or expulsion.

The evangelists are from the Milwaukee Church 6f' Christ, a congregation that holds Sunday services at the Grand Cinemas, 214 W. Wiscoinsin Ave. The pastor of the church, Eric Mansfield, said staff members from the church no longer were going onto the campus but said church members who are students would remain active.

Mansfield described his church as an international denomination that has thousands of churches worldwide. It is a born-again faith that believes in the infallibility of the Bible, that it is the inspired word of God.

"I don't agree with most major religions because I believe they have strayed a lot from the Bible," Mansfield said.

Catholics, he said, do not believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and "therein lie a lot of our differences." Catholics say they believe in the Bible but also in the teaching authority of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

"We still have students who attend and they continue to share their faith," Mansfield said." The students took a firm stand and are willing to go through the disciplinary hearing process if necessary."

He added: "There are a lot more students than Marquette realizes."

In a letter to the church, McCarthy's office also told officials not to use Marquette's name in its literature.

Marquette does not object to allowing ministers of other faiths on campus, Haschka said. A different Protestant evangelical group, called Campus Crusade for Christ, an Islamic group and a Lutheran group all are active on campus. However, Marquette has had a longtime prohibition against any group - even Catholics - attempting to gain converts. That informal policy has existed since Marquette began admitting non-Catholics more than 40 years ago, Haschka said.

The story was first reported in the university's student newspaper, the Marquette Tribune.

Mansfield said church staff members and students were involved in activities on other campuses in Milwaukee, but he declined to say which ones because he feared they would be harassed.

McCarthy said non-student members of the church were conducting Bible study classes in the residence halls and approaching students in the union or in lounges.

"The scenario I've heard is that a student who is usually alone or who looks lonely is approached," McCarthy said. "After some friendly conversation, the student is asked about his or her religious beliefs."

The student's faith is then challenged and the student is invited to a meeting at the Church of Christ, McCarthy said. The next step is that the student is called, invited to meetings and told that he or she is a sinner. Personal visits are made to the student's home. Students are told that if they are not rebaptized in the Church of Christ, they will be doomed to eternal damnation, McCarthy said.

"Then it's constant calling and challenging," he said.

Haschka described the tactics used by Mansfield's followers as "cult-like," preying on vulnerable young people.

Some students who joined the group for a while and then left have formed a support group under the leadership of the Campus Ministry, McCarthy said.

Mansfield's group has been particularly active among minority groups on campus and foreign students, McCarthy said.

Haschka said Marquette had never had to take action against a religious group on campus in the past. "The Unification Church wanted to do some things on campus but they were polite enough to ask," Haschka said. "We were polite and refused."

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