Religious solicitation complaints prompt warning against group

Emory Wheel (Emory University)/September 22, 1998
By Amanda Roberson

Student complaints of harassment prompted Religious Life officials to warn a local religious organization to keep its members off Emory's campus.

Members of the Atlanta Church of Christ have stood in front of the Dobbs University Center recently, despite opposition from the Office of the Dean of the Chapel.

According to several students, members of the church harassed passers-by, preaching their beliefs and encouraging students to attend Bible studies and worship services.

Emory has a history of problems with this particular group, which is not allowed anywhere on campus, according to Religious Life officials.

Dean of the Chapel and of Religious Life Susan Henry-Crowe said she has already recorded between 10 and 12 complaints this year from students who have been harassed by Atlanta Church of Christ members.

"This year has been worse than others," Henry-Crowe said. "We are especially concerned that they are taking students off campus. They've received several verbal warnings, and I expect it to cease and desist with no further steps."

College sophomore James Tichner said a man from the Atlanta Church of Christ approached him while he was walking between the DUC and Alabama Hall.

"He said he was forming a group for students to who don't want to be involved in drugs, sex and alcohol, and he started quoting passages from the Bible," Tichner said. The man called Tichner the next day and asked him to meet a group in front of the DUC to drive to a church service.

College junior Tito Jackson said a Church of Christ member approached him at the beginning of this academic year. Jackson agreed to attend a Bible study, which was held in the DUC.

"It sounded interesting at first, but when I talked with them in a Bible study setting, I found their manipulation of the Bible very disturbing," Jackson said. "They have a strict set of guidelines for how their members should live their lives, and they use certain passages to get across their beliefs."

Jackson said he thought the group broke down Christian principles through cult-like practices. The Atlanta Church of Christ believes that anyone who does not follow its strict guidelines will go to hell.

"I'm glad I was the only student at the Bible study," Jackson said. "I know who I am, but with someone vulnerable, it could have been a different story."

Jackson reported the incident to Luther Felder, associate dean of the Chapel and of Religious Life. Felder said he immediately recognized the group from problems they have caused in years past. According to Felder, the Atlanta Church of Christ fails to comply with the University's guidelines for religious groups on campus, which require 20 active student members, full disclosure of beliefs and purposes and a faculty or staff advisor.

"In the faith community at Emory, each group falls under a larger governing body," Felder said. "The Atlanta Church of Christ is completely insensitive to any authority this university has. They have no right to use rooms in the DUC, send a bus here or even be on campus at all."

Felder said members from the church are especially likely to approach students who appear vulnerable, such as freshman or international students.

The Atlanta Church of Christ did not return several phone calls, and attempts to contact the group were unsuccessful.

Henry-Crowe said any students who are approached by this group should notify her, an official in Religious Life or the Emory Police immediately.

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