Campus Outreach stirs controversy

Senators voice concerns that the group is on cult-watch lists

Northern Star/April 9, 1998
By Veronica Gonzalez

Northern Illinois University (NIU) students and faculty have voiced concerns about the Student Association Senate's approval of Campus Outreach, an affiliate of the International Church of Christ.

Although the group never has come up for recognition under the name Campus Outreach, last year, another organization under the ICC, called the Christian Student Union, approached the Student's Association (SA) for recognition and was denied.

An SA-recognized organization has the right to post fliers and obtains a mailbox in the SA office.

Sen. Brad Kuhn pointed out that CSU and Campus Outreach are the same organization, just under different names. He said the ICC campus groups that have come up for recognition at NIU "change their name very often to try to get recognition under a different name."

Kuhn added Campus Outreach's adviser, Tracy Sheppard, was also the CSU's adviser.

Senator emeritus Jeff Kerman, who opposed Campus Outreach's recognition, said he was disgusted the SA Senate approved Campus Outreach. "I'm angry that senators didn't take the time to read the information from last year," he said.

Last year, a task force was assembled to study the CSU to decide whether to approve it.

Sen. Steve Roth said the senate had decided against approving the CSU because of an incident in which the group baptized members on school property, and because its constitution stated you had to be baptized into the organization if you wanted to be an officer.

He said forcing members to be baptized discriminated against people of other religions.

Roth said an organization "should be and has to be open to all" in order for it to be recognized. "I really don't think that we have a right to deny them recognition," he said. "In order to come out and say you're hazardous and you're dangerous, we've got to have concrete proof."

Kuhn said by recognizing Campus Outreach the SA can now watch out for students' well being and should monitor Campus Outreach's activities on campus.

Concerns about the International Church of Christ

According to an ICC packet, it began as a traditional Church of Christ in Lexington, Mass. in 1979. Later, members split off from the Church of Christ and established the Boston Church of Christ, or the International Church of Christ.

The International Churches of Christ believe "that the Bible is the only inspired and inerrant word of God.. that only baptized disciples are members of the true church," the ICC packet stated.

On Sunday, Campus Outreach President Steve Dolgin answered questions about baptizing and said people do not have to be baptized to join. Kerman was concerned about ICC's presence on cult-watch lists and members' aggressive recruiting tactics.

According to a Web page, "Cult Alert! The International Church of Christ," "after getting the person to confess their sins during initiations, they (the ICC) would use whatever personal information to brainwash and manipulate the person into obedience ... They tell them (members) what classes to take, what to major in, what career to enter, whom to date and whom to marry."

Other personal accounts compiled from different newspapers speak about manipulation, deception and pressure from ICC members to join its church.

According to an Oct. 25, 1993 Northern Star article, Ted McCarron described the DeKalb sector of the Boston Church of Christ as "very, very controlling."

McCarron stated in the article that the BCC pressured him to stay in DeKalb and avoid his girlfriend and family.

Boston University has banned the ICC from its campus. According to a Feb. 24, 1998 The Daily Free Press article from Boston University, Marsh Chapel Dean Robert Watts Thornburg said BU protects students from "religious harassment."

He said in the article that anyone who is approached by a group and answers with an "emphatic 'no' will be free from further solicitations. If the group fails to comply with this rule, it can be prosecuted for religious harassment."

Programming and Activities Director Michelle Emmett said she is concerned by Campus Outreach because of its affiliation with ICC. "I know that the senate struggled with this one," she said. "I hope they approved them with recognition for the right reasons."

Emmett said her only concern with any organization is that she wants students to feel safe and secure, and she doesn't want students to be harassed.

She added if students ever feel harassed by an NIU organization, she wants them to notify P&A, the SA or the ombudsman.

Terri Beer, Newman Catholic Center campus minister, said students have approached him in past years who had felt pressure to join one of the ICC groups. "When they would leave (the group), there would be some persistency," he said.

Although the ICC is on cult-watch lists, Beer said he doesn't think it is a cult. But he said there are certain things that are cult-like about it.

Beer compared the Catholic church with ICC and said the Catholic church allows freedom in a way a person lives and allows people the freedom to choose whether to be a member, whereas he said the ICC curtails those freedoms. "They (ICC) tend to keep to themselves," Beer said. "It's hard to get an accurate reading on what they're doing."

What happens next?

Although the senate approved Campus Outreach, it still has to be approved by SA President Beth Hull. "I have a request to veto it (Campus Outreach) and right now, I'm thinking about it," she said.

Hull said she has to gather information about ICC before she decides whether to approve its recognition. If she vetoes it, the senate can override with a three-fourths vote.

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