Student Activities Board suspends group for improper conduct

Replicated constitution, harassing recruitment cause Student Activities Board to suspend group

The News Record (University of Cincinnati)/March 1, 1999
By Patsie Thomas

The Student Activities Board (SAB) indefinitely suspended Campus Advance (CA), a UC Christian organization, from campus last December because of recruitment harassment.

According to UC spokesperson Greg Hand, records indicate that CA submitted an identical constitution to SAB as Christians on Campus, a previous Christian organization, had previously.

CA is an affiliate of the International Church of Christ (ICC), an international Christian movement that, according to its Web site, "is (the) only church in this generation."

Prospective campus organizations must submit their constitution to the Student Activities Board stating their intentions on campus.

Campus Advance, once titled Christians on Campus, lost UC privileges for one year beginning October 1988. The group received a letter of probation detailing steps necessary for reinstatement. Hand said, "They did not follow the proper conditions to be reinstated as a campus organization."

CA filed to become a new student group during Fall 1998. Several students filed harassment complaints with the Student Activities Board (SAB) against CA during November 1998.

UC's Code of Conduct defines harassment as, "Conduct that has the foreseeable effect of unreasonably interfering with an identifiable individual's work or academic performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or learning environment for that individual."

Channel 12 reporter Rich Jaffe has been investigating the ICC for six years. "This group is constantly a problem. They are fueled by new recruits," commented Jaffe.

A common ICC recruitment technique involves an invitation to Bible study. "When approached, ask what church they are affiliated with," said Lucy Croft, assistant director of Student Organizations and Activities. "Campus Advance was found guilty of harassment in their recruitment tactics because of constant phone calls and approaching students. That is a violation of the Code of Conduct," said Croft.

Aggressive recruiting tactics or "discipling" - as termed on the ICC Web site - comprise a portion of ICC's theology. Its Web site, instructs, "Each member (must) engage in aggressive, active proselytizing as their primary personal responsibility before God. Every member is assigned another member as a mentor, to whom he/she reports, confesses sins, and which he/she is expected to obey and emulate."

SAB's December hearings allowed a forum for complainants and CA representatives to testify concerning the allegations.

SAB voted for CA's indefinate suspension because no representatives chose to testify on behalf of the organization.

ICC members utilize parks, grocery stores, the workplace and college campuses for recruitment. "They target anyone who looks disenfranchised or lacking a good support system," said Jaffe.

"Students are on the threshold of making lifelong decisions making them a great target for such groups," said the Rev. John Gilbert of Old St. George Church referring to ICC's most desired population for recruitment. "Once individuals are in the group they are asked to isolate themselves from their families. Often members are asked to sign over their cars, homes and bank accounts to the church," said Jaffe.

"They tell you who to marry and convince you that you will suffer in eternal hell if you leave.

"They raise issues that resemble cults stopping short of kidnapping," said Gilbert, hesitating to label ICC a cult. Gilbert prefers the reference "emotionally destructive religious group."

Support groups exist to help those choosing to leave the ICC. Disassociating one's self from the ICC often involves varying levels of psychological trauma. "(ICC) operates on fear and guilt tactics," Gilbert said. "Members are often harassed when trying to leave."

"Efforts are underway to educate students and Residence Advisors about what constitutes harassment," said Hand.

UC's Campus Ministries developed a pamphlet called Protect Yourself from Destructive Religious Groups. Rev. Gilbert placed the pamphlet outside the The News Record office. "It is important to get these in the hands of as many people as possible," Gilbert mentioned.

CA and ICC affiliates may reapply with SAB in the future. Lucy Croft commented, "Everybody has the right to obtain registration status with the university."

Campus Advance was unavailable for comment.

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