Controversial religious group returns to Cal State-Long Beach

Daily Forty-Niner/March 6, 2001
By Derrick Engoy

California State University, Long Beach -- High-pressure groups have been haunting California State at Long Beach for many years, and with the reestablishment of the Los Angeles Church of Christ, some students may feel uneasy by their presence. However, a representative said the church is misinterpreted and misunderstood.

"We are no different than any other organization on campus," said Marco Pellizzeri, campus minister for LACOC. "We are no different than the fraternities, sororities or even the cultural groups. "If you look at the definition of what a cult is, then everybody fits that category," he added.

According to Webster's New World Dictionary, a cult is a devoted attachment to, or extravagant admiration of a person, principle or lifestyle. "There's nothing we're doing that's negative," Pellizzeri said. "We promote relationship building; to love everybody and don't hold grudges."

For many years, the LACOC has been charged as being a cult and has become one of the most controversial religious groups around, according to a recent report in the U.S. News and World Report. The LACOC is a Christian organization known for aggressive recruitment tactics. These recruitment tactics are the reasons why people are skeptical about the existence of the organization.

"I was approached many times when I was a freshman," said Mike Roy, a graduate student. "I even have friends who were sucked in. It's sad because I didn't see them for the longest time. They seemed to disappear." According to Pellizzeri, the church's tactics are only as extreme as the Bible describes. Pellizzeri said the congregation is willing to call themselves Christian and in order to follow Jesus' teachings one must be fully committed.

"We're willing to stand up to the status quo," Pellizzeri said. "Jesus stood up against worshipping by tradition as opposed by the heart. Because he did this, people looked at him in a negative light."

High pressure groups are not always religious, according to Mary Kay Will, campus minister for United Methodists. High pressure groups may be political or ideological in a variety ways.

"Think of Nazism in Germany," Will said. "It was an ideology that grew. It had a charismatic leader. People followed what he said, and he was an ultimate authority." Will's role and the role of University Interfaith, in terms of high-pressure groups, is to help students trying to cope and deal with the effects of these organizations. The University Interfaith offers educational material, counseling and referrals to places that have a more in-depth study on high pressure groups.

"I want students to be aware and concerned about any high pressure groups they may run into on campus," Will said. "We want to help students in identifying groups that may not be healthy groups to be involved in and can find ways to resist them."

To keep order on campus, every organization has to abide by rules set out by CSULB regulations, according to Jeane Caveness, senior director of Student Life and Development. If a certain organization, whether high pressure or not, gets out of hand by means of disruption or obstruction to the campus, or abusive behavior directed toward a member of the campus community, then necessary disciplinary actions will follow.

"There are different kinds of sanctions that could take place," Caveness said. "Obviously the worst would be saying to an organization that they are suspended from the campus."

As part of recognized organizations on campus, according to Caveness, groups are closely monitored, especially when reinstated, to insure a healthy scholastic environment. "If someone has a negative experience, they have a multiple effect; where they tell everybody," Pellizzeri said. "Our goal is to help every single person put God in their lives."

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