Students warned of cults

Daily Kent Stater/February 16, 1995
By Thomas Dolan

Former cult members gave students warning signs of what to look out for when choosing an organization Wednesday night at the Kiva.

The presentation was brought to campus by the Campus Ministers Organization and the Akron Chapter of the Cult Awareness Network. Alyssa Frank, president of CMO and director of Hillel said the idea came out of a planning group of the ministry.

    [Note: WARNING! The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was recently bankrupted and bought up by Scientology. We strongly recommend you do not contact them for assistance.]

As part of the planning group, The Rev. Chuck Graham, of United Christian Ministries, said the event was a warning in response to reports of cults approaching students on campus.

"The suggestion was made within the body that we ought to put on an educational program," he said. "The phrase Cleveland Church of Christ came up, that ran up a red flag in my mind," Graham said. "It's all a part of a larger thing called the International Church of Christ."

Rob Fox, a producer for MTV, said they came to the university to look into ICC starting a church here. Kent State is the only university MTV will be covering in its program, Fox said. The half-hour show will air May 24, at 10 p.m.

"MTV is exploring the topic of young people, primarily college students, investigating new religions," Fox said. "We're taking an objective look at both sides."

Ken Kunz, former member of ICC, said that he was befriended by a large group of people after taking part in a Bible study. The group used guilt and shame as a manipulation tool, he said. Kunz said there is one thing students should be aware of.

"The one common thread was they all believed 'it can't happen to me,'" Kunz said.

Annie Dye had a different experience than Kunz. Her group was supposed to help her organize her career and help her with relationships, she said. The group called "Lifespring" cost her about $2,000 and caused her to lose her job, she said.

"(Cults) have become much more sophisticated in a negative way," Dye said. "They frame this in a structure you can understand."

Ron Taggert said while at Kent State he was recruited into a cult which is part of the Church of the Risen Christ. After being presented under false credentials, Taggert explained that many cult leaders use the same tactics in gaining trust. Taggert said that some cults use "fronts" for their organizations to gain entry to campuses.

"You lose a sense of judgment about the situation you're in," Taggert said. "This will not look like a weird thing going on."

David Kokitka, a freshman psychology major, said he thought the panel ignored an important cult on college campuses - the Grateful Dead.

"I think that's a really big cult," Kokitka said. "I think that's an issue that's overlooked too."

Sharyl Trail, a sophomore family studies major and member of the Latenight Christian Fellowship, said she thought the program concentrated too much on the negatives.

"There is a difference between cultish organizations and legitimate ones," Trail said.

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