Controversy over Campus Advance not new at RU: Religious group accused of cult-like tactics

The Daily Targum/November 15, 1994
By Janice D'Arcy

Controversy is not new to Campus Advance, a religious organization at Rutgers which last night was accused of cult-like tactics in recruiting students. Stemming back at least three years at the University, and much further for their parent group, the organization's mission has been the center of fierce debate.

Roselle Wilson, University vice president for student affairs, estimated she heard six complaints last semester about the group. "One complaint is considered fair and two about the same group are concern, so, yes, I would say six complaints is high," Wilson said.

University documentation follows the group back to 1991 when then-Associate Provost for student affairs issued an official warning letter to Campus Advance in response to accusations that they were pressuring student members to donate large sums of money.

Wilson said she has not considered broad punitive action because none of the complaints has merited such a response and Rutgers guidelines as a public institution are very broad.

Though Fr. Ronald Stanley of the Catholic Center and a sponsor of last night's forum on the College Avenue campus "Cults on Campus," advocates banning leaders of the group from campus, Wilson said, "If we tried I suspect we would have a pretty decent battle on our hands."

In 1987, Boston University banned church leaders from campus, citing "unacceptable behavior" on the part of members. Documents indicate church leaders were harassing students and therefore in violation of the University guidelines. "We don't enjoy the same luxuries as a private institution,'" Wilson said.

"Whenever you take a stand there's going to be opposition," said a student member of Campus Advance who asked not to be identified.

Referring to complaints by those who were members and now charge that Campus Advance is a cult, the member said: "you can't generalize with those specific situations. For every one person who says they have had a bad experience, I can show you 10 who have had a wonderful experience."

The campus group's parent organization, The International Churches of Christ, has been investigated by several organizations including 20/20, Inside Edition and The Cult Awareness Network, a Chicago-based group that tracks high pressure groups nationwide.

The International Churches of Christ, also known as the Boston movement, was established in 1979 as a spin-off of the mainstream Church of Christ, founded by then-25-year-old Kip McKean. In 14 years, the group has grown to somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000 members.

Beginning in the mid-80s, International Churches of Christ leaders concentrated their recruiting efforts on college campuses, Marty Butz, a staff researcher for the Cult Awareness Network said.

    [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.]

Butz said he receives from one to five calls a day about the International Churches of Christ.

"It's the group we receive the most calls and complaints about," he said adding that many of the calls are from parents who complain their children are alienating themselves from friends and family.

At Rutgers, Stanley has kept track of the group for a number of years, but believes this year the church has targeted Rutgers campus for intense recruitment.

have been accused of documenting members' sins, then later using Butz said it is typical for The International Churches of Christ to concentrate their resources in certain areas of the country. Philadelphia, he said, is the most recent area for intensified recruiting his group has tracked.

Members at Rutgers deny this accusation, insisting that bringing new members into the group is important, but not newly emphasized or essential.

"We want people to study the Bible and to know Jesus ... but I have never forced anyone (to join the group)," Sammy Khalil, a Campus Advance member and Livingston College junior said.

Both the larger nationwide group and the Rutgers chapter have been accused of documenting members' sins, then later using those confessions against them. But Khalil said sin lists "are a total misconception."

"We talk about sin, it's an important part of people's lives. But if God forgets, we can forget," he said.

In addition to the accusations of psychological control, the organization has been accused of pressuring members to donate large sums of money. Butz said members nationwide are expected to give 10 percent of their income and contribute to additional fundraising efforts throughout the year. "Often times members are contributing much, much more than 10 percent."

Khalil said, "There's no rule about money. We can contribute if we want to, to help our church grow and prosper. But any contribution comes from our own free will."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.