Members of REAL Bible Club, a former Cal State Dominguez Hills organization allegedly affiliated with the controversial Los Angeles Church of Christ, are trying to reinstate the club on campus.
The L.A. Church of Christ--a group some consider a cult--is part of the International Churches of Christ, which "has been barred from recruiting on many campuses because, critics say, it blackmails those who try to leave the sect," according to the April 7 issue of Newsweek.
The club is not currently recognized by the university because it does not have an advisor. Its former advisor, financial aid system analyst Constance Chambers, resigned in late February, citing "personal reasons."
Twenty-three-year old sophomore Jason Bowman, former club member and current member of the Los Angeles Church of Christ, said Chambers "felt there were negative outside influences" on the club. Bowman said that they are currently talking to a faculty member and plan to reinstate.
Reginald Greene, 29, is actively involved with Cult Awareness Resources (CARES) and alleges that several members of the Bible Club told him that it is affiliated with the Los Angeles Church of Christ.
While Bowman said that the club has "nothing to do" with the church, he later revealed that "everybody in REAL Bible Club is a member of the Los Angeles Church of Christ," but added that you don't have to be a member of the church to join.
Many critics of the club allege that this religious movement is a cult. Among those critics is Greene, who said he believes it is because of the "amount of pressure put on someone to join." Bowman, however, said he never felt pressure to join or stay, claiming "I stay because I want to stay."
One of the schools concerned with the influence of the church on its campus clubs is USC. Its Information Specialist for Student Activities, Leslie Grinner, said that the school has denied the church registration as a campus club because they do not submit their constitution and bylaws to the school. According to the Daily Trojan, some students of that campus have been harassed by members of the church and believe it to be a cult.
Cal State Long Beach graduate Leanne Holmer, 24, is a former member of the Los Angeles Church of Christ. "I know that the church is a cult," she said, adding that the two main goals of the church are "to raise money and recruit new members... (though) they don't use the word recruit."
Holmer said that as a student at Cal State Long Beach, she recruited members, but noted it was termed "sharing your faith or reaching out."
Bowman said he does not recruit, he "brings people to God."
Holmer reported she felt pressure to give money to the church. In addition to the tithing (10 percent of one's paycheck), she said members were expected to give a "special mission contribution" once a year, amounting to more than 20 times the usual tithing. "If you don't have the money, they will make you feel guilty," she claimed. "They say you don't have the heart of a disciple." She once gave the church her $700 income tax return to make the contribution.
Bowman confirmed that there is a $300 "special mission" contribution solicited once a year from student members. But he said he never felt pressured to give the money. He also said that if a person does not have the money, members can raise the contribution amount through car washes, dance-a-thons and/or clean-a-thons. Bowman said the money goes to good causes such as drug rehabilitation programs and to support churches overseas, which are also part of the International Churches of Christ.
Holmer claimed that the church "discourages you from spending time with friends that are not members."
Bowman answered this allegation by saying "the Bible says 'Don't be yoked together with unbelievers." Bowman said the REAL Bible Club is not a cult. "I'm not an idiot," he said.
Greene said he recognizes that everyone has right to practice any religion they choose, but says that "providing information makes it possible for