APca 06/23 1927 Ecclesia By WILLIAM McCALL Associated Press Writer SANDY, Ore. (AP) -- T

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

APca 06/23 1927 Ecclesia By WILLIAM McCALL Associated Press Writer SANDY, Ore. (AP) -- The Ecclesia Athletic Association, a Los Angeles-based group that has moved at least 100 members to Oregon, has been falsely portrayed by the media as a cult, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The group, founded by former college basketball star Eldridge Broussard Jr., is trying to promote a national athletic and education program for inner-city children, said Carolyn Van Brunt. But she declined to discuss the program, saying Broussard would announce the details during a news conference scheduled Saturday morning in Los Angeles. "We are not a cult," Ms. Van Brunt said. "I think we have been represented in toto out of context." The group has set up a temporary training facility at a small farm near this rural community in the shadow of Mount Hood. At least 100 children were camped there Tuesday, but they were preparing to return to Los Angeles for the news conference. Ms. Van Brunt said the Oregon news conference was hastily staged to respond to fears about Ecclesia. She refused to answer most questions, however, and did not say whether the children would be returning. Broussard played for the University of Oregon during 1971-72 before transferring to Pacific University in Forest Grove, where he was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American. He tried out for the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA but never made the team. Broussard was in the midst of an 80-day fast Tuesday and was not at the news conference. Ms. Van Brunt declined to reveal his whereabouts, saying only that "Eldridge is on the scene," and, "He is the leader." She blamed "disenfranchised" Ecclesia members for starting rumors about the group, which claims to be training children for the Olympics. Broussard, the founder of the Watts Christian Center in Los Angeles, has said he formed Ecclesia to turn children away from drugs and crime, motivating them through tough discipline and athletic training aimed at qualifying for Olympic competition. The training regimen, which includes a vow of poverty, centers on running, jumping jacks, push-ups and manual labor. The children are required to fill out an application that asks them to "declare all of my ambitions, desires, past and future commitments, relationships, expectations, assets, gifts, talents and connections under the total control of Eldridge John Broussard Jr." The application also reads: "All my decisions -- financial, social, recreational, educational, dietary, romantic and any not mentioned above, must pass his scrutiny and obtain his approval. I relinquish even the rights of decision-making." When asked about the form, Ms. Van Brunt said only that it was a matter of public record and necessary for the group to demonstrate that hard work and perserverance can help children transcend cultures. Neighbors who attended the news conference said they did not want the farm to become a national headquarters for Ecclesia, citing concerns about the water supply and zoning requirements. "We're concerned that they have breached due process in zoning and have simply moved in," said Jack Strand, who lives near the farm. He also criticized what he said was the group's "militaristic" attitude, including having the children line up in rows at attention every day. "They say they want to be the `National Guard' of the Olympics," Strand said. "I don't understand why that type of mentality is necessary." Ms. Van Brunt refused to comment about the group's training regimen or its purpose. She did say, however, that the group does not feel persecuted. Members of Ecclesia are black and their neighbors are white. "We haven't had any burning crosses on the lawn," Ms. Van Brunt said. Becky Hawley, another neighbor, said residents of the area do not consider race an issue. "They're the only ones who can benefit from the racism issue," Ms. Hawley said. "If they can set up something like this here than that means any group can start operating on somebody's front lawn." Ms. Van Brunt said the group is seeking a temporary permit from Clackamas County allowing Ecclesia to set up tents and other facilities. She said the outcome of a zoning hearing scheduled July 8 will determine whether the group stays in Sandy. Last page !

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank