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