APnc 12/12 1447 Religion-Cults
ASHEVILLE (AP) -- The campus ministry at the University of
North Carolina at Asheville is trying to draw the line when it
comes to "cult" religions, and a group that practices
"love-bombing" poses a special concern.
David Smith, the director of religious affairs at the school,
says he wants the students to be educated about the potential
dangers of cult groups.
Smith said the ministry board is considering adoption of a set
of guidelines for recruitment and educational practices by
religious groups in an effort to protect the university from
legal problems that may occur if certain groups are banned or
challenged on campus.
The campus ministry is comprised of mainstream Christians,
Jews, Ba'hais, Sufis, Quakers and members of other religious
groups and is not opposed to the content of any religious
organization. Instead, the ministry opposes some techniques used
to recruit members, Smith said.
"The most common problem, and it's not unique to UNCA, is the
Unification Church, the Moonies, who are extremely aggressive
with their recruitment practices," Smith said.
Smith said the Moonies visit UNCA four or five times a year
and also can be found selling roses at busy street intersections,
at airports and other public places. He said he isn't aware of
"losing" any students to the Unification Church, "but we just
don't know. All we can do is identify and make public who they
"The problems we've had have been with recognized religious
groups as well as off-campus religious groups -- if we make a
decision that seems to be arbitrary and capricious without having
set standards, it can be a problem," Smith said. "Adopting these
standards would put at arm's length any challenge of
The list of "unethical" recruitment and educational practices
includes deliberate deception or misrepresentation; the use of
sleep deprivation or induced exhaustion for the purpose of
religious indoctrination; contrived dietary controls to induce
passivity and reduce resistance; and restriction of the right of
any participant to continue or withdraw from any program at any
The first tactic of the Unification Church group, Smith said,
is "love-bombing. They're instructed to hang out in the
dormitories looking for students alone on weekends. They'll
befriend them, offer to help them, and ask them to join them off
campus to meet new friends.
"When they get the student off campus with new `friends,'
they'll say things like, `I can't believe you're just a freshman
and you thought that up,' or "Susie, you think just like us.'
Just stroking them, feeding their egos, making them feel like
part of a group."
The next step, Smith said, is attendance at a "retreat." The
recruits have no contact with the outside world, are fed a high
carbohydrate, low-protein diet, and are usually kept up 18 hours
a day with strenuous physical activity, he said.
"That's followed by a long, droning, rhythmic repetition by a
warm, fatherlike kind of person, with no opportunity for
questions, answers or interchange," Smith said. "They're never
left alone, they always have someone continuing the love-bombing
technique. They're encouraged to keep a journal, and the leaders
will read them while they're asleep and the next day make oblique
references to the person as if they know about their inner
The retreat "usually gets the hook in them, then they go
through the process of `thawing' -- basically trying to take the
existing structure of the person and gradually melting him down
until he becomes vulnerable to indoctrination. Then they're
given intense instruction like not talking to other people
because it will confuse them. It's always leading them away from
normal social contacts and toward the group."
The Rev. Dennis Orme, a spokesman for the Unification Church
in Washington, D.C., when asked to respond to Smith's comments,
said Smith's "imagination is close to being lunatic."
"If all that were true, all I've just heard, no one would ever
dream of becoming part of the Unification movement -- that must
be obvious to the smallest mind," he said. "Furthermore, it's so
far from, you might say, academic scholarship, that it just makes
me think that if he's a representative of your university campus,
you're far from the standards of academic scholarship down in
Smith said UNCA is "an open university, and anyone can come on
campus as long as they stay outside the buildings, don't obstruct
the normal flow of traffic or make excess noise. They can
proclaim whatever they wish, so to that extent we can't control
"We don't want to restrict the content of what any group has
to say," he said. "But if you have a group that uses techniques
like prolonged psychological pressure and contrived dietary
controls, and they misrepresent themselves, then you have
sufficient justification to provide information so students can
make an intelligent decision on whether they want to explore that