High Pressure Religious Groups
Due to the nature of the journey from home to college, campuses often attract negative attention from groups that target students. Some groups conducting outreach and activities on university campuses throughout the country profess a religious focus but have potentially dangerous practices and influence. These groups and individuals will often target new students because they have not yet become fully acclimated to the environment or established healthy friendships and associations.
These groups promote their agendas on campus although they are not recognized by either Howard University or the Office of the Dean of the Chapel. Some of these groups can be identified as cults. They are generally dishonest about their true identity and their agenda. They aggressively recruit and, in some unfortunate cases, harass students, particularly newcomers to campus. The following are some general characteristics of these groups:
- Wants members to follow a leader who claims divinity or a special relationship to God
- Desires members to be faithful to a leader who is sole judge of members’ actions or faith
- Encourages members to separate from family and friends, especially if they do not share the beliefs of the group
- Encourages members to manipulate relationships with their families and friends
- Encourages members to withdraw from relationships with families and friends
- Asks potential members to confess all past sins to the members of the group
- Seeks to have total control over members’ lives and wants influence in every decision members’ make
- Wants members to keep things secret
- Wants members to develop unhealthy emotional dependence on the group or leader
- Prohibits critical analysis or independent thinking
- Desires to destroy a member’s ego
- Desires to diminish a member’s sense of his/her self
- Exploits a member’s or all members’ finances
- Wants members to be part of an exclusive group
- Wants members to isolate themselves
The concern with high-pressure religious groups is not about their religious beliefs. The concern is about potentially risky and destructive behaviors they lure students to engage in. Before connecting with any group, do your research – learn about the organization through public information; do not solely rely on what their representatives have communicated.
If you believe that you are being recruited or harassed by a group, you think might be a cult—or if you’re concerned about a friend—contact the Office of the Dean of the Chapel.