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College of Holy Cross bans 'cult' church from campus

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The College of the Holy Cross has banned an international church from meeting, organizing and recruiting members on campus, calling it cult-like in its recruitment tactics.

Katherine M. McElaney, director of college chaplains, told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette that at least one Holy Cross student is a member of the church, which is known variously as the International Churches of Christ, the Boston Church of Christ or the Worcester Church of Christ.

The International Churches of Christ is entirely separate from the United Church of Christ.

Recruiters for the church group, she said, use tactics commonly associated with cults, including heavy proselytizing and religious harassment for the sake of gaining converts, mandatory tithing and psychological and spiritual abuse. Strict obedience without question, punishment through slander or exclusion and threats or intimidation are used to keep members in line, she said.

McElaney said the church pressures members to cut ties with friends and family, education and careers and promotes dependency on the group and fear of reprisals for leaving it.

In response to charges that it is a cult, the International Churches of Christ Web site says the group is "no more a cult than was the church that Jesus started as described in the Bible. The word 'cult' is a prejudicial label in today's society."