A flurry of e-mails and phone calls were received by students when a small, Christian group with a controversial history relocated next to campus last fall.
Bill and Patsy Freeman, leaders of the group, purchased three houses surrounding Whitworth, including the red brick house next to President Bill Robinson’s home, for a total just over one million dollars, according to previous Whitworthian articles.
The Freemans now own six homes near Whitworth with the last home being purchased sometime in June, according to the Spokesman-Review.
The Freemans divisive history prompted those familiar with the couple to inform Whitworth of their past experiences with the group.
Ex-members of the Freemans’ group have accused the couple of arranging marriages, controlling contact with family members outside of the group, tearing apart families and encouraging members to donate large amounts of their incomes to the Freemans, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Much of the cause for concern originated from accusations that the Freemans have a history of trying to recruit college students.
Individuals formerly associated with the Freemans told the Spokesman-Review the Freemans typically try recruiting members from nearby college campuses, including the University of Washington when the group was based in Seattle, Wash., and Arizona State University when the group was based in Scottsdale, Ariz.
One anonymous observer told Whitworthian reporters earlier this year that it appeared at least three of the people living with the Freemans’ group are Whitworth students.
Jim Longmate, who is now estranged from the group, told the Spokesman-Review, “Now that they’ve moved to Spokane they’ve targeted Whitworth College.”
After hearing various reports of the nature and past actions of the Freeman’s group, Whitworth administrators felt it was necessary to let students know.
Whitworth administrators sent out a campus-wide e-mail on Feb. 4 of this year after receiving numerous warnings from people associated with the Freeman’s history. The purpose of the e-mail was to inform students of the situation and the calls Whitworth had been receiving from those knowledgeable of the Freeman’s past.
The e-mail in part said “numerous individuals previously involved with the Freemans contacted us to say that the couple had exerted negative influence on their personal lives.”
Before sending out the e-mail, Vice President of Student Life Kathy Storm and professor of history and politics Dale Soden met with Bill Freeman. Storm and Soden informed Freeman of Whitworth’s policy not to allow outside groups to proselytize on campus, according to previous Whitworthian articles.
Although a number of ex-members have come forward to both The Whitworthian and the Spokesman-Review in order to express their criticism and past experiences, not everyone associated with the Freemans seems to share that view.
Sue Johnson, a longtime supporter of the Freemans, previously told The Whitworthian that Bill and Patsy are “wonderful people” who have “just caused me to love God’s word and to want him to be Lord of my life.”
The Spokesman-Review has reported Bill Freeman refused their request for an interview, but did say that members of his church have been greatly hurt by Whitworth administrators and a series of articles that appeared in The Whitworthian last spring exploring the group’s past and accusations of ex-members.