(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES — On a campus that is home to about 75 recognized religious groups, some students question the existence of cults at the University of Southern California.
But at CultsOnCampus.com, a Web site designed to inform students of possible cult activity on their campus, there are a number of postings about possible cult-related activity at USC.
Reginald Greene created the Web site after becoming concerned about his girlfriend, who had joined the Los Angeles Church of Christ in 1990. Greene said he attempted to look into the church but had difficulty finding information because the church was new to California.
In 1991, Greene and some friends started a campus organization called “Cult Awareness Resources” at California State University at Los Angeles, where Greene studied business adminstration.
“I was looking for information myself and got swamped with so many people trying to get information from me, so I wanted a way to make people aware,” Greene said.
In 1996, Cult Awareness Resources moved to the Web. It has had almost 465,000 visitors since April 21, 2000.
“I think it’s good to try to warn someone before they get into something that is going to harm them,” Greene said.
On the Web site, there is a list of California universities, including USC, with reports of cult activities that have occurred on campus. “We’re not trying to list groups per se … we just want to make people aware,” Greene said.
The Web site also has links to articles written by students who have encountered what they describe as cults on their campus.
Under USC’s section of the Web site, there is a link to an article written by Janine Marnien, a former USC student, that was published in the USC Catholic Community Newsletter during the fall 2000 semester.
The article, titled “The Los Angeles Church of Christ — A Cult on Campus,” is an account of Marnien’s experience with the Los Angeles Church of Christ in 1998.
According to the article, Marnien believed that “this was the only true Christian church, and that I would go to hell if I left it.” Marnien spoke with the Dean of Religious Life Rabbi Susan Laemmle and her family and finally left the church a few months later. Only a couple of years after Marnien’s article was published, the Los Angeles Church of Christ was granted recognition at USC.
All recognized religious groups at USC must follow “The Ethical Framework for Religious Life at USC,” which is published on the USC Office of Religious Life’s Web site. “This [Ethical Framework] is what enabled us to let the Los Angeles Church of Christ in,” Laemmle said. “We are very strict about our regulations.”
Arlene Markowski, a director of the Los Angeles Church of Christ at USC, is a former USC student who said she read a lot about the accusations of cult activities within the Los Angeles Church of Christ. “I grew up in New York and I’m not stupid,” Markowski said. “It wasn’t something I was going to jump into.”
Markowski and her husband have been directors of the Los Angeles Church of Christ at USC for about three years.
When asked what she thought about the accusations in the 1990s that the Los Angeles Church of Christ was a cult, Markowski said, “I think stupid decisions were made by different people … but you learn from your mistakes.” “We show faith to people and if they’re open, they’re open. And if they’re not, we move on,” Markowski said.
Students at USC have different opinions about whether there are cults on campus. “I don’t really think we have cults on campus,” said Luis Flores, a junior majoring in international relations. Laemmle agreed, saying that cults are not really a problem on campus. But Justin Curtin, a senior majoring in computer science, said he believes USC does have such groups. “Name a campus that doesn’t have cults,” he said.