Tiptoeing around

NIU has been tiptoeing around the campus cult issue for many years.

Of course there’s a legitimate argument against government restricting religious expression. It would not be in the best interest of the university to try to drive evangelists, zealots and even cultists off campus by “banning” them from free speech areas or even university residence hall lobbies.

Brother Jed has the same constitutional rights as a Northern Star columnist, whether students are comfortable with the fact or not.

However, reports from across the country regarding the Boston Church of Christ told of emotional blackmail, deception and manipulation that have ruined the lives of students on college campuses coast to coast.

More serious examples came from other college campuses, but it is the duty of this administration to conduct some objective investigating of our own local group.

The Star did not find extreme examples of harassment or intimidation with the present group on campus. The local Boston Church of Christ members the Star spoke to appear to be moral upstanding students, some of whom are contributing quite a bit to the NIU community.

However, the group seems to leave a bad taste in the mouth of some former members at NIU and across the country. This was apparent from letters and conversations both documented and undocumented. Some felt manipulated and emotionally abused. Former Boston Church leaders, members and parents have spoken out on what they perceive to be dangers with the Boston group.

There does seem to be some question of heresy in this issue, but it’s highly unlikely that individuals would go to major news networks and newspapers to trump up fictitious charges about a religious group.

It’s a bit embarrassing that the issue is being discussed by the Illinois State Senate while NIU, like many other public universities, has been sitting on its hands in fear of being forced to take a controversial stand.

Banning any religious group from campus would be unconstitutional, nearly without question, but there are other ways the university could deal with the matter, if it would be so bold, before the State has to do it for them.

Whatever turned out from an investigation could be used to inform students about certain groups in question. Local religious leaders would be a good place to begin the dialogue. Perhaps NIU could hold hearings of its own.

Enforcing a mandatory “cult awareness” course would probably be a bit much. Sarcasm aside, NIU should dive into this issue a bit deeper if student’s emotional and educational lives could be at stake.