Faith Christian Church, which has operated on the campus of the University of Arizona for decades now, is essentially a criminal-led cult.
Those are the claims of 30 former members and employees (and their parents) who say it took a long time to get over what happened to them. Carol Ann Alaimo and Emily Bregel of the Arizona Daily Star have the story:
Their stories include reports of hitting infants with cardboard tubes to encourage submission, financial coercion, alienation from parents, public shaming of members and shunning of those who leave the church or question its leaders. Some say that since leaving, they’ve spent years in therapy for panic attacks, depression, flashbacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Here’s just one example of how bad things got:
“They train you as a parent that, once the babies are 8 weeks old, you have to lay them facedown. If the baby raises its head, that’s a sign of rebellion, so you smack them on the butt with the cardboard dowel,” says Rachiel Morgan, who earned a UA nursing degree in 1998 and worked for Faith Christian until 2008.
“And you keep doing that over and over until the baby doesn’t put its head up again. And that’s how you train them to go to sleep.”
There’s also this:
Joan Moore, now 32 and working as a registered nurse, says she was raped as a UA freshman shortly after she joined Faith Christian in 2001. News of the rape had spread through the ranks of church leaders after she told her minister about it, Moore says. She says church elders suggested she was partly to blame for kissing the man in the first place, and, a couple years later, Hall called her a “whore.”
There’s so much more where those anecdotes came from.
University officials say they had no idea all of this was going on right under their noises, but an investigation is underway.
Meanwhile, what’s the larger Christian community doing about these concerns? The same thing they often do with claims of abuse within the church: They’re attempting to rationalize the victims’ claims:
Dan Busby, president of the Virginia-based Evangelical Council, says Faith Christian is a member in good standing and defended many of its practices.
“The questions you have raised, compared to what we know about the church, does not give rise to a sensational story about the church,” he wrote in an email to the Star. “It is so easy for disgruntled folks who used to relate to a particular church to cast aspersions and create negative perceptions about churches that are doing good work.”
But this isn’t one lone wolf. These are serious, specific allegations, corroborated by dozens of people. Even if what church leaders did wasn’t illegal, you’d hope that their actions, finally out in the open, would alert any potential members out there before they join. The university, at the very least, needs to do everything it can to understand what happened, how it happened, and what steps must be taken so it won’t happen again.
There’s a Facebook group for former members of the church, in case you’d like to hear more of their stories.
(Image via Shutterstock)