TUCSON, Arizona — The University of Arizona is investigating allegations that a campus religious group is a cult.
According to an investigation conducted by the Arizona Daily Star, more than 20 former members and staffers of Faith Christian Church in Tucson accused the church of exerting undue influence during their time as members of the church’s congregation.
Tales from the church’s former members detail incidents of physical and verbal abuse, arranged marriages, and mind control.
The Star interviewed 21 former employees and church members — most of them UA alumni — and nine of their parents. 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.
The alleged misconduct meets the UA’s University Religious Council’s criteria for “religious practices gone awry.”
The university stated it had no knowledge of allegations against the church prior to the Star’s investigation. By Arizona law, the UA can’t actively preside over religious groups on campus, but it does rely on formal complaints filed by enrolled students to ensure a positive campus experience.
Outside of Tucson, offshoots of Faith Christian Church include locations in Tempe, Flagstaff, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and New Zealand.