I've been working as a board member for the University of Pennsylvania's secular group Rekindle Reason for a couple months now, and I have to say I've been pleasantly surprised by the cooperation and encouragement we've received from the Office of the Chaplaincy on campus.
Unlike the campus religious organizations that I'm used to dealing with, the chaplains are there to promote coexistence and cooperation between people of different belief sets rather than push any one of them. The chaplains I've met with have been very kind and pretty liberal. They've helped us navigate the religious environment at Penn and my job would be a lot harder without them.
So a big thank you to the Chaplain's Office and their staff.
As an example of the good work they do, here's an excerpt from their web page about avoiding high-pressure religious groups. This is a list of ways to avoid being snatched up by extreme religious groups that pray on the homesick, lonely, and overwhelmed students.
In most instances you can expect a good experience with most religious groups at Penn. However, at these times of stress and uncertainty high-pressure religious groups may seek you out and try and recruit you.
Some ways to identify high-pressure groups:
Observe the group’s responses to you and how you feel. If you can answer “yes” to three or more of these statements, you should seriously reconsider your involvement.
- The group seems to be perfect. Everyone agrees and follows all orders cheerfully.
- The group claims to have “all the answers” to your problems.
- The group offers “instant friendship.” They will not take “no” for an answer; invitations are impossible to refuse without feeling guilty and/or ungrateful.
- You are asked to recruit new members soon after joining.
- The group insists on total obedience to their leaders and discourages questions or doubts as signs of weak faith. You may be rejected or shunned if you persist in asking questions.
- Your parents and friends are described as being “unable to understand or help you” with religious matters.
- The group encourages you to put their meetings and activities before all other commitments, including studying.
If you can answer “YES” to any three of these questions, you should consider talking to a University staff member or administrator. Remember…
- The group puts down your past religious, social or political affiliation.
- Your mind is a gift! Don’t waste it, use it!
- You don’t have to be manipulated!
I am in full agreement with this advice. Religious groups that use such recruiting tactics should be avoided at all costs by religious and non-religious students alike. It's refreshing to see religious leaders speaking out on the issue, and again I thank the chaplains for their support.