Aggressive Religious Recruiting On Campus
Prepared by Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry, May 2004
Institutes of higher learning offer many freedoms and choices, one of which is the opportunity
to associate with a religious group. A student’s experience with most religious groups on any
given campus in Canada will be a positive one. Most of these groups provide ways to explore
new and interesting ideas and activities in an open and honest way. Universities are committed
to creating an environment that encourages independent and critical thinking and a community
of people who respect each other’s right to question and propose ideas in the pursuit of truth.
Religious groups recognized by the University must do the same.
Unfortunately, there are some religious groups on Canadian campuses that are not recognized
by the institution where they operate; therefore, they do not have to adhere to the common
mission and values of the academic community. Because a group exists on campus DOES NOT
imply that the University endorses its beliefs, activities or operational style. These groups are
allowed to exist because Universities have policies relating to freedom of speech and association
that give students the right to form groups and meet on campus for any legal activity that does
not contravene university policies. As a result, religious groups that use recruiting tactics that
are deceitful, manipulative and coercive exist on campuses in Canada. These recruiting tactics
are known as aggressive or high pressure recruiting.
It is important that students, campus ministers and those in positions of authority on campus
are aware of these tactics and that complaints are taken seriously and acted upon
Why are high-pressure groups so harmful?
They isolate the student from family, friends and other groups.
They ask the student to give up control of his/her life, thoughts and decisions.
They fill the student with guilt and shame.
They may promote crises with the student’s studies, relationships and work.
They may frighten the student to the point that he/she stops making decisions and
asking questions for him/herself.
Who is most vulnerable to high pressure groups?
Students who are lonely.
Students who are hurting
Students who have had a disagreement with family or friends.
Students who have experienced the loss of a relationship.
Students who are having a tough time socially
Students who are in trouble academically.
Students who are experiencing a lot of stress.
Students who feel they are failures.
Students who feel they have no friends.
Students who feel they are unattractive.
Students who are experiencing a faith crisis.
Note: New students, especially those in Canada for the first time, seem to be especially
vulnerable while trying to cope with a different culture and unfamiliar academic
How can one identify these high pressure groups?
The group seems to be perfect. Everyone agrees and follow all orders cheerfully.
The group claims to have all the answers to the student’s problems.
The group offers instant friendship. The members are very affectionate and flattering
towards the student. They will not take “no” for an answer. Invitations are impossible
to refuse without feeling guilty and/or ungrateful.
New members are asked to begin recruiting soon after joining.
The group insists on total obedience to their leaders.
The group encourages the individual to put their meetings and activities before all other
commitments, including studying.
The group speaks in a derogatory way about the individual’s past religious, social or
The group defines the individual’s parents and friends as unable to understand or help
with religious matters.
The group criticizes the doctrines, beliefs and practices of other churches and faiths
without attempting to understand or dialogue with them.
The group sees doubts and questions as signs of weak faith or commitment. The
individual is shunned if persistent in these doubts.
What questions can a student ask when considering a particular group?
What national groups, if any, is the group affiliated with?
What has the group accomplished in the past 6 months?
What values does the group advocate?
How is the group funded?
What commitment of time, money and resources is expected of the members?
Are members expected to solicit money or recruit new members?
Are members assigned quotas?
Does the group respect a member’s commitments to family and friends?
Are members encouraged to continue their studies and graduate?
How difficult is it to leave the group?
Why was I selected by the group?
Does the group use many names? If so, why?
Does the group seem to have simplistic answers to complex world issues?
Does the group encourage questions and discussion about its beliefs and practices?
Does the group want its members to give up their traditions and beliefs?
What can students do to deal with high pressure groups?
Find out about “safe” religious groups from trusted religious congregations/institutions
from their home town.
Ask questions! Be skeptical! Don’t accept evasive answers!
Don’t be afraid to take a stand.
Learn to say “no”.
Examine oneself asking: “Am I vulnerable at this point in my life?”
Think before attending any meeting.
Where can students go for help or to talk about groups of this sort?
Campus Ministers / Chaplains recognized by their academic institution
Student Service and Affairs
Student Counseling Services
International Students’ Office
This resource was compiled from information taken from the following sources:
Aggressive Religious Recruiting Pamphlet - University of Saskatchewan Campus Ministry
Religious Choices Pamphlet - University of Waterloo Campus Ministry
Your Well Being: Aggressive Religious Recruiting Pamphlet – University of Toronto Student
Affairs and Campus Chaplains Association
“Friends” are everywhere: A Guide to Making Judgements about Groups – University of Maryland