Another relative of a controversial Tucson church has been censured for alleged cult-like activity on a university campus.
Resurrection Church, which recruits students at the University of Colorado Boulder, was stripped of membership in the school’s campus religious council after students complained of psychological manipulation and deceptive recruiting tactics.
The religious group took the action in October after determining the church’s practices “are manipulative and not in the best interest of student health and well-being,” said pastor Zach Parris, leader of Campus Religious Organizations at CU Boulder.
At CU Boulder, students complained that church recruiters pose as students to gain access to dorm rooms and that ministers pressure members to drop non-church family and friends and exert control over members’ finances and life decisions.
CU Boulder’s administration has taken no action other than telling the church to change its website to delete material that implied a formal affiliation between the church and the school.
“Any organization has a First Amendment right to be present and talk to students on our campus,” university spokesman Ryan Huff said in a November email.
TRAINED IN TUCSON
The Boulder church is run by UA alumnus Aaron Brechtel, who trained at the Tucson church and recruited students on the UA campus before he moved to Colorado eight years ago. He did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Brechtel’s church is one of eight off-shoot churches that are either official affiliates of Faith Christian Church in Tucson or run by one of Faith Christian's former pastors. More than 20 former members and staffers described Faith Christian as a cult in an Arizona Daily Star investigation in 2015. The satellite churches recruit students at universities in three other states and New Zealand.
Besides the Colorado church, two other satellites – in New Mexico and New Zealand – have been sanctioned by university officials since 2015 for aggressive proselytizing and other actions deemed a threat to student welfare.
The Tucson church was censured in 2015 by the UA University Religious Council, which revoked the church’s membership.
UA administration also investigated but found no basis for disciplinary action. University officials pledged last year to closely monitor campus clubs affiliated with the Tucson church, but later abandoned the plan saying monitoring wasn’t necessary.
The father of a former CU Boulder student said he found out too late to help his daughter, who joined the Colorado church in 2012 and eventually cut ties with non-church friends and family.
John Coletta said his daughter, now 24, stopped coming home during school breaks, cancelled the mobile phone plan she shared with family, dropped her family’s health insurance and canceled her checking account in favor of one overseen by church leaders.
After graduating in 2014, Coletta said his daughter moved into the basement of the church’s head pastor and trained to become a minister.
Coletta has complained to the IRS and the FBI as well as the university, so far to no avail, he said.
He said he blames himself for not realizing what was happening as he started seeing changes in his daughter’s personality and interests. He thinks maybe he sheltered her too much, which may have made her overly trusting and put her at risk of manipulation.
Instead of telling her “it’s beautiful out there,” he said, “maybe we should have talked more about ‘be careful out there.’ ”