Cult banned from K-State sues Minnesota

Kansas State Collegian/April 26, 2004
By Joanna Rubick

A cult that was banned at K-State over 20 years ago has shown its face again on a different campus.

The group is commonly known as Maranatha, and it has re-emerged at the University of Minnesota. It is suing Minnesota because the university is not allowing it to become a student group.

Bill Macinstad, former member of Maranatha at Minnesota from 1998-2000, said the group still is a cult. Some things the pastor, Bruce Harpel, was telling them to do led him to believe this.

"He said and did some things that were just unscriptural," he said. "He told us to stand up to the person next to you and tell them they are an apostle."

Macinstad said he already had been a member of Maranatha for about a year and given $5,000 of his personal savings before he noticed the differences between Maranatha and other Christian churches he had attended.

"They are going against what the Bible says," he said. "They are not Christian. They are practicing theosophy, which is the merging of science, religion and philosophy."

After learning the nature of Maranatha, Macinstad said he continued his affiliation to learn more about the group.

The most known before Macinstad's investigation was that Maranatha is affiliated with the New Order of the Latter Rain and was started by Robert Weiner in 1972.

Macinstad said he was able to trace the origins all the way back to a 17th century group called the Philadelphia Society that practiced theosophy. Leaders of this society were Jane Lead and John Pordage, who were often quoted by Weiner, Macinstad said.

Maranatha was banned from K-State in 1983. The investigation at K-State was part of a two-year investigation from 1982-84 that was taking place at many universities across the nation, Macinstad said.

"What makes KSU unusual is they actually had a trial to determine if Maranatha was a cult," he said. "They caught them actually lying."

Minnesota has similar guidelines for student groups as K-State does, Macinstad said.

Don Fallon, K-State coordinator of religious activities, said student groups cannot interfere with the education of students.

"Every other year we have some concerns raised about a group or individual," Fallon said.

If a student has concerns with a student group, they should voice them with Fallon or a dean in student life.

When concerns are raised about a group, the first step is to talk with the leaders of the group, Fallon said.

"Usually, it's an effort to help groups comply with campus regulations," he said. "If changes aren't made, that's when they will be considered for probation or expulsion."

Since Maranatha, there haven't been any other problems to that degree on campus, he said. One group off campus has been called into question.

"The concerns were very similar with the pressure they put on the students with the education process," he said.

Fallon said he met with the religious leaders of the groups, and there haven't been any concerns raised recently. The most that can be done with off-campus groups is to discuss what improvements can be made. There is no probation or expulsion process.

"Students have a particular interest in finding faith and meaning to life," he said. "It's been sad and hurtful that some groups have had a very negative effect."

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