Church Group Ignites Controversy In Quincy

WBZ News, Massachusetts/March 9, 2009

A small religious group that is gaining members across the country wants to expand in Massachusetts, but the planned expansion is not without controversy.

The group's history is raising red flags on the South Shore as it tries to buy a $1.6 million mansion up for sale at 301 Adams Street in Quincy.

The Center of Light, a group that some call a destructive cult, is trying to shine in the neighborhood and open its doors.

Jack Milgram lives two blocks away.

"There is a concern among the immediate community is what the real motive is by the people putting up the money to buy the home," Milgram said.

"It's very concerning to me," said cult expert Steve Hassan [Warning: Steve Hassan is not recommended by this Web site. Read the detailed disclaimer to understand why.]

Hassan has counseled some of the group's former members.

"They discourage contact with family and friends and the ability to make decisions for themselves," Hassan said.

But the group's ministers and leaders say, "We are a small religious group, with Centers of Light in 15 cities across the country. None of our neighbors in any other cities have anything but praise for us."

According to the Center's Web site they are mystics focusing on connection with the soul. The group, also known as the Order of Christ Sophia, is looking to move out of Jamaica Plain to Quincy, but it still has to get approval from the city.

The city can't consider anything about religion when it decides whether or not to allow the Center of Light to call Quincy place home. They can only look at zoning issues like parking and traffic.

"I would say to people in Quincy they have the right to be concerned," Hassan said.

It's a balance of concern and religious rights but it's up to the city to decide if the Center of Light will be the right neighbor.

The Center of Light has a hearing before the Quincy zoning board of appeals Tuesday night. Some ministers and their families plan to live in the home and hold services for about 50 people.

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