Falun Dafa, more commonly known as Falun Gong, is recruiting on Boston University (BU) campus. The group, which has been called a “cult,” has weekly meetings attached to the Marsh Chapel at BU.

The Falun Dafa Club announced at the BU website that it wants to teach “exercises,” but the group will also “study spiritual teachings.”

College students have historically been targeted by groups called “cults” as a vulnerable demographic over the years going back to the 1970s.

BU has a history of exposing cult recruitment on its campus going back to the 1980s. Dean Robert Thornberg once opposed a group called the International Church of Christ, which was banned from many college campuses. He said, “I refer to it as a destructive religious practice.” Thornberg said that ICOC was “banned” at BU beginning in 1989 and he noted that “a whole bunch of other colleges use [the BU] model.”

Dean Robert Thornberg

Dean Robert Thornberg

Often when cults recruit students it can negatively impact their studies. In a 1989 interview Thornberg explained, “We figure in 1989, at the high point here, 40 students dropped out entirely to follow them. Two guys were second year medical school students. They dropped out after four years of college and two years of med school.” He added, “An awful lot of kids were swept up by [the ICOC] and the results were almost always a disaster.”

An authoritarian leader named Kip McKean led the ICOC. McKean was extolled as “The one man God has used above us all.” One ICOC leader explained within the group’s official publication, “There is no greater discipler, disciple, brother, husband, father, leader, and friend than Kip McKean. Some say it is dangerous to respect any one man that much. I believe it is more dangerous not to.”

Master Li

The authoritarian leader of Falun Dafa is Li Hongzhi, known to his disciples as “Master Li.” Purportedly imbued with divine authority Li supposedly knows “the top secret of the universe.” He says, “No religion can save people” only the “almighty Fa,” which Li exclusively represents.

Falun Dafa exercises and meditation are an introduction into the world of Li Hongzhi and his idiosyncratic teachings, which revolve around Li’s often egocentric claims.

Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi’s teaches his followers that only he can install an invisible spinning “falun,” which is a mystical “wheel of law” within their abdomens telekinetically. This is the key to salvation, and the basis for incredible health claims, such as a cure for diabetes and the ability to reverse aging.

Falun Dafa practitioners believe that whatever Li Hongzhi says is right is right and whatever he says is wrong is wrong. Master Li’s authority is absolute.

The absolute authoritarian role of Li Hongzhi has caused many researchers and academics familiar with cults to see Falun Dafa as a personality-driven group that fits the description of cult formation.

Hateful teachings

CultNews has reported about Li Hongzhi’s racist and homophobic teachings. Li has said that “mixed-race people [are] instruments of an alien plot to destroy humanity’s link to heaven.” And that interracial unions are somehow part of “a plot by evil extraterrestrials.”

Li Hongzhi has also claimed that a “black substance” accumulates in the body due to homosexuality, which causes bad health. He labeled the LGBT community “disgusting,” and stated one day the LGBT community will be “eliminated” by “the gods.”

What will BU do to protect its students from this hateful and homophobic “cult” recruiting on its campus?

Will students be informed?

Will BU educate its students about the dangers of cults?

A new voice in Marsh Chapel?

Marsh Chapel

Marsh Chapel

Dean Robert Thornberg died in 2013. He was once the Dean of Marsh Chapel at BU. Thornberg oversaw religious activities at BU and taught at its School of Theology. “For 23 years he was the voice of Marsh Chapel,” according his obituary in the Boston Globe.

Now Falun Dafa has announced it will be a weekly voice within the “Room of Robinson Chapel, Marsh Chapel, Boston University.”

Note: The book “Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out” has two chapters devoted to Falun Gong. One focuses on the history of the group and its leader and another about how an American family staged an intervention to get someone out.

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