encouragement to live in ministry houses and attend several meetings a week “creates more of a potential for controlling the environment,” said Steven Hassan, a mind-control expert and mental-health professional in Massachusetts.
Jake Leppert, 25, and a member, doesn’t see it that way.
“I think there are a lot of meetings,” said Leppert, who
lives in one of Xenos’ ministry houses near Ohio State’s campus. “I go to them because I want to. People have a choice to go to them or not.”
Leppert said he’s
read posts online about bad experiences with the church and wants to hear both sides.
“Some things people said happened don’t sound good ... if these things are true, I’d
like them out of our church,” he said.
In addition to grueling meeting schedules, some former members complained about the church’s use of what it calls “accountability
software” to monitor their internet usage.
“It’s insane; you’re an adult,” Alex Craig, 20, of the University District, said of the software program.
She said it has been used to monitor or block sites that aren’t Christian or are critical of the church.
the software program is optional and only used to make sure that those living in the ministry houses aren’t looking at pornography. It can be used to block certain sites, he acknowledged, but said those features have to be turned on by the person with
“The goal of behavior control is dependence and obedience,” said Hassan, who was a college junior in the mid-1970s when he was recruited into the Unification
Church, the so-called Moonies.
“You want access to followers ... you don’t want them exposed to things you can’t control,” he said. “You want to keep them
very busy with your own projects.”
Delia Grantham, 18, of Bexley, was a member of Xenos for two years during high school.
She left the church because she said leaders of her high school group told the then-16-year-old that she couldn’t be with her Jewish boyfriend forever: He was going to hell and she was going to heaven. Her salvation also was questioned,
she said, when she admitted she’d been depressed after a friend, a fellow Xenos member, died by suicide.