An ASU investigation into the operations of on-campus religious group Hope Church concluded last month and found the organization to be in violation of several Code of Conduct policies, according to documents obtained by The State Press.
Hope Church violated three ABOR policies and three ASU-specific rules, including engaging in hazing incidents which included “acts of mental harm, personal degradation, and embarrassment,” according to a letter sent from the Dean of Students Office to Hope Church leadership in June.
ASU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities opened an investigation after a group of Church members submitted a complaint to the University in 2016, calling the organization a “cult” 34 times in the 123-page document.
Stephen Wicker, a former Hope Church member and one of the students who authored the original complaint, said he was glad the University chose to take action.
"I think its good the University recognized that there was wrongdoing that happened," Wicker said. "I’m glad that ASU took it seriously, I’m glad that they took some action and I hope that its enough that (Hope Church) realizes some of their errors and can maybe make some changes."
Spokespeople from Hope Church provided the following statement on ASU's investigation: "We are very pleased that ASU has concluded their investigation. We’re thankful that we can continue helping thousands of students each year and we remain committed to providing a faith-based community for ASU students. We will continue working closely with the Dean’s Office to ensure that we are in compliance with ASU policies and work together to serve the campus community."
The University declined to comment on its investigation or the resulting violations.
The investigation found Hope Church had access to "student information through surveys performed by student organizations in which students did not have knowledge or give consent to allow Hope Church access,” which is a violation of policies governing the use of information by University organizations, according to the letter.
Read more: Investigating Hope Church
The State Press previously reported in April that a parallel investigation into five student organizations — which were reported to be “front clubs” used by the Church for recruitment — resulted in a four-year probation for each club.
The investigation that ended in June also found the Church to be in violation of University codes which govern solicitation, student organization registration and Memorial Union meeting room policies, according to the letter.
The investigation had “insufficient information to discern whether or not a violation” occurred for three other alleged Student Conduct Codes which govern stalking, discrimination and “unauthorized presence” on University property, according to the letter.
As a result of the violations, the Dean of Students Office decided that it will not approve or renew Faculty Associate status for any person “operating under the scope and/or guise of Hope Church and/or Hope Church responsibilities for a term of four (4) years.”
It is unclear how many people affiliated with Hope Church hold Faculty Associate status and whether those statuses will be revoked.
The letter also listed three requirements that Hope Church must meet before any of its members would be eligible for Faculty Associate status:
- The Church must be a member of the Council of Religious Advisors (CORA)
- Church leadership must meet with the Dean of Students office to demonstrate changes
- The Church must remain in compliance with all ABOR Code of Conduct policies and policies governed by CORA
However, the letter stated that “Should new information become available, the Dean of Students office may re-open the case and begin a new investigation.”
At the time of publication Hope Church was listed as a member group on the CORA website, but it is unclear when they were added.
CORA representatives were copied on the Dean of Students letter to Hope Church, but did not immediately return requests for comment for this story.
No other sanctions were listed on the letter for any of the conduct violations.
Hope Church has been operating on ASU's campus since 2004, when it was launched as an offshoot of the Faith Christian Church Tucson branch. That church was based on the UA campus and eventually shut down after an investigation by UA.
Editors Note: The State Press will update this page as more information becomes available. It has been updated with a statement from Hope Church in the sixth paragraph.
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