Several Ithaca College students reported being approached on campus by two women asking them to join a religious organization according to the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management on Feb. 3.
Tom Dunn, associate director of Public Safety, did not specify how many reports were made or where they occurred on campus, but he said there were multiple. The announcement sent to the campus community Feb. 3 informed everyone to be wary of any strangers who approach them and to report anything suspicious. Public Safety is seeking further information to conduct its investigation, the announcement said.
“If anyone was approached, we would like them to call Public Safety to explain that encounter,” Dunn said.
Sophomore Macy Brandwein said that three women approached her in the Ithaca College Library while she was sitting alone Feb. 3, and they asked her to read proverbs with them.
Freshman Anna Schmeltzer said that a woman approached her at approximately 4 p.m. Feb. 2 while she was studying alone in the library and asked her to join a Bible study.
“I was at the computers working by myself, and this girl comes up to me,” she said. “She was about my age, nothing noticeably different than any other kid on campus. She said, ‘Excuse me, can I talk to you?’”
Schmeltzer said the woman was talking quietly, so she thought at first she was asking her to join an on-campus organization.
“I heard her say she was in a Bible study group, and she said, ‘I’m with the Mother of God Church. Would you like to join our study group?’” Schmeltzer said. “At first, I thought it was just a club on campus, and I’m not personally religious, but I don’t mind learning about that type of stuff.”
Schmeltzer said at first that she would not mind going to a study group but later decided to say that she did not have enough time. She said that the woman left but that she was with another woman who was talking to another student.
The Mother of God Church is also known as the World Mission Society Church of God. The church, which was founded in 1964 in South Korea, claims to have over 3 million members in 175 countries. It also claims to worship “God the Father” and “God the Mother,” according to the church’s website.
Rumors have been circulating on Facebook pages tied to the college, including Overheard at IC and Ithaca College Parents, about the church’s presence on campus, as well as the church’s supposed ties to sex trafficking. Multiple other college campuses in the country — including Brown University, Lehigh University, Arizona State University and the University of South Carolina — have reported the group’s presence on their campuses is an attempt to recruit new members.
The closest church to Ithaca is in North Syracuse, New York. There is also a church in Rochester, New York.
Contributing reporting was done by assistant news editor Alexis Manore.