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Cults, Lies and Audiotape

By Shawn Ralston & Danny Yeager

It seems The Touchstone’s last issue raised a few eyebrows, not least of which were those of Rodger Lewis, KAMU-TV Programming Director, Chair of the Republican Party, and member the local Fellowship Community Church (a part of the Great Commission Assn. of Churches). Someone mailed us a memo he circulated to KAMU staff, RE: Leftists attack Rodger. Specifically, he charged that our articles were full of factual errors and little more than a personal vendetta of an angry ex-church member. Naturally, we didn’t feel that way - so we decided to ask him to tell us his side in detail. He kindly consented to an interview, which went off smoothly and, we feel, in food faith. We asked our questions, he answered, we all taped it. He brought along a couple of observers, one friend and one philosophy professor. It was all very civil. Unfortunately, it was highly uninteresting. He’s not a raving lunatic; rather, he’s a highly articulate professional who is quite good at public relations.

Now that left us with the dilemma of what to say about the interview. Well, it certainly didn’t change our minds and it probably didn’t change his. As advocacy journalists we are under no obligation to present his side of the story, but we did interview him and we have to say something, so here goes.

First off, he clarified certain minor factual errors in our stories. For example, he’s not an elder in his church but he does hold a leadership position. Kaade Roberts and Matt Dickerson put quite a bit of time into the research for the articles so we’re sorry to get anything wrong. But then again, minutia is not the primary focus of this journal.

We feel that his political office as chair of the Republican Party of Brazos County and his church membership provide opportunities for strong conflict of interest with his position as program director of KAMU. We presented a list of programs not shown on KAMU and regularly shown in other areas (Salt Lake City for instance). He told us two of these programs had been shown in previous years but budgetary problems precluded their continuing to air on KAMU. Other shows, like South Africa Now (which is free), he did not address. He said he had never heard of South Africa Now, though the week before the interview he mailed us several issues of COMINT (a rightwing media newsletter) one of which prominently addressed right-wing objections to that program. Certainly, he may not have read those newsletters and he may have perfectly legitimate reasons for not running certain programs. Cost may have been prohibitive. However, in our interview, he did not provide enough substantial answers to our questions to make us change our minds about the issue of his conflict of interest.

In a front page article, The Battalion March 10, 1992, stated that “Lewis said he does believe that public broadcasting is generally left of center” and he’s directly quoted as saying “...the programming tends to be liberal.” Along with his political position in the Republican party, this certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence in his objectivity.

As for the cult status of his church - well, read the rest of the issue for further details. All we’ll say here is that we’ve seen stacks and stacks of articles in national and university newspapers and magazines referring to problems on other campuses with Great Commission International. The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) is a respected source of information on the problem of cults. They list GCI as a cult. The only answer Lewis had to give to this charge was to say that they (CAN) had “an axe to grind.” Perhaps, but CAN has valid reasons. We also have an axe to grind and we haven’t seen any evidence to refute the charge that GCI is a cult. GCI’s student wing, A&M Christian Fellowship is a recognized university organization for which Lewis serves as advisor. We feel that Lewis, as a university faculty member and programming director of a public television station, should not be involved in such questionable organizations.

Read what an ex-member of the church has to say about his experience. And make your own judgements. All of the evidence is available to ANYONE who would like to examine it, including tapes of the interview.

The Touchstone, May 1992