Identifying Dangerous Groups

While at SFU, you may want to find a group or community where you can make meaningful connections and explore the big questions of life: "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"

You may choose to explore a religious tradition or philosophy by joining an association, club, or some other group on campus.

Although most students have positive experiences with the groups recognized by SFU or the SFSS, you should be aware that high-pressure, aggressive religious groups do exist. Below are some tips on finding the right kind of community for you and where you can seek help and assistance on campus. 

Need to Talk?

The Multifaith Centre supports the spiritual well-being of students, staff, and faculty. If you have been in contact with an aggressive religious or high-pressure group, or if you just want to talk, you are more than welcome to connect with us.


When connecting with a group, make sure that they:

  • Encourage relationships with your family and friends outside the group.
  • Respect and support you in life. 
  • Invite open and thoughtful investigation of beliefs and welcome a critical approach to faith. 
  • Encourage you to be a responsible contributing member of the larger community. 
  • Offer a reasonable and credible belief system upon which to structure your life.

Characteristics to Avoid

Pressure and Deception

Using high-pressure recruitment tactics and not being up front about their motives. 

  • Will the not take no for an answer; invitations are impossible to refuse without feeling guilty and/or ungrateful? Were you warned of serious spiritual or physical repercussions for not conforming to group doctrines or beliefs?
  • Is the group reluctant to accept you as you are?
  • Do they feel that it is proper to deceive people for the sake of the group?

Totalitarian World-View

Not encouraging critical and independent thinking.

  • Does the group seem too perfect? Do the people all agree and accept all orders cheerfully?
  • Do they claim to have 'all the answers' to your problems? 
  • Is it unacceptable to have doubts about what the group teaches or does?
  • Are doubts and questions taken as signs of weakness for which you will be punished?


Encouraging you to sever ties with others who are not members of their group 

  • Does the group say that your parents and friends cannot understand or help you with religious matters? 
  • Does the group view all aspects of your former life as bad? Do they use information about your former lifestyle to blackmail you into staying?
  • Are you uncomfortable with the groups attitude toward women or a particular race, ethnic, or religious group?


Making unrealistic demands on your time and/or money and not understanding that your studies are a priority. 

  • In the group, do you find yourself without enough private time? Nourishment? Sleep?
  • Does the group require sexual engagement as part of their belief?
  • Does the group encourage you to always put their meetings before all other commitments, including studying?

A sincere thank-you to the University of Calgary's Faith and Spiritual Centre, Dalhousie University's Multifaith Centre, and University of Toronto's Multifaith Centre for their contirbutions to this resource.

Contact Us

If you are made to feel unsafe or have any questions about a particular faith group or organization, please contact us.

Phone: 778.782.3180
Burnaby Campus AQ3200

You are also welcome to connect with the SFSS Student Centre

Phone: 778.782.3870

Chaplain Chat + Support

Are you looking for support? Do you have questions? Needing spiritual guidance?
Or you just want somone to listen? Connect with a Chaplain. 

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