Religion does not play as pervasive a role in the United States as it does in some other countries. Though the majority of Americans are Christian, there is no official religion that is supported by the government. The doctrine of "separation of church and state" is widely respected, and perceived deviations from it concerning such matters as prayer in the public schools cause vigorous debate. Religion is generally considered a private matter and Americans are generally taught not to raise the subject of religion with people they do not know well.
Some Americans who openly discuss their religious beliefs belong to fundamentalists groups who consider it their duty to try to attract others to their faith. They may be members of a "cult". Cult groups often single out international students or visitors and try to convert them. Students should be aware that kindness or interest shown them by representatives of religious organizations may be displays of genuine helpfulness and concern, but could also be part of an effort to induce a person to join a fundamentalist group or cult. Cult members try to recruit other members by offering friendship, help, and answers to problems. They often choose people who appear lonely or confused, because such people are considered more vulnerable to cult members' ideas.
To protect yourself from cult members who are recruiting, be wary of people who:
(a) tell you they can provide easy solutions to your problems,
(b) seem excessively friendly and eager to help,
(c) urge you to join them because "everyone is doing it",
(d) argue that you should feel guilty if you do not join their organization, or
(e) invite you to isolated weekend "workshops" with unclear goals.
Do not attend any meeting from which you are not allowed to leave at any time. Do not go to "retreats" or out-of-town meetings unless you have your own transportation. If you are uncomfortable with someone's religious advances to you and want to talk to someone, contact International Programs and Services.
Places of Worship: The New York area has many places of worship for a variety of religious affiliations. The names and addresses of New York churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are available online. If you do not find a listing for your particular religion, you may want to look under "religious organizations". A sampling of places of worship in the local area includes:
St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church
85 Harrison Street
West Harrison, NY
Korean Presbyterian Church of Westchester
50 Pintard Ave.
New Rochelle, NY
Corpus Christi Catholic Church
136 South Regent Street
Port Chester, NY
Buddhist Association of the U.S.
2020, Route 301
Tel: (845) 225-1819
Temple Israel Center
280 Old Mamaroneck Road
White Plains, NY
Temple Israel of New Rochelle
1000 Pinebrook Boulevard
New Rochelle, NY