1 Mar 2011

Christian tyrant Gothard and his patriarchal cult of fear that demands total subservience of women and children

AlterNet   -  February 21, 2011

Cultish Christian Leader Teaches Women Should Submit to Husbands -- Victims of His "Submission Theology" Speak Out

The cultish Evangelical leader Bill Gothard espouses a theology that tells men to rule over their families, and for wives and kids to submit entirely, no matter the circumstances.

By Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches

Bill Gothard is intent on defending himself. He’s speaking with me by telephone from the Northwoods Conference Center in Watersmeet, Michigan, where he spends every January “for study and writing and reflecting and fasting.” The controversial 76-year-old evangelist wants to explain away the “distortions” of his critics, and why, he insists, that widely-discussed “Taliban Dan” ad had it all wrong.

In the ad (run last fall by congressional candidate Daniel Webster’s Democratic opponent), the Florida Republican is shown speaking at an Advanced Training Institute conference -- part of Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles, the $95 million nonprofit the evangelist founded in 1965 that boasts it has educated millions, including public officials, around the world at its conferences, in homeschool curricula, and in prisons. Webster is shown saying, “wives submit yourselves to your own husband” and “she should submit to me, that’s in the Bible.”

After the ad ran, Webster countered -- and watchdogs and the media largely accepted -- that Grayson had taken his words out of context and distorted their meaning. Still, though, Webster never denied that he believed wives should submit to the spiritual authority of their husbands. That there is a “chain of command” that families must obey has been at the core of Gothard’s teachings for decades.

Gothard insisted to me (in direct contradiction to materials on his own website) that he does not teach submission. When I asked Gothard whether he teaches that wives should submit to their husbands’ authority, he laughed, answering, “no, no,” adding, that Jesus taught “he who is the greatest among you be the servant of all. That makes the woman the greatest of all because she has served every single person in the world by being in her womb.”

Gothard’s effort to soft-pedal his teachings -- by portraying women as venerated objects, and by saying that “authority” is simply “love” and “love” is “freedom” -- flies in the face of his critics’ descriptions of the impact of his authoritarian teachings on their lives. In interviews, former adherents to Gothard’s teachings, disillusioned former members of “ATI families,” and an evangelical critic told me that his unyielding theology, including “non-optional” compliance with seven “biblical” principles (the “basic” life principles), compliance with 49 “character traits,” and other periodic Gothard revelations, are contrary to the Bible and have wreaked havoc on their emotional and spiritual lives and those of their families.

Gothard doesn’t deny he teaches adherence to what he calls “the commands of Christ.” And even though he has developed his own highly unusual interpretation of the Bible, he insists he’s not demanding that his followers obey him, but that they obey God (or how he singularly has interpreted God’s word). Following this path, he tells me cheerfully, will bring one “success and health and happiness and joy.”

“Laws in Harmony with the Laws of God”

In a video of Webster’s appearance at a 2003 Advanced Training Institute (ATI) seminar, for sale at the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) website, Webster described how making a “commitment” to Gothard’s teachings “absolutely changed my life.” Those commitments, he went on, “are the basis for everything I do today.”

Webster isn’t the only member of Congress with deep connections to Gothard. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who just became chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, is the chair of the board of directors of the IBLP. Other politicians, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, have spoken at IBLP conferences, and Mike Huckabee is fan. And many others, such as Sarah Palin, as mayor of Wasilla, have attended his ostensibly secular (but not) International Association of Character Cities (IACC) conferences, based on his 49 character traits, and declared their municipalities “Cities of Character.” The supposedly secularized version of Gothard’s “character traits” have been taught in public schools.

Gothard’s recent efforts have even extended into faith healing. He told me that a delegation of Peruvian elected officials and other leaders were impressed with his ability to heal “stress” and cancer. “God has directed us to a new approach to health,” Gothard told me, “which is taking care of stress first.” Now the Peruvians, he said, want to be a “model world nation.” That, he added, “to me is like the example of what we’ve been working for all these years.”

Webster, whose office did not respond to an interview request, repeatedly insisted to the local press when he served in the Florida legislature from 1980 through 2008 that he would not apply Gothard’s teachings in his official duties. But Gothard told me that America’s problems are caused by “rejecting God’s ways” and that “we should make laws that are in harmony with the laws of nature and the laws of God.”

Gothard’s followers can take that directive quite literally. “Jack,” now in his 20s, who had lived and worked at IBLP headquarters and was exposed to ATI his entire life, told me that after high school he “immediately jumped into the legal studies program that ATI provided, determined to create a legal system based on biblical law then become president and implement it all over the world -- crazy, I know.” He has since broken with ATI.

Webster was and remains a staunch social conservative, opposing LGBT rights and abortion even in the case of rape or incest. He introduced an unsuccessful covenant marriage bill in the Florida legislature which would have prohibited divorce except in cases of adultery. He was the sponsor of legislation that legalized homeschooling in Florida in 1985. He earned an “A” rating and an endorsement from the Christian Reconstructionist group Gun Owners of America. The religious right Florida Family Policy Council named its annual award honoring “outstanding service to the pro-life and pro-family principles” after him. Recipients have included the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon.

“Culture of Fear”

Don Venoit, a conservative evangelical who founded Midwest Christian Outreach, a ministry devoted to countering the influence of “new religious movements,” has long been a critic of Gothard and documented his efforts to confront him in a 2003 book, A Matter of Basic Principles. MCO, like other apologetics ministries, considers Mormonism and other religions “cultic” and has contested the teachings of other evangelicals like Rick Warren and Brian McLaren. Still, the Venoits’ objections to Gothard are a barometer of how Gothard, well-loved by many conservative evangelicals, has drawn the ire of others. The Venoits’ book was praised by scholars at evangelical colleges, including Westminster Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, and Dallas Theological Seminary, and received a favorable review in Christianity Today.

Venoit told me he doesn’t consider Gothard’s organization a cult, but that Gothard’s “view of authority is the core of where things go wrong.” Gothard teaches, in the first hour of the first night of his “basic” seminar that “authority is like an umbrella of protection.” If you get out of that protection, “you are in rebellion, which is like witchcraft,” and “all evil will befall you,” said Venoit.

“It’s a culture of fear, is what it is,” he added.

Gothard says that Venoit’s descriptions of his teachings are a “distortion” -- but his defense is that all he is teaching is the necessity of obeying God’s commands.

Venoit said he was provoked to challenge Gothard’s “legalistic” views on issues like marriage and circumcision, which Gothard maintains must conform to Old Testament law, and other ideas like demons are transmitted from place to place through inanimate objects. In the 1990s, MCO began receiving increasing calls about Gothard’s authoritarianism.

Rather than engage in hermeneutics, said Venoit, Gothard “prays over large portions of scripture and God tells him what it means. Fundamentally, you have a mystic telling you how to understand the Bible.”

Basically Anti-Woman

Gothard’s “fundamental flaw,” Venoit told me, is his idea of the “umbrella of authority or chain of command.”

Ronald B. Allen, now a Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, criticized Gothard’s “chain-of-command” tenets of patriarchy in an essay:
Paramount among these is the terrible picture of the chain of command in the family with the husband as the hammer, the wife as the chisel and the children as the gems in the rough... The ghastly picture is that he beats on her and she chips on them. If ever there were a reason for a women’s movement in the evangelical church -- this is it. This illustration is simply not reflective of biblical theology; it is a parody of patriarchalism.

Allen called Gothard’s teaching “the basest form of male chauvinism I have ever heard in a Christian context... His view is basically anti-woman.”

In our interview, Gothard disputed the “terrible picture” Allen had drawn, maintaining that “God is the one who has a hammer” and that “God will use different authorities in their life to perfect the diamonds in our life. It’s not breaking the diamond, it’s perfecting the diamond. We are his jewels.”

“It’s not a harsh thing,” he insisted, “it’s a matter of perfecting the goal God has for every one of us.”

Vyckie Garrison, who runs the website No Longer Quivering, “a gathering place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse,” told me that she and her now ex-husband, although they lacked the money to attend Gothard’s seminars, followed his teachings through his homeschool curricula. She said her husband had believed, based on Gothard’s teachings, that he was responsible for his family’s salvation through the authority he exercised over his family, a role which turned him into a “tyrant.”

While many evangelical couples follow complementarian theology, Gothard’s twist on that teaching, said Garrison, is that “the man has ultimate responsibility with eternal consequences,” meaning that it “gives him the authority over every aspect of family’s life and thoughts.” In Garrison’s family this meant her husband exercised control of her and the children’s every move to ensure compliance with Gothard’s 49 character traits.

The husband provides an “umbrella of protection” or “spiritual protection from Satan.” The wife needs to be in submission, because the husband is “going to answer not just for your own life and your own walk before God but for your wife and children,” said Garrison.

While she was attempting to live up to the unattainable expectations imposed by her husband’s adherence to Gothard’s theology, Garrison was “mesmerized” by the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting fame, who are possibly Gothard’s most recognizable followers. The matriarch and star of the TLC reality hit, Michelle Duggar, “was like my hero,” said Garrison, who found raising her own seven children overwhelming. “She makes it all look so doable.” In spite of Gothard’s controversial status, religious right activists fawned over the Duggars at last year’s Values Voters Summit, where they were honored with a “Pro-Family Entertainment” award.

The Duggars write on their website that when Jim Bob Duggar first met Michelle, he was smitten and “completely convinced he’d just met the girl he’d been praying for without knowing who she was. Oh, God, he prayed in that doorway, from the depths of my heart, I ask that Michelle could be mine and that I could become her spiritual leader.” (emphasis in original)

A former religious right activist who worked closely with some of its leadership, and who also followed Gothard’s teachings in her marriage (which ended in divorce) said, “what I remember most about Gothard’s teaching -- and this sticks in my mind -- you don’t have any rights.”

Gothard requires “total submission to God, doesn’t matter what you think, want, or feel, it only matters what God wants,” she said.

With regard to following Gothard’s teachings on marriage, the former activist said, “basically I gave up my rights to be who I was and I just determined to be whoever he [my husband] wanted me to be.”

Like Garrison, the former activist said that her husband felt responsible for the whole family’s salvation, and that he behaved like a coach, “either you’re on the team or you’re not.” She remained married for 24 years during which “I lived with that kind of having to subjugate myself to that kind of will.”

Garrison rejected the claim, made by Factcheck.org and other critics of the “Taliban Dan” ad, that Grayson’s campaign took Webster’s words out of context. “This is the very thing that made my husband such an asshole,” said Garrison.

“...Like Getting Out of Hell”

Gothard insisted to me that he does not teach that wives must submit to their husbands. Yet the ATI website’s “Family Support Link,” responds to the question, “How can a husband help preserve his marriage?” with “key areas of loving leadership,” citing Ephesians 5:23–25, one of the core texts for that teaching that is endorsed, and debated, widely in evangelicalism. But Gothard maintained to me that he didn’t know what submission theology was. “When you get into theologies, you get all kinds of baggage,” he said. “Even the statements of faith. I believe in the commands of Christ. They’re inspired and when they are applied they bring tremendous results.”

Despite his efforts to circumvent the submission discussion, though, the ATI site, outlining “The Seven Basic Needs of a Wife,” counsels, “a wife needs a husband who demonstrates spiritual leadership,” adding, “As your wife sees you establish Godly standards in your life, she will be motivated to set similar standards in her life and to submit to your leadership.” In response to the question “how can a wife help preserve her marriage?” the ATI websitelays out “seven key areas of respect and submission.” These include “accept your husband as your spiritual leader” and “accept your husband’s efforts to protect you.”

Venoit distinguished Gothard’s submission theology from more conventional complementarian theology because more mainstream theology would not, as Venoit says he’s heard Gothard say, tell women they should even submit to spousal abuse.

Gothard reacted to that with another jargon-loaded evasion, saying that problems within a marriage are caused by four “levels” of problems, and if a man “repents” of his “root” problems, it usually fixes the “surface” problem that the couple is fighting about.

“People don’t realize how scary these teachings are,” said Garrison. “The Duggars seem rather innocuous, they seem like a whimsical friendly family.” But, she said, getting out of a patriarchal marriage “is like getting out of hell.”

Wavy Hair, No Dating, No College

“Eliza,” now in her late 30s, was exposed to Gothard’s teachings her whole life, through her parents’ homeschool materials and attendance at Gothard conferences. She attended ATI conferences with her family from the time she was 12 until just two years ago. In the ATI courses, she said, Gothard’s teachings became more “wacky.”

ATI provides both homeschool materials and training courses all over the world on wide-ranging topics, including law, landscaping, music, food service, interior design, and “eternity arts.” But it’s in the gender-separated seminars that Gothard’s vision for women becomes clear: they are taught how to “radiate the brightness of the Lord Jesus Christ through their thoughts, words, and actions,” become “virtuous women,” and recognize theimportance of “falling in love with the Lord, accepting your design and realizing your unique gifts.” Gothard, who teaches that dating is wrong, and that couples should engage instead in “courtship,” maintains “the purpose of courtship is to determine a couple’s readiness for marriage and to discern the will of God for a covenant marriage that will benefit the world.”

Many ATI conferences last for days or weeks at a time. Eliza said, “I didn’t realize you could control people’s minds by sleep deprivation, lack of good food, and pumping way too much information as they could pump into them without giving them time to think... You’ve got kids there for goodness sake!”

ATI families “basically ate, breathed, lived, and slept ATI and Mr. Gothard,” said Jack.

Among other things, Eliza said, Gothard would not permit boys and girls to talk to each other, demanded a strict dress code, taught that girls should never run, and demanded that girls style their hair wavy -- not straight or curly -- because “wavy hair is attractive and becoming -- it causes you to focus on the woman’s face instead of her body.” Gothard’s approved wavy hairstyle is meant, she said, “to attract men to your bright eyes, which will attract them to God, instead of your body.”

Eliza elaborated on how she was required to live under her father’s authority, even in adulthood. “Girls should be serving their fathers and at times they should do ministry things under their father’s direction -- while they were single,” she said. “Make the most of your single years to serve God.” She remains single, something she attributes in part to her parents’ adherence to Gothard’s teachings.

As a result, she said, she never attended college (she had been educated in Christian schools until fifth grade and homeschooled for the duration of her education) and never learned skills with which she could earn a living for herself. Gothard discouraged college, she said, because he said parents shouldn’t expose their children to “alternative philosophies.” Women were expected to be under their fathers’ “authority” until marriage; because she wasn’t interested in marriage, she remained at home until very recently, but said that not being able to earn a living for herself “at this stage of my life is very scary.”

Gothard, who has never been married, teaches that dating is prohibited (a rule echoed by the Duggars on their television show) “because you’ll give away too much of your heart.” As the blogger Hopewell wrote on Garrison’s blog, the Duggars “view dating as unhealthy, leading to a diminished capacity to love your eventual spouse... They view adulthood as something that begins with a parent-approved marriage and at no other time.”

Indeed sex is so taboo it’s not even discussed -- even to condemn homosexuality. “To even mention the name of [homosexuality] was a sin,” said Jack. “To talk about sexuality in general was wrong. The ‘S’ word as we called it was in my family absolutely never mentioned. Things like masturbation -- I didn’t even know what it was until I was 19 or 20. Sex was considered bad and wrong and almost like the boogeyman that you don’t talk about.”

Gothard’s own brother, who worked for IBLP, was dismissed from his organization after it was discovered that he was having sex with students, and the former head of the homeschooling curriculum, Jim Voeller, was dismissed for leaving his wife and seven children for his secretary.

Prof. Allen argued in his critique that Gothard’s “repressed views of human sexuality” neglect even biblical descriptions, such as in the Song of Solomon, of the “beautiful eroticism” and “delight in human sexuality,” instead making it “a disgrace even to speak of such.”

A “Hedge of Thorns” of Protection Against Satan

Webster boasts of how his “commitments,” based on Gothard’s teachings, cause his enemies to fail. In the ATI video, he recounted making “commitments” that included never watching TV in a hotel room, getting up early in the morning, and praying for a “hedge of thorns of protection” around his Florida district so that he would win reelection. (Both Webster and Gothard have made much of the fact that for several of his reelection bids in the Florida legislature, Webster ran unopposed.) Webster said that he prayed for anyone considering a run in his district to “lose interest.”

That “that hedge of thorns has protected me all these years,” Webster continued, even when his political opponents referred to him and allies as “conservative, gun-toting Bible thumpers.” He claims that “pride is so destructive,” yet seems quite proud that his “hedge of thorns” has made his political career a success.

Razing Ruth, another anti-biblical patriarchy blog, describes Gothard’s teaching on the “hedge of thorns”:
Bill Gothard teaches that Satan can gain “jurisdictional authority” over a person’s soul. When a father or husband, as the authority and spiritual protector of the family, fears that this (Satan attempting to get ja) has happened or may happen, the man is instructed to “pray a hedge of thorns” around his wife/family/son/daughter. In doing so, Gothard teaches that the man will have created a “stronghold for Christ.”

Jack said the “hedge of thorns,” based on Hosea 2:6 and popular in conservative circles, is meant to “’lead the wayward back to himself with a ‘hedge of thorns’ in other words, ‘God make their life miserable so that they recognize the error of their way and come back under God given authority.’” While most traditional conservatives believe this is in reference to unfaithful spouses, “Gothard and IBLP extended it to cover all ‘wayward souls.’”

Gothard also extends the “hedge” in a segment on about how to teach children to “resist temptation.” He tells fathers, “Your own obedience to God is a key factor in protecting your sons and daughters from evil. If you fail morally, you will give Satan access to those who are under your authority” (emphasis in original). He then suggests a prayer:

Heavenly Father, I ask you in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to bind and rebuke Satan and to put a hedge of protection around me and each one in my family.

Power of One Accord

Jack said that one of the new twists Gothard added recently that contributed to his decision to break from the organization was “One Accord,” another topic that Webster has lectured on at ATI.

The idea, said the young man, is “based on Acts 2, is that when everyone is in ‘one accord,’ God unleashes His power on behalf of those gathered together.” Dissenters, then, “must be removed so that we can have the power. This has become his [Gothard’s] latest bludgeon to keep people in line with his agenda.”

But that bludgeon was an impetus to leave. Jack worked and talked with others at ATI as part of his decision to break from the group, he said. “We were all falling out of love with Mr. Gothard and really finding ourselves and finding a reason to live,” he said. Out of Gothard’s teachings, and the circles of his followers, “a very deep, complex morass of people and ideas and theology coming together and creating for a lot of people an experience that was devastating emotionally and spiritually and otherwise.” He added, “the huge devastation of ATI and IBLP is the emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage -- the stuff they can’t be held accountable for.”

Sarah Posner is associate editor of Religion Dispatches and author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. Read her blog or follow her on Twitter.

This article was found at:


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  1. http://www.alternet.org/story/151584/how_the_right-wing_group_behind_michele_bachmann%27s_creepy_porn_pledge_pushes_female_submission

    Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have signed on to the para-church group's “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY” – a right-wing political policy document which calls on candidates to support a federal "Marriage Amendment," oppose same-sex marriages, pornography, abortion, no-fault divorce and adultery and to encourage "robust childbearing and reproduction" in order to ensure U.S. global economic and political domination.

    The public outrage is justified. The Marriage Vow pledge, which ironically makes a show of rejecting “Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control" is one of the most misogynistic and totalitarian political policy proposals in recent history.

  2. Spanking for Jesus: Inside the Unholy World of Christian Domestic Discipline

    What do you call it when a husband beats his wife with a paddle for disobeying him? Some would say domestic abuse. These people say he’s doing God’s work.

    By Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast June 19, 2013

    On a pain scale of one to 10, Chelsea ranks the epidural-free birth of her child as a six. Her husband’s spankings? Those are an eight.

    First, he uses his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst rule-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.

    But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.

    Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.

    Clint was in the room while I talked to Chelsea. They do everything together, including running their blog, Learning DD, which chronicles their exploration of domestic discipline. When Chelsea gets flummoxed by a question, she asks Clint for guidance in a voice so high-pitched that it belies her 28 years: “Honey, how long does the spanking usually last?” (About 5 minutes, Clint says.)

    He has left bruises, Chelsea says, but it’s rare, and she attributes them to anemia.

    You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement.

    When a wife breaks her husband’s rules—rolling her eyes, maybe, or just feeling “meh,” as one blogger put it—that can equal punishments which are often corporal but can also be “corner time”; writing lines (think “I will not disobey my master” 1,000 times); losing a privilege like internet access; or being “humbled” by some sort of nude humiliation. Some practice “maintenance spanking,” wherein good girls are slapped on a schedule to remind them who’s boss; some don’t. Some couples keep the lifestyle from their children; others, like CDD blogger Stormy, don’t. “Not only does he spank me with no questions asked for disrespect or attitude in front of them, but I am also required to make an apology to each of them,” she writes.

    continued in next comment...

  3. After discipline, many wives report being held and comforted. And on Internet message boards dedicated to the practice, couples emphatically advocate for the CDD way of life. As such, there’s a temptation to file away domestic discipline into to the “different strokes for different folks” category. But mental-health and abuse experts see a potential for danger.

    Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist who evaluates and treats sexual psychopaths and is the author of a book on abuse in Christian homes, says CDD isn’t about religion—it’s an outlet for emotionally disturbed men with intimacy deficits.

    “No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship,” Alsdurf says. “A relationship that infantilizes a woman is one that clearly draws a more pathological group of people.”

    For Alsdurf, though, CDD sounds less like an act of violence and more like of an act of distorted sexual arousal. “If people want to spank each other, go ahead,” he says. “The problem of course, is if it’s done in a controlling and a mildly abusive way.” Like with all outer variables of sexual expression, he says, “If they’re not done in a healthy way they can become about abuse and control.”

    Others are less equivocal. “It’s sick,” says Wendy Dickson, who runs an emergency shelter for women and children fleeing abusive homes in Evanston, Illinois. Women who receive beatings in the name God, she says, are no different than the women she sees every day in her shelter. Domestic abuse, which one in four U.S. women (PDF) will experience at some point in their lifetime, often conjures scenes of thundering rage, broken bones, and black eyes. But the most dangerous kind, Dickson says, is the emotional kind, because it keeps people trapped. “The definition of domestic abuse is power and control over another individual,” she says.

    And as for women who seem content? Dickson says many of the abused women whom she helps also make excuses for staying in an unacceptable relationship. “Everyone just wants to maintain and tell themselves this is what they want,” she says.

    Perhaps for these reasons, CDDers are a private group. As they see it, they’re fighting (and losing) a culture war against liberalism and feminism. There are no brick-and-mortar churches where adherents gather to pray and paddle. Instead, the ties that bind the community are formed in largely anonymous online communities.

    There are dozens of online meeting places. On Fetlife, the Christian Domestic Discipline group has more than 500 members. The private Yahoo group boasts some 4,000 members. The topics on these forums range from the banal (“Happy Flag Day, everybody!”) to the political, such as a thread on whether Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly got it wrong on bread-winning moms. And then there are posts that are just plain disturbing: “My wife cries and writhes and begs me to stop during spankings, should I?”

    continued in next comment...

  4. Some women post questions about how best to convince their husbands to begin disciplining them, or pen distressed posts when the punishments wane in number or intensity.

    Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find women who seem to want out. They describe being scared and in physical and emotional pain. The responses range from suggestions to submit more fully and try harder to leaving the relationship.

    “I wanted the spankings to stop and my husband told me it was either DD and marriage or divorce,” one user named “Michelle” wrote on a popular domestic discipline blog. “I chose divorce. I couldn’t handle the pain of spankings anymore, emotionally or physically.” Leah Kelley, a CDD blogger and author of “spanking romance stories,” split from the man she had described as her “knight in beat up armor,” in 2010, citing her husband’s “deep-seated mental issues,” as the reason for the marriage’s end.

    What seems to be the most obvious explanation for CDD, one acknowledged by some domestic discipline advocates not tied to the Christian church, is that the practice is a means to justify the fulfillment of a sexual fetish. On a CDD blog, “Sue” writes, “Boy do I wish more of the women in DD would admit to this. It’s a sexual fetish. There’s nothing wrong with it, but they try to make it so much more than it is.”

    But the moral constraints of the church make it difficult for couples to be honest about the sexual nature of their desire, says Paul Byerly, who with his wife runs The Marriage Bed, a site dedicated to sexuality and religion. Byerly, who calls CDD a “distortion of what God intended,” believes that “women, particularly in the Christian church tend to be sexually repressed.” Domestic discipline, he explains, could be “a way around that”—a chance to explore sexual desires while still nominally acting in the name of Jesus.

    Still, CDDers themselves reject this pain-for-pleasure explanation. “The pure CDD people don’t go there,” says Vera, who is both in a domestic discipline relationship as well as into sex play. “A lot of folks think of Fifty Shades of Grey—but this is not that,” she says.

    Vera (not her real name), argues that abuse is all about intent. “He never punishes me when he’s angry,” she says of her partner. “He doesn’t yell. The worst thing I can do is disappoint him and I do that when I act on one of my character defects.”

    And do men have any of these defects? Who is there to correct them? “He’s not perfect,” Vera says, “but it’s not my role to point that out. He self corrects.”

    And as for what a man gets out of it, besides a woman who obeys his every command, Vera says her partner is satisfied by her growth. “He enjoys seeing the person he owns, his property, become the thing God wants her to be. It might sound weird, but that works for me.”


  5. Conservative leader Bill Gothard on leave following abuse allegations

    by Sarah Pulliam Bailey | Religion News Service February 28, 2014

    (RNS) Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress and who warned against rock music and debt, has been placed on administrative leave after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.

    Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among devotees of the Quiverfull movement, who promote large families and eschew birth control.

    He’s also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences and declared Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”

    In a statement posted Thursday, board chairman Billy Boring told World magazine: “After completion of the review, the board will respond at an appropriate time, and in a biblical manner.” Until then, the statement said, Gothard “will not be involved in the operations of the ministry. The board of directors will be prayerfully appointing interim leadership.”

    Gothard is 79 and single.

    The allegations against Gothard dovetail with financial woes. In recent years, IBLP’s net revenue has dropped significantly, and the ministry is losing money. In 2009, it reported a net income loss of $1 million. It lost $4.1 million in 2011, and $3.5 million in 2012, according to its most recently available tax forms. Its net assets dropped from $92 million in 2010 to $81 million in 2012.

    Since it started as a class at Gothard’s alma mater, Wheaton College, in 1961, more than 2.5 million people have gone through his “basic seminar” training on authority, success and other issues. IBLP held 504 seminars in 2010, but that number dropped to fewer than 50 in 2012.

    The financial decline came around the same time that the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace was formed in 2011. A string of allegations has been posted on the website, including one alleging Gothard molested a woman who was underage in the early 1990s. Four articles allege Gothard engaged in sexual harassment, and four articles allege his failure to report child abuse to Child Protective Services.

    Calls placed to IBLP Thursday were not immediately returned.

    Gretchen Swearingen, who goes by her middle name “Charlotte,” wrote on the website that Gothard requested she come work for him in 1992 at IBLP’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., when she was 16. During her time there, she said Gothard would play footsie with her and hold her hand. At one point, she said, he had coordinated a ride from the airport for them to be together. “That’s when he first put his hand between my legs and felt me all the way up,” she wrote.

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  6. Now 38, she said the statute of limitations has expired, leaving her unable to sue. She said she told her mother, who told her that she was lying, so Swearingen assumed there was nothing she could do.

    “No one was there when the molestation was happening,” she said in an interview. “I never had the guts to say anything. I thought if my mother didn’t believe me, who would? You’re not to bring home false witness against someone at headquarters.”

    She said that she and her mother have reconciled since she wrote her story piece.

    Swearingen said she reported her story to the Hinsdale (Ill.) Police Department a week ago. A police spokesman said no investigation has been opened at this time.

    “It’s not about revenge, not about suing him or taking him to court,” she said. “It’s about my healing and giving other people voices.”

    Gothard would create an emotional bond with several women during counseling, said Rachel Frost, who also worked at IBLP’s headquarters when she was 16.

    “There was a very common grooming pattern of creating emotional bonds and physical affirmations, the footsie, the leg rubs, the stroking of the hair, the constant comments on physical appearance,” she said.

    She also wrote about her experience on the Recovering Grace website.

    Julie Terrell, another woman who worked at IBLP’s headquarters, said Gothard sexually harassed her when she worked there in 1998. But before stories were posted at Recovering Grace, she never thought to say anything.

    One woman behind the Recovering Grace website, who declined to be named because she did not want to hurt the reputation of her husband who is a pastor, said 34 women told the website they had been sexually harassed; four women alleged molestation. She said she refers anyone whose story is within the statute of limitations to the police.

    IBLP is not the only institution in more conservative evangelical circles currently under scrutiny.

    Last year, another prominent home-schooling leader, Doug Phillips, stepped down from his ministry that shut down after he acknowledged an extramarital relationship. The New Republic recently published a piece on Patrick Henry College, a school popular among home-schooling families, suggesting that the college had failed to report sexual abuse. In a statement, the college took issue with some of the allegations made in the piece.

    Earlier this month, Bob Jones University, which started popular curricula for home-schooling families, fired and then rehired an independent firm to investigate sex abuse reports just one month before the group planned to release its 13-month review findings.


  7. Growing up in Bill Gothard's Homeschool Cult

    by Micah J. Murray, RedemptionPictures.com
    Huffington Post May 6, 2014

    You know it somewhere in your mind before your mouth will admit it.

    We talked about how it was a cult, joking at first. Outsiders could point and accuse and question, but we knew that it wasn't what it looked like. "Don't worry," we told ourselves. "We know it better than they do."

    I remember saying, more seriously than joking, "If this is brainwashing, it feels good to be brain clean."

    But as I spiraled closer and closer to to the center, the realization began to sink in. The jokes became real. "Cult-like", sure. I'd call it that. Authoritarian, legalistic, overbearing. But not a real cult.

    The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can't see it for what it is. You never think you're in a cult when you're in a cult. Until the day you can't deny the reality of what you've seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while, "I grew up in a cult."

    There's barely a memory from the first twenty years of my life that isn't run through by the thread of the cult.

    We joined the Advanced Training Institute when I was in first grade. Bill Gothard's materials were the foundation of my homeschooling curriculum for the next twelve years. The Institute's books began to fill our shelves; their routine became part of our daily life.

    As a child and then a teen, ATI/IBLP formed most of my peer group. In the summer we went to the camps and the conferences. I attended the seminars as a child, then as a teacher. After I graduated from high school, I spent the next two years living and volunteering at the one of the Training Centers.

    My wife was exposed to the cult when she was growing up too, though not as deeply as I was. When we began our awkward courtship, we followed many of the rules and procedures prescribed by the cult. And in the years since then, I've found myself in the long, slow process of rooting out the remaining traces of the cult from my heart, reconstructing a faith brick by brick.

    When I tell my story, people say "You should hate God by now. It's a miracle you're a Christian at all.

    They're right. It's a miracle.

    Now the cult leader's face is showing up in the news: "Bill Gothard Placed On Administrative Leave Following Abuse Allegations"

    Students who grew up in the navy-and-white prisons have spoken up with their stories; more than two dozen women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment or abuse.
    People ask me what I think about it. What can you say? I grew up in a cult led by an alleged sexual predator.

    Do I believe the allegations? Absolutely.

    During my two years working at the Training Center after highschool, I saw a system of absolute authoritarianism - designed to protect "leaders" and silence "rebellion". I saw an organization built on the "special insights" and the idiosyncratic whims of an old man with way too much money and power.

    They say that he groomed young women, selected the vulnerable and the hurting, told them it was God's will for them to come work for him. They say that he made them feel special. That say he took advantage of their naivety - naivety instilled through the teachings and culture he created.

    I believe these stories, because I saw the edges.

    When we were at the Training Center, we joked about Gothard's "harem". We all knew there was a certain physical "type" of woman that he liked to be close to him, working for him.

    I saw him pick out young women who were obviously vulnerable and hurting - but also very attractive. I heard him promise them they'd be right at the center of the next big thing he was planning. Those plans never came to pass, but I saw the girls come and go.

    I saw the double standards. We weren't allowed to go out with other staff in mixed-company groups.

  8. We weren't allowed to have a conversation in the lobby with female staff members. And yet he - a single old man - had long "counseling sessions" with the same young women we were forbidden from meeting. At the time, we shrugged it off. He was the leader, he was allowed to make the rules.

    I saw the materials he published too, about "counseling sexual abuse". Blaming victims, downplaying the damage of sexual abuse. The very sort of thing you'd expect, in retrospect, from an alleged sexual predator.

    I don't know what's more horrifying: that this is the sort of "training" we received in "counseling seminars", or that we were so brainwashed we saw nothing wrong with it at the time.

    What happened? How did Bill Gothard fool an entire generation of homeschooling parents, of earnest young people? I don't know.

    For a long time, I've heard it downplayed, excused: "His teachings weren't that bad, it was just that some people took them to an unhealthy extreme" or "He started out with good intentions, but got prideful and out-of-touch because of his success"

    But when there are allegations stretching all the way back to the 1970's of sexual misconduct, questionable financial dealings, and strategic cover-ups, I can't believe that narrative anymore.
    How did we wind up here, the tens of thousands who were fooled, deceived, led astray? The thousands that still are? I can tell you how I did: I was raised in it. It was the only world I ever knew. It was my normal.

    And it was a "normal" that was protected with principles that taught us not to question authority. They taught us that being different from everybody else meant we were morally superior, that we were "special". They taught us that if the system didn't work for us, it was because we weren't trying hard enough.

    But what about the parents, the leaders? I don't blame them. I think they were as much a victim of Bill Gothard's deceptions as anyone. He was a master manipulator. The alleged predatory harassment of young women was part of an entire system built on insulating, elevating, and protecting himself. He preyed on fear and insecurity. He preyed on the desire to please God. He preyed on naivety. He preyed on hope.
    I wish I could say that he's the only religious leader who did that, but he's not. It's an epidemic. It's in our pulpits today, and wildly popular. Preachers teaching that they're leading a special chosen group. Preachers insulating themselves from criticism by claiming that they have a special vision from God. Preachers using fear to control their people - fear of hell, fear of the liberals, fear of the world.

    When you see that, run far away. Your heart will know that you're in a cult, long before your lips are brave enough to speak the words.

    Pray for us. Pray for the women who trusted when they were most vulnerable, only to be betrayed. Pray for the ones who are still trapped. Brainwashing is a real thing. Brainwashing is what makes you say "I'm free" when you know somewhere in your heart that you're not. Brainwashing is what makes you silence that voice gasping for air, and listen instead to the ones that say "Do more, be more, try harder."
    Pray for those who gave their whole lives to a ministry built on sand. You can't walk away from that unharmed.

    Pray for the ones who have decades of truth and lies mixed together to sort through. There's no easy way to do that. Even the Bible doesn't help when you've been conditioned to read the Bible twisted, when you know all the right answers and they're all wrong.

    Pray, if you can, for Bill Gothard. He's carved out a heavy millstone for his own neck. He needs the sort of grace and redemption that could never be found in all his books and conferences and seminars.


  9. My childhood in a cult is hard to imagine but my survival is truly unbelievable

    The ATI cult and the ‘Quiverfull’ movement defined my life, until I was old enough to break away

    by Jenna Tracy, The Guardian June 1, 2015

    For the longest time, I didn’t know how to explain to people how I grew up.

    Raised in Minnesota, my family went to a suburban, evangelical church in the Assemblies of God denomination: most people would consider it conservative, but it was more mainstream than where we ended up. My siblings and I wore shorts during the summer, listened to music and watched Full House on TV.

    My family’s transition into the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) cult – the homeschool offshoot of Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles now infamous because of its association with the Duggar family – was slow. The institute teaches a rigid hierarchy where God comes first, men come second, women are third and children are at the very bottom. As with many people who join cults, my parents were drawn in by the teachings of a leader – Gothard – whose charisma and sense of moral certainty they ultimately found impossible to resist.

    In the third grade, my parents decided to start homeschooling and were introduced to the ATI curriculum by a family friend. It didn’t seem so out of the mainstream at the beginning. When we first attended Gothard’s seminars, for instance, we were crowded into the St Paul Civic Center with thousands of other families who didn’t seem all that different from us. Before long, we were attending a relatively large church in Minneapolis founded on ATI principles, where most members considered it their duty to give birth to as many children as possible to strengthen God’s kingdom – what would later become known as the “Quiverfull” movement. (With only four kids, our family was one of the smallest in the church.)

    An emphasis on controlling every aspect of a woman’s physical appearance was central to the ATI lifestyle, and conforming to Gothard’s personal tastes was an obsession shared by women and men. This meant wearing our hair (our Biblical “crowning glory”) long and keeping our curls touchably soft and loose. Gothard even made it known he strongly disliked the “wet look” (women wearing too much gel in their hair), and I was even once pulled aside at an ATI training institute in Oklahoma and told to start wearing less product.

    At church, women were supposed to wear head coverings to show our submission, though the guidelines weren’t strict. (Some women would just pin Kleenex to the top of their heads.)

    Ankle-length skirts were required for women and girls at all times. In our family, one of the more “liberal” in our church, we were usually allowed to wear pants at home (when we weren’t around other ATI families and for activities like horseback riding), but jeans were strictly forbidden.

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  10. We girls came to learn that policing our bodies, in addition to getting married and having babies, was our primary role in life. Even before puberty, we were required to swim in oversized t-shirts and shorts that came past our knees (while boys wore regular bathing suits), and were taught by our wisdom books: “when a man looks lustfully at a woman, a flood of impulses travels through the optic nerve to the back of the brain”, causing testosterone to surge, violent crime to go up and otherwise “godly” men to stumble.

    So when, in the seventh grade, I developed breasts and they grew to DDs, it felt like nothing worse could have happened. Finding shirts baggy enough to hide their size was a constant struggle, and it seemed like nothing I could find fully concealed the fact that they were attached to me. I remember begging my mom to take me to the mall, where I spent hours looking for bras that would minimize their size. My closest ATI friend and I would frequently buy the same clothes when we went shopping together, in the way teenage girls do. But while my parents were frequently pulled aside by other members in our church to be told my clothing was causing men to “lust” after me, my less-curvy friend never became a target of church leadership like I did.

    The obsession with keeping men’s eyes off of women’s breasts didn’t end with trying to force me to hide mine. During an eight-week-long, all-female training program, my sister was chastised by an older woman because a flower in the patterned fabric of a vest she was required to sew came too close to her breast. (She got lucky though – unlike some other students, she didn’t have to destroy it and start over.)

    Dating was out of the question. If a young man in the church saw a young woman he was interested in, we were taught that the man should go to his father first and ask them to pray and decide whether he felt the relationship was God’s will. If he decided it was, the man’s father would then approach the woman’s father and ask him to pray and decide if he felt it was God’s will. If both fathers were in agreement, the children would then be allowed to embark on a closely-supervised “courtship” intended to lead to marriage.

    The father of another girl in our church found a partner for her after becoming concerned that, unmarried in her mid-twenties, she was failing in her biblical mandate to have as many children as possible. At their wedding, we were all handed a printed program that explained the couple’s journey to marriage and the daughter’s initial resistance to her father’s choice; clearly meant to inspire the young women in the room, it explained that she had, at first, no interest in marrying the man her father had chosen. But after she prayed and decided that their marriage was God’s will, she’d agreed to the union. I’ll never forget the palpable discomfort in the room when the couple was supposed to kiss at the altar (“saving” your first kiss for the day of your wedding is common in ATI) and, after a strained peck, the bride cringed, pulled back and, as her new husband continued to try to kiss her, pushed him away.

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  11. Women were under enormous pressure to marry, but men, we were told, could get a special exception to stay single if it was God’s will. Gothard himself liked to say that as he explained to us at a weekend retreat I attended to learn how to be a “godly” woman, God specifically set him apart for singleness, freeing him of the obligation to get married. (In retrospect, given the 34 women who’ve come forward saying they were sexually abused by Gothard, many of them as children, it’s even more disturbing.)

    Though we’d been raised to believe that college wasn’t part of God’s plan for women, I started researching colleges and searching for loans I could apply to in earnest around age 16. Our local public library was my salvation, since our family’s computer had long since been outfitted with a special web blocker designed for ATI families that blotted out virtually all of the internet. But at the library, I could spend hours indulging my nascent interest in design by browsing fashion websites and looking through back issues of fashion magazines. I took advantage of every opportunity to learn more about the world outside of ATI – even trying to arrive early to orthodontist appointments whenever I could to sit in the waiting room and steal a few precious moments with the piles of teen magazines.

    I became fixated on applying to design schools in New York and, though our ATI filter wouldn’t allow me to apply to universities from home, I quickly learned that most websites through which I could apply for student loan applications were allowed. My parents might have prevented me from applying had I started two years earlier, but disillusioned by a sex scandal involving our church’s pastor when I was 17 and worn down by years of me questioning my father’s authority and the strict confines of ATI, my parents agreed to let me go if I would pay for college myself. Despite the fact that I was largely shooting in the dark when it came to filling out my applications (especially in the applications for financial aid), I found a design school that was willing to accept me and, when I finished homeschooling at age 18, I moved east to New York.

    At school, I quickly shed my “homeschool image” and clothes, dyed my hair whenever I wanted, drank and went to clubs with a fake ID like everybody else. The transition might have seemed abrupt to an outside observer, but after years of secretly envisioning my life the way I wanted it to be outside of ATI, the experience was tremendously liberating. I eventually finished my degree and moved back to Minnesota, but today am rarely in touch with anyone from ATI or my old church here.

    Today, a lot of my friends don’t have any idea what I went through – and everyone in my family has since left the movement. Looking back, I realize I’m lucky to have emerged relatively unscathed, and to have a close relationship with my parents and siblings that’s stayed intact even as we’ve all transitioned back to living more normal lives.

    I know my past is something many people can’t relate to – and many struggle to understand even after it’s explained to them. It’s extreme, out-of-the-mainstream weirdness is something that makes it hard for most people to wrap their head around. And maybe that’s a good thing.


  12. The Duggars Fox News Interview Was an Unholy Disaster

    by Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast June 4, 2015

    At various times downplaying their son’s molestation of their daughters and playing the victims themselves, the Duggar family dug themselves a bottomless PR hole.

    Whether or not Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar are hypocrites, I suppose, is still a matter of debate. Whether they are despicable asshats, however, most certainly is not.

    Appearing on Fox News to answer Megyn Kelly’s questions about the scandal they’ve found their sprawling brood of holier-than-thou religious conservativesembroiled in, the matriarch and patriarch of the family featured in the TLC series19 Kids and Counting dug themselves into a PR hole no amount of high-minded righteousness can get them out of.

    Michelle and Jim-Bob were interviewed for two ostensible purposes. One was to explain themselves in the wake of the revelation that their eldest son, Josh, molested 5 girls, including siblings, 12 years ago, after which they took strides to cover it up and skirt the law as they eventually rose to fame on a reality TV show.

    The other was to defend themselves against accusations that they are religious hypocrites.

    They have used their fame to preach principles that, to many, could be construed as hateful, but they’ve defended as pure and moral. Women who have abortions are complicit in a “baby Holocaust,” they’ve said. They’ve damned the gay community. Michelle has recorded robocalls implying that transgender women are pedophilic child molesters.

    They’ve campaigned against proposed ordinances that would have protected gay parents from lawful discrimination when it came to raising their children. And they’ve taught their daughters that women should submit to men.

    All while their son molested children, and they helped to bury it.

    People who may have assumed that the Duggars agreed to a Fox News interview, of all outlets, because it may be a more hospitable environment weren’t exactly correct.

    Megyn Kelly may not have wagged a finger at them or damned them to hell, the way so many of us wished she would have. But she did ask them tough, responsible, and necessary questions.

    She asked why they protected a son who was harming their daughters. She asked for details that would refute the accusations that they covered his misdeeds up. She asked them if they were hypocrites. She asked specifically about Michelle’s comparing transgender women to child molesters. And Michelle stood by it. “It’s common sense,” she said, proving that she has no blessed idea what “common sense” is.

    More, she thinks people accusing them of hypocrisy have an unholy ax to grind.

    “Everyone of us has done something wrong. That’s why Jesus came,” she said. “This is more about—there’s an agenda. There are people who are purposing to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”

    Yes, folks, they are the victims.

    Is it possible to pick just one jaw-dropping, blood-boiling, unfathomable quote from this interview? Oh, there are dozens of them (and counting).

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  13. Certainly a frontrunner for the top prize would be when Michelle maintained that her daughters are being more abused by the press in the wake of the uncovering of Josh’s scandal than they were by Josh as children. “They’ve been victimized more by what happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago,” she said.

    What a disgraceful thing to say. If we’re throwing stones from glass houses and talking about “protecting” victims, how about we, as members of the press, talk about how we’re protecting the world from being influenced by bile like this by vilifying Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar after this interview.

    The Duggars presumably consented to being interviewed as a PR tactic to rehab their family’s image and, because everyone is the worst and everything is awful, salvage their dynamo reality TV careers and remain famous. Sweet Jesus did they fail.

    At best, they came off as bumbling Bambis, wide-eyed and unable to convincingly change any of the preconceived negative notions about how their family handled Josh Duggar’s molestation of five victims over the past 12 years. At worst, they came off as molestation apologists.

    “We tried to deal with this in-house as parents,” Jim Bob said, talking about why it took so long to involve police. “We did the best we could under the circumstances.”

    They stuttered and stopped and started as they explained the details of it, and more—and disgustingly—explained away Josh’s actions. At one point the sentence, “It’s not rape or anything like that,” was actually said. Actually said.

    It wasn’t the only minimizing of the events from the Duggars. The girls didn’t know it had happened, they said repeatedly, basically insisting that because they weren’t aware they were being molested it was perfectly OK that they were.

    Other families have said they had sons who did similar things, they argued. And—hey!—as parents you’re not mandatory reporters of child molestation anyway.

    You could see Michelle Duggar’s eyes rolling into the back of her head as she struggled to remember the PR talking points she had memorized for the interview. Words like “safeguards” and “devastated” and “counseling”—vaguely defined—were recited as nonsensical and, frankly, unbelievable word soup.

    The biggest narrative of the interview, though, was the assertion that their family is being victimized. There was outrage that the sealed juvenile record of their son was released publicly and, they claim, illegally.

    The press is on an onslaught criticizing the family for such amoral behavior like covering up the molestation of children and harboring their daughters in a very unsafe environment, but those people aren’t chasing the right story, Jim-Bob said. It’s that unjust release of the records, “That is the big story,” he said.

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  14. Quite grossly two of the daughters who were Josh’s victims were brought on air to weep and defend their brother and their family. Maybe they were supposed to be further evidence that the Duggars are not hypocrites, that the family solidarity and culture of forgiveness they foster warrants them to stand on soap boxes as if they were pulpits, criticizing the rest of us.

    Jim-Bob answered to that directly. “People on the outside think Christians are perfect,” he said when Kelly asked if they think they’ve been hypocritical. And because they’re fallible, they shouldn’t be deprived of their God-given right to an exploitative TLC reality series.

    “I don’t know if the rest of our family should be punished for the act of one of our children,” he said. “Whether they film us or not, we’re going to live life and continue to spread God’s word.”

    Are the Duggars hypocrites? No, not exactly. Hypocrites are guilty of the same crimes as those they are accusing. The transgender community, gay parents, anyone who doesn’t prescribe to a Biblical way of life hasn’t done any of the things the Duggars accuse them of.

    If not hypocrites, what are they? Misguided is one word. Ill-informed is kind. Disgusting is more accurate. Perhaps they’re monsters. And what makes it even worse? We’re Dr. Frankenstein.

    We made these people. We gave them a reality show. We made them superstars. Whether we were among those who lapped up their endearing family values and charming family interactions on 19 Kids and Counting, or we were among those who watched them to point and laugh at their curious religious practices, like modestly dressed animals in some zoo exhibit, we all created them. And what we’ve created are monsters.

    Now, what do monsters do? They roar. They growl. They snarl.

    To that regard, these are parents who gladly took the megaphone we gave them with the public platform of their hit reality TV show, held on to it with a white-knuckle grip, and used it to shame the rest of us for living impurely and raising our children without proper morals.

    Politicians used them in their campaigning. Viewers looked up to them, internalizing and acting on their instructions and beliefs. These people became cultural influencers. And, perhaps as karmic punishment, we must deal with the reality that we made that possible for them.

    At one point, I wondered whether TLC was smart to not pull the plug on 19 Kidsimmediately after the scandal broke. I thought that maybe giving the Duggar family time to explain themselves and then chronicle how they dealt with the stress and fallout of the controversy—and especially how they dealt with all the accusations and attacks against them in this past week—would actually make for valuable and responsible television.

    We glorify this family on camera when they’re at their best, so maybe we deserve and owe it to ourselves to document how they grapple with devastation when they’re at their worst.

    But this interview with the Duggars proves there is no merit in that. There’s no merit in giving any more publicity to these people who are delusional, victimizing themselves, and the worst kind of preachers of God’s word: the ones who don't bother to follow it themselves.

    see photos and links at:


  15. Josh Duggars sister says he victimized her but child molester allegations 'a lie'

    Reality TV star Jessa Duggar tells Fox News allegations against Josh are "so overboard and a lie"

    The Associated Press June 04, 2015

    Reality TV star Jessa Duggar told Fox News Channel on Wednesday that she was a victim of her older brother Josh Duggar, who fondled five girls when he was a teenager.

    Jessa Duggar, featured like her brother in the family's TLC series, 19 Kids and Counting, told Fox in an interview conducted in Arkansas on Wednesday that she wanted to defend him. She said allegations he's a child molester or pedophile are "so overboard and a lie," Fox reported.

    The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual mistreatment. But Jessa Duggar is speaking publicly, in an interview that Fox's Megyn Kelly also conducted with her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. While Fox distributed Jessa Duggar's quote Wednesday, it didn't show it during the one-hour special about the case, with Kelly instead saying Fox would air the interviews with Jessa Duggar and her sister Jill Duggar on Friday.

    The Duggar parents said Josh Duggar, who's now 27, fondled four of his sisters and a family baby sitter when he was a teenager and confessed to them. The fondling was done over the girls' clothes and, except in two cases, happened when the girls were asleep, Jim Bob Duggar said.

    Josh Duggar apologized for unspecified bad behaviour two weeks ago when the story came to light and resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.

    "I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," Duggar wrote online. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God's grace, mercy and redemption."

    He has not spoken publicly about fondling his sisters or the baby sitter and was not featured in Fox's interviews.

    Duggar has apologized privately

    "He's very sorry," Michelle Duggar said in the interview, wiping away tears.

    She said the fondling devastated her and her husband and made them question whether they had failed as parents.

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  16. Arkansas police last month said they had destroyed a record outlining a nearly decade-old investigation into Josh Duggar. No charges were filed in the abuse, which happened in 2002 and 2003. Police began investigating the abuse in 2006 when tipped by a family friend but concluded the statute of limitations had lifted.

    Jim Bob Duggar said that before that investigation he had taken Josh Duggar to a Christian counsellor and separately had him tell the stories to a state police officer near their home.

    "We had all resolved it, we had forgiven, we had moved on in life," Michelle Duggar said.

    19 Kids and Counting is one of TLC's most popular shows, coming off a season of strong ratings after featuring the weddings of Jessa Duggar and Jill Duggar. TLC pulled reruns of the show off the air when allegations concerning Josh Duggar surfaced two weeks ago. The network has said no decision has been made about whether the series will continue.

    Jim Bob Duggar said the family is "fine whether they film us or not."

    "We're just going to go on and live life," he said. "We're going to go on and serve God and make a difference in the world."

    The couple criticized the leaking of police records on the case as "an unprecedented attack on our family" that should be investigated.

    Family plans to move on

    Michelle Duggar said her daughters "have been victimized more by what has happened in the last couple of weeks than they were 12 years ago because, honestly, they didn't even understand and know that anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it."

    Jim Bob Duggar is a former state representative in Arkansas. Some of the state's Republicans, including presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, have expressed support for the family.


  17. Former Homeschooler on the Duggar Family’s Fundamentalist 'Education': It Teaches 'Rape Culture'

    The founder of Homeschoolers Anonymous talks about being indoctrinated with Bill Gothard's misogynist lessons.

    By Jenny Kutner / Salon.com June 8, 2015

    Almost as soon as it was revealed last month that Josh Duggar sexually assaulted his younger sisters when he was a teenager — and that his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, did what they could to cover it up — the Internet erupted with speculation about how the family’s intensive fundamentalist Christian homeschooling program may or may not have contributed to the abuse.

    You’ve likely seen some of the lesson plans from Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute, for which the Duggars have advocated persistently, and which pushes an educational curriculum apparently comprised of some of the most damaging, unbelievably misogynistic viewpoints imaginable. To much of the public, the ATI lessons on sexual assault that have circulated online are basic examples of what we mean when we talk about rape culture and victim-blaming; to children who are raised in the homeschooling program — like the 19 Duggar kids — the lessons are “the truth.”

    Nicholas Ducote, a self-identified “homeschool survivor,” was one of those children once. Now 27, Ducote was raised in Louisiana and homeschooled by his mother, a fundamentalist Christian and ATI devotee. As he grew up and began to question the homeschooling movement and religion more generally, Ducote stayed in touch with a number of other ATI alumni whom he met through a homeschool speech and debate program. Together, they gave voice to their shared history of shame, anxiety and confusion perpetuated by their experiences with the program.

    “When I was in church, I was the special kid, because I was being homeschooled to be a culture warrior,” Ducote told Salon. “Homeschoolers were like the exemplary, perfect Christian children who exemplified everything that most American Christians think children should do and believe — that they should be fighting for a Christian America. There were so many people who thought that no one else had experienced that.”

    So Ducote and several other alumni came together to start Homeschoolers Anonymous, a blog dedicated to sharing the narratives of former homeschoolers. He and the other founders also run a non-profit, Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, that is dedicated to “renewing and transforming homeschooling from within.”

    Salon caught up with Ducote by phone last week to discuss his experience with ATI, the harmful lessons he believes the Duggars also learned, and how he overcame his own indoctrination. Our conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

    There’s been some backlash along the lines of, “Hey, not all homeschool programs” or “not all homeschool kids,” in response to the Duggar abuse and the family’s involvement with ATI. Not all programs are ATI, but at the same time, the Duggars were not the only people who were using it. What was your experience with the program?

    I was raised in ATI. My mom homeschooled me from kindergarten through 12th grade. She had just become born again, so to say, in 1994-1995. I was born in 1988. She initially wanted to homeschool me for a year or two, but then she kind of got pulled into this larger culture. I don’t think it originally started as an explicitly religious thing, but when she went to look for resources on how to homeschool, the resources that she found were fundamentalist Christian resources. Those tend to be the ideas and philosophies that are at the keynote level of homeschool conventions, even still today.

    What drew her into ATI in the first place and do you have any better perspective on how she felt about it?

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  18. As far as I can tell, the big attraction of ATI was that it was sort of this holistic thing. It was a lifestyle; it was a religious belief; it was a homeschooling method. Bill Gothard promised you access to exclusive truth. So he presented fundamentalism in a pretty attractive way. He made it practical. Very black and white: here’s a problem and here’s a solution. I think that’s very attractive, especially for new Christians, because it’s so easy. They don’t have to think a whole lot. There’s not a whole lot of critical thinking there. It’s just all laid out for you. Then [my parents] would start going to the basic seminars every year. There are more advanced seminars, literally called the Advanced Seminar. I went to a counseling seminar in Indianapolis at one of ATI’s training centers. That was the progression of them getting pulled into this. But they started ATI pretty early in their whole journey into the cult. That was definitely a huge part of not only educating me, but educating them. It’s such heavy propaganda, working on both the parents and the children.

    What sorts of things were you learning in daily lessons? How were these views conveyed to you? I’m curious also what you know of your mother becoming educated to educate you, and what sorts of things she was learning.

    My mom has a GED, and it’s hard for me to believe that she really looked at a lot of different curriculum [sic] and really critically analyzed them. When you look at the ATI curriculum it’s just so crazy. I mean, “semen gives you cancer.” I remember learning that and being really confused by it.

    What about it confused you?

    Well it was kind of two different teachings that went together. One was an STD teaching that basically said you can’t get an STD from your wife; as long as you’re in a godly, monogamous relationship and nobody cheats, then you can’t get an STD. It’s just going to completely ignore if these people would have had any contact with humanity before they met each other because presumably they are virgins. But in addition, there’s this idea of immunity, that when a husband and a wife have monogamous relations for a long time, the wife develops an immunity to a natural reaction to semen. If you are promiscuous, you will ruin this immunity and get cancer. A lot of ATI’s ideas about disease and spirituality are that it’s kind of two sides of the same coin. Your spiritual problems cause your physical problems. They believe cancer is a punitive condition for a lot of people, that God will curse you will cancer. To tie it all together, their big thing was that God and the Bible and fundamentalism could be applied to every situation. Every situation in life is black and white and there is something God has to say about it.

    I want to talk also about sexual assault and what you learned about that. What other things did you learn about the secular world and Christian patriarchy? And what else were you taught about sex and sexuality?

    So, the ideal is that you are not even supposed to–if you are a teenager–I’m not even supposed to have a crush on you. If I have a crush on you, I am giving you a literal piece of my heart, and the more pieces of my heart I give to girls before I marry, the less of my heart I will have to give to my wife. This is where they have such extreme ideas about purity and about abstinence. Their big word is “lust.” When you have a sexual thought in your brain, you are lusting after someone. They say that if you think about something three times it’s just as bad as doing it. If you think about sex, it results in this rush of testosterone.

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  19. So it goes like this: Immodest women cause rushes of testosterone in men and cause them to irresistibly assault–either sexually or violently–women. All the blame is put on the women and how they dress. There is very little responsibility put on men to just not rape women. That’s kind of their ethics going into it. It’s kind of infiltrated mainstream Christianity.

    I would say mainstream culture, also. That is exactly what we talk about when we talk about rape culture.

    It’s literal rape culture.

    I am curious if you remember what you thought of all of this, and what you thought of yourself and of your role in the world as a man. What is it like to be told that this violence could live within you without, I assume, experiencing it yourself?

    It’s definitely a big struggle. It was a little easier for me to get past the teachings because I had two older sisters. They were pretty much out of the house by the time my parents converted, especially by the time we got into ATI. My oldest sister went to school and got an engineering degree and then got a masters in geotechnical engineering. So I always had that view. There was a time in my teenage years when I was really struggling with lust and masturbating. I was trying to stop wanting to masturbate, and the natural hormonal urges I was feeling — that was “lust,” that was the devil trying to tempt me. I had a couple of friends and we struggled with this together. One of the guys literally preyed on underage girls; that was his thing. That was his struggle. We would discuss our struggles as if they were equal, as if we were both struggling with this “lust.” My action that I couldn’t control was masturbating, but his action that he couldn’t control was preying on underage girls. That’s the kind of equivocation that it creates. These Christians have been saying this about Josh Duggar. There is no conception of different levels of a sin.

    What is your relationship with religion now? And what’s your relationship with your family like?

    I call myself an “apatheist.” I just don’t care anymore. When it comes down to it, I guess I’m pretty much agnostic. I don’t think that anyone could really know the truth and I don’t care to really find the truth. Going to church for me is still traumatic. I just have a very visceral triggered reaction to everyone singing the same song. I always find myself criticizing and critiquing the sermon, but it’s weird because I won’t only criticize it from a fundamentalist point of view — “Oh this guy is totally not doing his Bible right” — but I also criticize it from a secular point of view — “This is all horeshit.” I have found a community in the homeschool survivor community. I feel like that’s my church. Those are my people. That’s where I do my good.

    How did you come to that community?

    It started with homeschool speech and debate, and that was really how I knew anybody outside south Louisiana, because I competed nationally and regionally. So I met a lot of Christian homeschoolers. There was a website called homeschooldebate.com and it was basically a web forum. Before Facebook and social media, it was pretty much the only safe place where fundamentalist parents would allow their children to be on the Internet. For a long time, it was the only place where I was allowed to go onto the Internet. My parents had access to my account and they read all my messages, and I didn’t even had an email account until I was like 15 or 16.

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  20. But I met a lot of people that way. I stayed in touch with the people on HSD. We just found that we had so many of the same struggles, whether it was some sort of social anxiety or dealing with a professor in college, or dealing with an authority figure and not really having healthy relationships with authority–either being too subservient or challenging it too much.

    Where do you think the issues with authority came from? Was that a gendered thing?

    I think it’s some of that, but I think it was mostly this weird combination of Libertarian, conspiracy theorist, and right-wing distrust of the government, which just kind of made me, in general, distrust authority. That’s where it started, when I was able to form opinions different from my parents about the government and really come into my own and understand why I believed things. Then it slowly started to creep into religion. I would research what I believed and what other people believed. That’s where it all just started to collapse. With ATI especially, that’s where it collapsed for a lot of people. Just because it is so terrible and so crazy. It’s such a terrible curriculum. It’s not hard to see past it if you are outside your parents control.

    What is like to think, “Everything that I was ever taught by my parents is totally out of this world?”

    It definitely impacted my relationship with my parents. I don’t necessarily trust them, or their motivations or their actions. I questioned everything. I couldn’t do it all at once. It’s not something where you can just sit down and be like, “Okay, here are all the things I believe. Let me just go through them one by one.” It was just one little thing at a time. I had a professor in college who was a great feminist scholar, so I would just go to her office and talk to her a lot. I had a sense growing up that the girls I was growing up with were not being treated right. I knew girls who had been sexually abused, but I didn’t know really that that’s what it was at the time. But I saw so many situations that when I looked back at them I was just like, “God, I can’t believe I didn’t do anything about them.” But at the same time I would have never known what to do. I would have not known how to help a girl get out of an abusive home. The most dangerous ideas, and the most dangerous impacts, are on the women and the girls in these systems.

    Why did you start Homeschoolers Anonymous? How did you decide that it was important to do this and speak out?

    In homeschooling particularly, there is this culture of silence. So you had so many people who thought that they were alone; people don’t think that other people experience this crazy world. They think they are the only ones with PTSD. Our community has really high rates of suicidal ideation, of anxiety and depression — basically every flag for mental health. Almost everyone in our community struggles with something pretty big in their life that was a result of homeschooling. Even just putting stories out there has been a huge challenge to the main narrative of homeschooling, which for so long has just been about these perfect kids who are just doing everything right, and fighting for a Christian America. There’s no one there being a watchdog. There is no one holding these organizations to any sort of ethical line or moral standard. They just have unchecked, unlimited power in the homeschool movement to say and do whatever they want. We just wanted to say there’s a lot of alumni out here who have different experiences, and we want to illustrate and illuminate them.


  21. Five women sue Bill Gothard’s ministry that has ties to the Duggars

    By Sarah Posner, The Washington Post October 22, 2015

    Five women have sued the Institute in Basic Life Principles, once a leader in the Christian homeschooling movement, charging that the organization and its board of directors enabled and covered up sexual abuse and harassment of interns, employees, and other participants in its programs.

    Each of the plaintiffs — Gretchen Wilkinson, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost, Rachel Lees and a Jane Doe — seeks $50,000 in damages, alleging that the organization and its board acted negligently, with willful and wanton disregard for them, and engaged in a civil conspiracy to conceal the wrongdoing.

    The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a long-simmering scandal that has engulfed the ministry once admired by conservative Christian parents for teaching them how to raise obedient, devout and chaste children since the 1960s. The ministry has found dedicated followers in politics, including Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who sought to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House Speaker, and in entertainment.

    Last year, IBLP’s founder and longtime president, Bill Gothard, resigned amid allegations by more than 30 women that he had sexually harassed them. Former followers have said that Gothard was revered as an almost saint-like figure, and that members of IBLP’s homeschooling arm, the Advanced Training Institute, feared questioning him.

    Earlier this year, IBLP was once again in the headlines after the gossip magazine In Touch reported that Josh Duggar, the eldest son of reality television stars and longtime Advanced Training Institute members Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, had been sent to an IBLP training center as a teenager after he admitted he had sexually abused four of his younger sisters and a family friend.

    The new lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in DuPage County Circuit Court in Illinois, where IBLP’s headquarters is located, charges that IBLP, its employees and directors “frequently received reports” of “sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching.” But, the lawsuit said, they never reported “these serious, potentially criminal allegations to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services” as required by state law.

    David Gibbs III, the attorney representing the women, said in an interview the women decided to litigate only after unsuccessful efforts to address the issues with the IBLP board of directors, who are also named in the lawsuit. Gibbs added that his clients did not want to sue, but that the board “rather stubbornly and in my opinion rather arrogantly basically challenged the girls to bring the case.”

    The board, he said, “is not operating in a spirit of transparency or openness,” and has not discussed the allegations with the victims.

    IBLP did not respond to a request for comment.

    Founded in 1961, and led by Gothard until his resignation last year, IBLP was once highly regarded among conservative Christians for its conferences and teaching materials that focused on “biblical character” development.

    The organization’s culture and teachings were depicted in the Duggars’ reality show, “19 Kids and Counting,” until TLC canceled it in the wake of the revelations about Josh Duggar. But IBLP’s philosophy continues to be shown on “Bringing Up Bates,” a reality show on the Up television network, about another family with 19 children, whose patriarch, Gil Bates, serves on the IBLP board and is named in the lawsuit.

    Despite the positive depictions on reality television, IBLP recently has seen a decline in support, particularly since the Web site Recovering Grace, created by disaffected former followers, began drawing attention to the sexual harassment charges in 2012.

    continued below

  22. Recovering Grace compiled the stories of more than 30 women who said they had been sexually “groomed” and inappropriately touched by Gothard over a three-decade period, and sought to address the charges internally at IBLP.

    About the lawsuit, John Cornish, a spokesman for Recovering Grace, said, “Our goal and our hope is the same as it’s been all along — that they will be accountable for what’s taken place, that Bill [Gothard] and the board would repent, and that the victims will finally be acknowledged and taken care of in the right manner.”

    The longtime founder and head of the ministry, Gothard, who is now 80, has long denied the sexual harassment charges, even as he resigned as president of the organization in March 2014. (Gothard is not named in the lawsuit because, Gibbs said, he is no longer affiliated with the organization.) That year, IBLP conducted an internal investigation (with which David Gibbs, Jr., Gibbs’s father, was involved), after which it concluded “no criminal activity has been discovered,” but that “Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner.”

    But the plaintiffs say the internal investigation amounted to sweeping a pattern of abuse and possible criminal activity under the rug. The victims, said the younger Gibbs, were as young as 13 or 14 years old, and often had been subjected at home to physical, sexual and other abuse or neglect. The “pattern” common among the plaintiffs, he said, was that the girl would “act out” as a result of the abuse at home; her parents would then send her to IBLP for counseling.

    Other women who have been counseled by Gothard have said he questioned sexual assault victims about whether they were dressed immodestly or had “lustful” thoughts. He also taught that sexual assault victims must “cry out to God” to stop the assault; if she does not, Gothard has taught, she is equally guilty with her assailant.

    Gothard, said Gibbs, was aware of the abuse the girls had suffered at home, and would offer to counsel them at IBLP headquarters. When they were alone with him, they say he inappropriately touched them. Sometimes, he added in an interview, a driver would take the pair out for ice cream, for example, and “inappropriate touching” would take place in the back seat of the car.

    If they pulled away or rejected the advances, Gibbs charged, Gothard or another IBLP leader would “call the parents and share with them all the allegations of abuse that were shared in counseling, and then send the children back into those environments.”

    No one answered the phone at Gothard’s home on Thursday, nor was there a voicemail system or answering machine.

    Although they were reluctant to sue, Gibbs said, his clients want to hold the organization accountable for “perpetuating this philosophy and culture of abuse.” He said since filing the lawsuits, other women with similar experiences have contacted him.

    The lawsuit further charges that IBLP is seeking to liquidate its sizeable real estate assets, now located in seven states (the organization’s most recent tax return values these holdings at nearly $80 million). Gibbs also said the organization is seeking to relocate its headquarters to Texas, where, he said, the courts are less aggressive than those in Illinois in handling sexual abuse cases.

    Cornish, the Recovering Grace spokesman, emphasized IBLP’s own claims to act biblically and morally. “For an organization that has always prided itself on doing the right thing, it’s a bit of a shame that it’s taken legal action for them to even have a discussion with the victims about this,” he said.


  23. New charges allege religious leader who has ties to the Duggars sexually abused women

    By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, THE WASHINGTON POST January 6, 2015

    Ten women on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Bill Gothard, who for decades was a major force in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement, charging him and leaders in his ministry with sexual abuse, harassment and cover-up.

    Gothard, who urged Christians to shun things like short skirts and rock music, is accused of raping a woman. The same woman says she was raped by one of the ministry’s “biblical counselors.”

    The lawsuit is part of a battle between dozens of women and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, which was until recently an influential homeschooling ministry, and its charismatic leader Gothard, who urged Christians to focus on their “biblical character” and have large families. Gothard has never been married.

    Gothard, 81, resigned from the ministry in 2014 after more than 30 women had alleged that he had molested and sexually harassed women he worked with, including some who were minors.

    Reached by phone on Wednesday, Gothard said he has not seen the lawsuit and denied allegations that he had raped one woman. “Oh no. Never never. Oh! That’s horrible,” he said. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.”

    Gothard denied sexually harassing women. “That really is not true,” he said. “I’d rather hold off to comment until I see what’s in the lawsuit.”

    A smaller group of the same women filed a lawsuit in October against IBLP. In Wednesday’s amended lawsuit, more women have joined the lawsuit, and the lawyers added Gothard to the complaint as a named defendant. The ministry, which has training center across the country and about a dozen across the world, asked the court to dismiss the complaint, and the judge gave the plaintiffs’ lawyers permission to file a new complaint.

    Gothard’s ministry was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of conservative Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences, where families would learn from Gothard’s teaching, were popular among homeschooling families. He has also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

    Wednesday’s lawsuit includes an undated letter in which Gothard allegedly wrote to the women who were accusing him. “I was very wrong in holding hands, giving hugs, and touching their hair and feet. I was also wrong in making statements that caused emotional turmoil and confusion,” the letter reads, describing what he did as “sin.”

    In Wednesday’s interview, Gothard declined to confirm or deny whether he had written the letter. “I need to get more facts here, okay?”

    The lawsuit filed Wednesday, a copy of which lawyers provided to The Washington Post, includes an affidavit signed by Gothard saying IBLP’s board has not contacted him for information or for assistance and has not met with the women or their attorneys. Gothard said in the affidavit that the board is “handling the case unwisely as I have the information they need. This is a shameful waste of donors money.”

    “I assume that the IBLP Board thought that the plaintiffs and their counsel were bluffing and that they would not sue,” Gothard wrote. “Obviously that is not the case.”

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  24. Although Gothard resigned his affidavit makes clear he intends to return to the ministry he started in 1961.

    “During the past seven months, God has allowed me to publish six new books that contain a powerful new message that I want to get out to all of the alumni,” Gothard wrote, adding that over 2.5 million alumni have attended his seminars.

    Gothard confirmed that he worked with the plaintiffs’ lawyer on the statement, but denies giving the lawyer permission to use it in the lawsuit. He declined to comment further.

    IBLP was in the headlines last year after In Touch magazine reported that Josh Duggar, the eldest son of reality TV stars, had been sent to an IBLP training center as a teenager after he admitted he had sexually abused four of his younger sisters and a family friend. IBLP did not respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.

    The ministry posted a statement on Wednesday saying it welcomes “the structure and integrity of the court process as a means for determining the truth with respect to these allegations.”

    “Many of these allegations concern conduct that allegedly occurred as early as the 1990s, and, as claimed, primarily involved Mr. Gothard,” the statement says. “Since March 2014, Mr. Gothard is no longer associated with the Institute.”

    The lawsuit alleges that IBLP is liquidating its assets of over $100 million and plans to sell off its holdings in Illinois, where most of the allegations took place, and move to Texas, which Gothard confirms in his affidavit.

    Each of the 10 plaintiffs — Gretchen Wilkinson, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost, Rachel Lees, Melody Fedoriw, Jamie Deering, Ruth Copley Burger and three Jane Does — are seeking at least $50,000 in damages, alleging that Gothard and the organization, claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, willful and wanton and civil conspiracy.

    The lawsuit in DuPage County Circuit Court in Illinois, where IBLP’s headquarters is located, charges that IBLP, its employees and board members received reports of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and “inappropriate/unauthorized touching” from women and girls. But, the women allege, the defendants never reported the “potentially criminal allegations” to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services as required by state law.

    One of the Jane Doe plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleges that she was raped by her father and other relatives and says she was sold by her father through human trafficking when she was a minor. She said she reported the abuse and trafficking to IBLP staff, which failed to report to authorities.

    Families in the ministry would sometimes send their children to institutes across the country, including its headquarters in Illinois. When the Jane Doe plaintiff was at a ministry’s training center, she and Gothard both called her father and Gothard asked him if abuse allegations were true, the lawsuit states. After her father denied the allegations, she said Gothard threatened her. Gothard taught that children were to obey their parents even if they were being sexually abused, the lawsuit states.

    The Jane Doe then alleges that Gothard had sexual intercourse with her without her consent, saying she notified IBLP of the rape through an email in 2013. She alleges that an IBLP-employed counselor also raped her in his office at an IBLP training center in Indianapolis. David Gibbs III, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said she is not sure how old she was at the time of the alleged rapes, but was likely around 17 or 18 years old. Another woman in the lawsuit, Ruth Copley Burger, who was the adopted daughter of the counselor in question, alleges that her father sexually molested her.

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  25. Gibbs said that he believes both women went to the police with the allegations but he is not sure why law enforcement didn’t prosecute the cases. Allegations of sexual abuse that happened years ago are often difficult to pursue due to the possibility that the statute of limitations — the time period during which prosecutors are able to pursue a crime — has expired.

    “It would not surprise me if law enforcement got involved in this case [now], but we’re not anticipating it at this time,” he said.

    For the past few decades hundreds of young people from around the country would come to the ministry’s training centers, some sent by their parents, others by juvenile court, for counseling.

    “This wasn’t just a church youth group,” Gibbs said. “This was holding itself up as an expert in counseling and care for children.” Gibbs said he has been contacted by more women and men who are alleging abuse within the ministry and expects more plaintiffs to be added to the case.

    Since 2012, the website Recovering Grace, run by former IBLP-affiliated women, began posting stories from more than 30 women alleging they experienced sexual harassment and abuse.

    Gretchen Wilkinson, a plaintiff who is now based in Winchester, Va., says that she went to work for Gothard in 1992 at IBLP’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., when she was 16. During her time there, she said Gothard would play footsie with her and hold her hand. At one point, she said, he had coordinated a ride from the airport for them to be together and molested her.

    “He was built up to a god-like state in our eyes because he was a man who could do no wrong. I looked up to him as a father figure, almost like how Catholics look up to priests, bishops or their pope,” said Wilkinson, who is now 40. “Now I can see a photo of him and say, ‘You can’t touch me.’ That’s incredibly freeing to me.”

    A different Jane Doe plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit that after she wrote about sexual harassment on the Recovering Grace website, Gothard called her and verbally assaulted her for three weeks until she had the stories taken down.

    In the lawsuit, a woman named Jamie Deering alleges that Gothard sexually abused her multiple times. She said he would play footsie with her and he would sit across from her with an erection and with his legs spread wide apart.

    After he resigned in 2014, Gothard denied the sexual harassment charges, saying “God is my witness that I have never kissed a girl, nor touched any young lady in a sensual way.”

    In 2014, IBLP conducted an internal investigation, writing in June 2014 that “no criminal activity has been discovered,” saying that what Gothard did was “inappropriate behavior” and “sin.” The investigation was conducted by the Christian Legal Association, and the lawsuit says none of the women were contacted during the investigation.

    Rachel Frost, who alleges in the lawsuit she was sexually harassed from 1992 to 1994 when she was a minor, and then again when she was an adult, said she was initially afraid to share her story. She said Gothard was able to control and micromanage any allegations until women began sharing their stories online.

    “I feared the backlash of people who would question my motives, asking why I would come out against such a famous and charismatic leader,” Frost said. “He could not control social media and victims coming together and validating each other and realizing they were not alone.”

    The court’s first hearing on the amended lawsuit will be Jan. 13.


  26. More women sue home schooling guru for sexual harassment

    Lauren Markoe | Religion News Service February 18, 2016

    (RNS) The sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Gothard, whose ministry preached the subordination of women to men, has grown again.

    Now 18 people — 16 women and two men — are suing the 81-year-old founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, and the Oak Brook, Ill.-based institute itself, a once influential Christian ministry associated with the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Thousands of conservative Christian families have relied on the IBLP’s home schooling curriculum.

    “It’s very similar to the Bill Cosby situation,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, David Gibbs, referring to the sexual assault lawsuit against the comedian. “More and more victims keep coming forward telling the same story.”

    The story told in the pleading filed Wednesday (Feb. 17) paints Gothard and other IBLP leaders as manipulative spiritual authorities, groping girls as young as 13 and persuading them to keep the abuse from their parents. The suit also alleges that Gothard raped one young woman. One of the men suing alleges harsh physical punishment and emotional abuse from IBLP leaders. The other alleges that he was molested by a male IBLP counselor, who is not Gothard.

    Gothard, who lives in La Grange, Ill., has denied all accusations. His lawyer, Glenn Gaffney, said Thursday that he filed a motion the previous day to disqualify Gibbs from the case based on “ethical lapses” and that he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case altogether. “We’re very confident that these motions will be granted,” he told RNS.

    Gaffney said Gothard is considering a countersuit against the plaintiffs and the Recovering Grace website, on which many of them have accused their former spiritual guide. Gaffney said his client has been “left with little choice” because he “has been defamed, and the manner in which this has been done and how it all came about was a violation under Illinois law resulting in a claim for intentional affliction of emotional distress.”

    Gibbs — who in the 1990s was the lead attorney in the Terri Schiavo case, representing her parents in their quest to keep their daughter alive — said he expects the case against Gothard and IBLP to go to trial early next year. Each of the plaintiffs is asking for “no less than $50,000.” The lawsuit, first filed in October against IBLP, involved five plaintiffs. In January, five more joined the suit, which added Gothard as a defendant. The judge, said Gibbs, will accept no more plaintiffs. Others who want to sue Gothard would have to file a separate suit.

    No criminal charges have been filed against Gothard. Gibbs said that is in part because the statute of limitations has run out on many of the allegations.

    The IBLP, from which Gothard resigned in 2014 amid allegations of sexual abuse, has distanced itself from its former leader, who founded the institute in 1961. With an estimated net worth of more than $100 million, the institute continues to preach a strict interpretation of the Bible, and the avoidance of popular culture, in conferences around the nation and the world.

    In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last fall, Gothard said the IBLP also operated the Little Rock, Ark., facility where the Duggars’ eldest son, Josh, went as a teenager after admitting that he sexually abused his younger sisters.


  27. Two women share shocking accounts of forced labor and sexual abuse by prominent Christian leader Bill Gothard


    Two women who are accusing an influential Christian preacher with ties to the Duggar family of sexual assault spoke out for the first time Thursday about their hellish years of forced labor and abuse in the cult-like organization.

    Joy Simmons and Jennifer Spurlock are two of the many men and women who have made the horrifying accusations against Bill Gothard, who ran Institute in Basic Life Principles, saying they were deprived of an education, forced to work and were groped by the Christian leader.

    “To have your education ripped from you and to have your childhood ripped from you, it’s extremely difficult. It’s just evil,” Spurlock, who spent three years as a minor at one of Gothard’s training centers, told the Daily News.

    Gothard retired in 2014 as president from the IBLP after running the organization for 40 years when the sexual assault allegations first came to light.

    The women are two of eight new plaintiffs who joined a lawsuit filed in DuPage County Court in Illinois against board members of the IBLP and Gothard, whose influence in the Evangelical Christian world was exemplified by his relationship with conservative politicians — Gothard was photographed with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at a campaign lunch during his 2008 presidential bid and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of his conferences.

    Josh Duggar, one of the siblings featured in the TLC reality show, was reported to have been sent to an IBLP training center after he admitted to sexually abusing four of his younger sisters and a family friend, according to an InTouch magazine investigation.

    “Some people might see the Duggar family on TV and say that’s cute and sweet but they need to know there’s a dangerous element to it,” David Gibbs III, the lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs, told The News.

    Gibbs’s Texas law firm first filed the lawsuit last October with five women and now the suit has grown to include 18 alleged victims, both men and women.

    “It’s got very much a Bill Cosby-like feeling. They keep coming forward telling the same stories,” Gibbs said.

    The women’s shocking allegations describe a disturbing culture within the organization in which Gothard would take troubled young men and women under his wing at the IBLP and then target them as victims of sexual abuse, rape and free labor for the bizarre organization.

    IBLP board members are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit because of their role in covering the abuse, the more than 200-page complaint reads.

    Both Simmons and Spurlock said they were abused by the predatory Christian leader when they were sent to stay with him after being sexual assaulted by other men affiliated with the Christian ministry.

    Spurlock, 38, said she spent three years in the late 90s, between the ages of 15 and 18, working for and traveling with Gothard and was deprived of an education and exposure to the outside world.

    Spurlock said she was singled out by Gothard when she was 15 after being was sent to an IBLP training center in Indianapolis by her family, who was living in Miami.

    “Mr. Gothard was just staring right at me, so much so that other girls would say ‘you’re so lucky, he couldn’t take his eyes off of you,’” Spurlock said.

    “We were referred to as 'Gothard's girls.' People knew. It was actually a privilege," Spurlock said.

    continued below

  28. Gothard convinced Spurlocks impoverished family to let the teen stay in Indiana for “counseling” for the “sins” of participating in sports and having a boyfriend — things that went against his puritanical belief that women should practice extreme modesty.

    Spurlock was forced to work long hours in the training center’s kitchen and locked in her living quarters at night, she says.

    After she was the victim of an attempted rape by a man receiving counseling at the facility, she says she was sent to Gothard who forced her to travel with him and repeatedly groped her.

    “It started sitting on the sofa hip-to-hip, spreading his legs and touching my knees and smelling my hair,” Spurlock said of the abuse, which eventually led to Gothard “rubbing her thighs and in my vaginal area” over her clothes.

    Spurlock’s story is echoed in many of the other women’s allegations, some of which were published on a whistleblowing site created for the victims called Recoveringgrace.org.

    Another of the new plaintiffs, a man named Daniel Dorsett, said he witnessed Gothard sexually abuse more than 150 girls between 1994 and 1996 when he worked as a personal driver for him.

    “Gothard would select girls based on how they looked and tell them that it was God’s will for them to come work for him,” the complaint alleges.

    “He would call their parents and tell them that he knew they were special.”

    Simmons was sent to work at multiple training centers throughout the country starting when she was 17 years old and would often work 100-hour weeks with little to no pay.

    Like Spurlock, Simmons was sent to Gothard at the organization's Hinsdale, Ill., headquarters after she was sexually assaulted by a man at a Wisconsin church affiliated with IBLP.

    Simmons, now 40, recalled that Gothard would also touch her while they prayed and asked her to reveal intimate details of her sexual assault during their counseling sessions.

    “He would also tell me that it was my fault that I was assaulted and he would ask God to cleanse me,” Simmons told The News.

    “We were isolated. No friends, no way out, no education. We were pretty stuck,” Simmons, who is now living with her husband and three children in Georgia, said of the traumatic experience. "Gothard said since I didn't cry out, I was just as guilty as the guy who assaulted me."

    Spurlock was able to escape Gothard’s grip in 1995, while Simmons left the IBLP in 2005.

    Gothard has denied all of the allegations against him through his attorney, who called the women’s stories “defamatory.”

    “We are confident that the pleading that’s been filed will be subject to a motion to dismiss,” Glenn Gaffney, who is representing Gothard, said.

    The lawsuit seeks to get compensation of $50,000 for each plaintiff from IBLP and Gothard for unpaid labor, as well as to pay for counseling for the victims.

    “No money is ever going to be enough,” said Spurlock, who is now married with an adopted son and owns a business in Miami. “It’s really difficult, it’s taken me years to build who I am back up after what they did to me.”

    Preliminary hearings for the lawsuit are expected in April.


  29. Scandal plagued home schooling institute loses key accreditation

    by Emily McFarlan Miller | Religion News Service March 18, 2016

    CHICAGO (RNS) Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles has lost its membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which gives accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations.

    Its membership was terminated last Friday (March 11) for failure to comply with its standards for governance, according to the ECFA website.

    The loss of accreditation is yet another setback for the Institute in Basic Life Principles. Eighteen people are suing the Oak Brook, Ill.-based institute, and Bill Gothard, its 81-year-old founder, for sexual harassment.

    Christianity Today noted ECFA’s explanation of its governance standards on its website:

    “When a ministry encounters failure—or even worse, scandal—its difficulties can almost always be traced to a breakdown in governance. For this reason, ECFA places much emphasis on strong, effective governance.”

    Those standards require organizations to be governed by a majority-independent board that must include at least five people and meet at least semiannually to establish policies and review accomplishments.

    Thousands of conservative Christian families have used the Institute in Basic Life Principles’ home schooling curriculum. Others may be most familiar with the Christian ministry from its association with the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.”

    The institute has distanced itself from Gothard, who resigned in 2014 amid allegations of sexual abuse.


  30. Religious child abuse is an Abuse of Power.
    Only a weak and insecure man would buy into these teachings, in order to puff up and vainly glorify himself.

    The male who believes and follows the Patriarchal Cult is denying the power and Freedom of Jesus Christ.

    ONLY Jesus Christ is Saviour. He does not need an empty-headed and vacuous male keeping females in chains
    of bondage to accomplish Christ's salvation.

    NO human can buy, wheedle, or barter for another persons' soul.
    ONLY the blood of Jesus Christ can wash away sin, and ONLY a human coming before the Lord
    theirself, asking for HIS forgiveness and mercy, will obtain salvation.

    Jesus is well able to send the Holy Spirit to each individual on earth, wooing that person to believe in Him.
    Jesus does not need vain and arrogant men usurping His Authority, and beating women to believe in Jesus.

    These deceived men continue in their actions ONLY so they can continue to believe in their own self-importance.

    This CULTISM of putting the male on the throne, and removing Jesus Christ from His position of Kingdom Authority, is evil.

    In humility, a human being is to enter into PRAYER, for the salvation of others.

    The Deliberate Activism of the Patriarchal Movement: Preventing any Education beyond the eighth grade level, is a deliberate
    and calculated method of preventing a young human being from learning how to think on their own, and for their own self.

    Only by shutting down independent and creative thought can a cult continue.
    A cult is destroyed when people start questioning, asking "Why's", and thinking for theirselves.

    I thank every poster on this web-site for taking the time to try and help others escape this insidious and poisonous cult: "The Patriarchal Movement in Home-Schooling."

    The bondage and chains that men put on these women (wives and daughters), by denying them equal respect,
    and a proper education, is from the dark kingdom: Not from the Spirit of Grace and Mercy of Jesus Christ.