The Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame kept their religious affiliation behind closed doors, but were tied to the non-denominational religious organization, Institute in Basic Life Principles, during their time on TLC. IBLP’s founder, Bill Gothard, stepped down from his position within the church in 2014 after more than 30 women accused him of sexual harassment, but his legal woes did not end there. Keep reading for everything we know about the religious leader and the sexual abuse allegations lodged against him.
Who Is Bill Gothard?
Gothard, the founder of IBLP, was born and raised in Illinois and followed religious teachings from an early age. As detailed by the IBLP website, a teenaged Gothard became “greatly concerned” for his generation who “seemed to lack direction in life,” leading him to work with fellow teenagers and their parents to help them “make wise choices.” Gothard turned his attention to church youth groups, high school clubs, inner-city gangs and youth camps in his efforts.
In addition to his teachings, Gothard preached “male superiority and female obedience,” had guidelines on how his constituents should dress and even released homeschooling curriculum, as detailed by a July 2016 report from The Chicago Magazine.
Gothard’s name and his connection to the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting fame skyrocketed in 2015, after Josh Duggar sought counseling at an IBLP facility once run by the former church leader.
What Was Bill Gothard Accused Of?
The first reports of sexual harassment were lodged against Gothard in 2014. More than 30 women accused the IBLP founder of harassment, resulting in Gothard being placed on administrative leave by the church. After an investigation was launched into the allegations, IBLP released a statement which said in part that “no criminal activity” was found, though the church did admit that Gothard had “acted in an inappropriate manner.”
“The Board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach,” the statement concluded. Though he maintained his innocence, Gothard eventually stepped down from his role within IBLP.
About two years later, an additional 10 women came forward against Gothard, claiming that the IBLP founder had sexually harassed and abused them. They also accused Gothard and church leaders of intentionally covering up his behavior, eventually filing a lawsuit against the religious figure.
The Duggar-connected church leader spoke to The Washington Post briefly following the lawsuit’s filing and addressed a specific rape allegation lodged against him. “Oh no. Never never,” he said in response to the claim. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.”
The case filed against Gothard was eventually dismissed due to statute of limitation issues.
What Have the Duggars Said About Bill Gothard?
Though many of the Duggar family members have kept their religious practices to themselves, Jinger Duggar makes a bold comparison between Gothard and her older brother, Josh – who was convicted of downloading and possessing child pornography in 2021 – in her forthcoming memoir, Becoming Free Indeed.
According to Publisher’s Weekly, the book – set to release on January 31, 2023 – details Jinger’s own religious experience and how she used to be a devout follower of IBLP and its teachings. After Gothard was accused in 2014, however, Jinger’s relationship with the organization began to change.
“I realized that some of what I had been taught was hurtful and untrue,” the former 19 Kids and Counting star writes in her memoir. “I knew I needed to speak publicly about this because I promoted teachings that I now believe are damaging.”
Jinger’s estimations follow in Amy Duggar’s footsteps. The outspoken member of the family – notably more vocal than most Duggars – first spoke out against Gothard on Twitter in 2018.
“I have to be honest, and true to myself by tweeting this. I do not support Bill Gothard and the Institute of Biblical [sic] Life Principles in any way, shape, or form. I find his ‘teachings’ extremely questionable,” she tweeted at the time. “I am a Christian. I believe in God’s good Grace and freedom to be ourselves! God gave us emotions, personalities, and He wants us to live our best life. Legalism is the opposite of what my Bible teaches.”
In the trailer shared by People on May 18, Jill explained that her family has been “part of IBLP as early as I can remember.”
“There’s a story that’s going to be told,” she added. “And I would rather be the one telling it.”
In addition to some of the Duggars, the limited series will also feature interviews from other former members of the organization. At one point in the trailer, a man states that Gothard “turned every father into a cult leader and every home into an island.”
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Additionally, another woman claimed that “the institute raises little predators.”
If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.
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