19 Kids & Counting alum Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have essentially taken over Bill Gothard’s role as the head of the Institute of Basic Life Principles, the couple’s former friends Jim and Bobye Holt claimed in the new Amazon Prime docuseries, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets.
“Because Mr. Gothard has been taken out of [IBLP], from what my understanding is, is that Jim Bob and Michelle are now his replacement,” Bobye said after being asked by a producer if she believed the Duggar patriarch was “trying to emulate Bill Gothard.”
She went on to say that because of the platform that their former reality series gave them, Jim Bob and Michelle have been able to “encourage people to come to IBLP.”
“They’ve encouraged people to move to Arkansas [as well],” she added. “Which is completely a cult move.”
Bobye’s husband, Jim, added, “[Jim Bob] has changed so much, I don’t know if he’s even the same guy that I knew.”
Bill Gothard was removed from IBLP’s leadership in 2014 after dozens of women shared similar stories of “grooming behavior,” sexual harassment and rape they allegedly experienced at the hands of Gothard while working at the IBLP headquarters. The stories were shared via a website called RecoveringGrace.org.
“Recovering Grace was a community online for people to share their stories of the abuse that they experienced in [Advanced Training Institute] and their own personal stories of recovery,” ex-IBLP member Chad Harris said. “It is where a lot of the momentum came about to push back against Bill Gothard for his sexual harassment.”
While Gothard’s teachings are still “on the website” and “the only thing they’re using,” another former follower claimed, “They no longer want the liability of having him, the person, officially a part of the organization.”
Prior to Jim Bob and Michelle seemingly taking over Gothard’s role, yet another former member claimed, “There were sharks circling.”
“[People realized] that the institute had a tremendous amount of money. Assets and funds equaling about $90 million,” she said. “If you could get rid of Bill Gothard, somebody who was left gets control of all of that cash.”
While Jim Bob and Michelle’s daughter Jinger Vuolo (née Duggar) compared her eldest brother, Josh Duggar, to the former IBLP leader in her January 2023 memoir, Becoming Free Indeed, she’s not the only one who drew that comparison.
“You know, you have this kind of parallel of Bill Gothard abusing young girls in his program and Josh Duggar abusing young girls in his home,” Tia Levings, a former Gothard follower, said in the docuseries. “Abuse shows up in everything that [IBLP] touches,” another former follower added.
While Josh’s legal troubles caused Jinger as well as sister Jill Dillard (née Duggar) to become estranged from their large family, cousin Amy King also revealed that she has not spoken to her uncle since 2019 when Homeland Security raided Josh’s place of employment.
Shortly after the documentary dropped on the streaming platform, Jim Bob and Michelle broke their silence via their website, saying, “We love every member of our family and will continue to do all we can to have a good relationship with each one.”
“The recent ‘documentary’ that talks about our family is sad because in it we see the media and those with ill intentions hurting people we love. Like other families, ours too has experienced the joys and heartbreaks of life, just in a very public format,” the couple wrote on June 1. “This ‘documentary’ paints so much and so many in a derogatory and sensationalized way because sadly that’s the direction of entertainment these days.”
While they claim to believe that conflict is best mended in a “private setting,” the former reality stars concluded, “Through both the triumphs and the trials we have clung to our faith all the more and discovered that through the love and grace of Jesus, we find strength, comfort, and purpose.”
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