The 19 Kids and Counting family kept their religious affiliations under wraps since the premiere of their reality show in September 2008. However, Jinger Vuolo (née Duggar) detailed in her January 2023 memoir how she separated herself from her family’s beliefs and revealed that the reality TV stars follow the non-denominational religious organization, Institute in Basic Life Principles. The Counting On alum went as far as to compare brother Josh Duggar to IBLP’s founder Bill Gothard – but who is he? Keep reading for everything we know about the religious leader.
What Is IBLP?
The Institute in Basic Life Principles is a non-denominational Christian organization established by Gothard in 1961, originally launched under the name Campus Teams. In 1974, the name was changed to Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts or IBYC, before landing on IBLP.
According to the institution’s website, IBLP “was established for the purpose of introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ,” adding that they are “dedicated” to providing others with a “clear institution and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture.”
They do so through seminars, printed texts, educational programs and training centers.
“Over 2.5 million people have attended our seminars and discovered practical application for restoring relationships with God and others [sic],” the website claims.
In May 2023, Amazon Prime released a trailer for their upcoming docuseries, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, which promised to expose “the truth beneath the wholesome Americana surface of reality tv’s favorite mega-family.”
“TLC created a PR show for Gothard’s teachings,” one woman said in the teaser clip. “The biggest feature of Bill Gothard’s teachings is authority. Kids obey the parents, wives obey their husbands. Everyone obeys Bill Gothard,” another added.
One former follower went so far as to liken Gothard’s teachings to Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
“Gothard turned every father into a cult leader and every home into an island,” another man claimed.
Who Is Bill Gothard?
Gothard was raised in Illinois and graduated from Wheaton College in 1957 with an undergraduate degree in Biblical studies and later a graduate degree in Christian education. Decades later, Gothard completed his doctorate in Biblical studies at Louisiana Baptist University in 2004.
By the time he was a teenager, Gothard was “greatly concerned” for his peers who “seemed to lack direction in life and were making unwise decisions.” According to his IBLP website bio, he decided to dedicate his life “to helping teenagers and their parents make wise choices,” beginning with “inner-city gangs in Chicago, church youth groups, high school clubs, youth camps, and families in crisis.”
Gothard’s teaching include “male superiority and female obedience,” guidelines on how men and women should dress, homeschooling curriculums and Bible memorization, according to a July 2016 article in The Chicago Magazine.
In 2014, more than 30 women accused the religious leader of sexual harassment. After placing the founder on administrative leave and conducting an investigation, IBLP released a statement claiming that “no criminal activity” was found, but that “Gothard has 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 continued. While he denied any wrongdoing, Gothard ultimately stepped down from his position with IBLP.
What Has Jinger Duggar Said About Bill Gothard?
While signing copies of her new memoir, Becoming Free Indeed – which hit bookshelves on January 31, 2023 – Jinger touched on her experience with the controversial religious leader. “It’s crazy how he goes so far, giving you rules for every aspect of your life,” she told fans during an Instagram Live.
The best-selling author also told followers that she took notes on him and listened to lectures from him in order to “hopefully” get “the things I thought would be most helpful to talk about.”
What Has Jill Duggar Said About Bill Gothard?
Jill Duggar is another one of Jim Bob and Michelle’s kids to speak out against the organization. While she shared her negative experience in the Prime Video’s docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, she continued to share insight into the organization in her 2023 memoir, Counting the Cost.
“We were new to the inner workings of IBLP, but we knew enough already to understand why it was only Jana who was invited,” Jill recalled in the book. “She was the only elder Duggar girl who was blond, and everybody knew that Mr. Gothard liked blond girls.”
The former reality star continued, “We’d joke about it, calling Jana one of ‘Gothard’s Girls.’ It didn’t occur to me at all how strange, unsafe, and unwise it was.”
Bill Gothard Faced New Charges in 2016
About two years after dozens of women came forward with allegations against Gothard, another 10 women filed a lawsuit targeting the religious figure, claiming that he and the leaders of the IBLP church not only sexually harassed and abused them but covered up their alleged wrongdoings.
Speaking to Gothard on the phone in the wake of the lawsuit, The Washington Post reported the former IBLP minister as saying, “Oh no. Never never,” when asked specifically if he had raped one of the plaintiffs. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that,” he said.
Further addressing the claims of sexual harassment against him, the former IBLP leader said that such allegations were “really … not true,” and denied commenting further.
The case against Gothard was later dismissed due to statute of limitation issues.
Where Is Bill Gothard Now?
Gothard, and the IBLP as a whole, became the subject of immense scrutiny amid the June 1, 2023, release of Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, an expository documentary about the former TLC family. In the time since Gothard’s departure from the non-denominational sect, former friends of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar claimed that the couple have essentially replaced the once-leader of IBLP, telling the cameras that the Duggar family’s power only grew thanks to their TLC hit.
“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 Holt, who was once friends with the family, said. Bobye’s husband, Jim Holt, added, “[Jim Bob] has changed so much, I don’t know if he’s even the same guy that I knew.”
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As for Gothard, his Facebook profile shows that the 88-year-old religious figure continues to hold prayer gatherings at his home in order to spread his teachings. A post made in November 2022 also details that he is writing “a number of new books.”
Shortly ahead of the documentary release, Gothard made a lengthy post on his page about IBLP and the critics he’s faced throughout his public life, writing that the judgement the group has endured has made IBLP stronger.
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