The Cult Of Bill Gothard And The Duggars (Homeschooling Cults Exposed)

By Theodore Shoebat

I have nothing against homeschooling. What I do have a problem with are cults that use homeschooling as a means to prey on children with abuse and indoctrination.

For those of you who keep track to this blog, I have written an in-depth article exposing the cult of the Duggars and Bill Gothard, and it can be read here.

I recently did an interview with one Caleb Green who, as a younger man, was under the homeschooling programs of Bill Gothard and others like it. He exposed to me stories from the inside, of severe abuse, brutal molestation, and other evils. You can watch the entire interview here

I have found some more info on the cultish nature of both Bill Gothard and the Duggars.

The common objection is that the Duggars only went to some seminaries of Gothard, and should not be associated with a cult.

If this objection is even valid, then why do the Duggars still work with Gothard’s organization and in fact promote it, even after numerous girls have come out giving their accounts of abuse by Gothard.

It turns out that the Duggars are very much interconnected with the Gothard cult. The Duggars work very closely with the American Training Institute (ATI) and the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and as we read from a report that came this year:

Josh Duggar’s brother-in-law is the ATI administrative director. Jim Bob Duggar, Michelle Duggar and a handful of their children have given Embassy Institute lectures. In the newly released memoir Growing Up Duggar, the four eldest daughters even promoted ATI and IBLP programs. They specifically spoke about the Journey to the Heart retreat — which begins at the IBLP headquarters in Illinois and takes the young women to the Northwoods Conference Center in Michigan where Recovering Grace says “most of the sexual misconduct occurred.” The Duggar girls now serve as retreat leaders.

^Jill Duggar (top right) and Jana Duggar (bottom right) during a 2012 Journey to the Heart retreat, one of the Bill Gothard programs

^Jill Duggar (top right) and Jana Duggar (bottom right) during a 2012 Journey to the Heart retreat, one of the Bill Gothard programs

If you click here you will in the official Institute of Basic Life Principles website the Duggars advertised as speakers for their 2014 conferences.

Why would the Duggars still be speaking at the IBLP’s conferences while knowing its scandals? Unless of course they are true believers and fanatic followers of Gothard and his organization.

Why would they speaking for and promoting Gothard even after the cultic nature of his organization has been revealed?

The manipulative and cultish ways of Gothard are illustrated by Revealing Grace, who explained the pattern of corrupt influence and sexual molestation in the following:

For those who may not be aware of this ongoing problem, the pattern of behavior is more or less similar in each circumstance:

Bill Gothard notices an attractive young girl (as young as 14 on up into her 20′s) at a conference or event. Often the girl has a specific personal or family need, or she has a difficult living situation at home.

Bill invites the young lady to work at HQ, usually without any details concerning the job assignment. He typically promises counseling or “lasting solutions” to spiritual, physical, or emotional problems — which in many cases is how he secures parental permission for her move to HQ.

While working at HQ (often in menial tasks, because many of the younger girls have no practical job skills), the young lady is subjected to awkward emotional advances from Bill, including extremely personal questions about a wide variety of subjects. They’re often complimented on their beauty and personal appearances. In numerous cases, Bill has been known to engage in physical contact, including holding hands in an intimate way, stroking hair, gazing into their eyes, prolonged frontal hugs, whispers in the ear, and playing “footsie.” This usually takes place when the young woman is alone with Bill (which in and of itself is a highly inappropriate circumstance for any ministry leader to put himself in).

Bill may eventually lose interest in the young lady and move on to his next “favorite,” leaving the young woman either extremely relieved, or bewildered and confused.

The young lady often doesn’t know how to process what happened or put her experience into words, especially if she comes from an extremely conservative and sheltered upbringing. In most cases, it takes years before she realizes that what happened to her was highly inappropriate and is classified as sexual harassment or abuse. In the cases in which a young lady has spoken out (usually anonymously) about her emotional and sexual harassment, it is denied by Bill, who then goes to great lengths to discover who the person is and to manipulate them into silence, either by guilt trips, shame, or by reminding them of financial expenses paid (money personally given to them or their family). We at Recovering Grace have verified this through first-hand reports (and copied emails) from these young women and their families.

Earl Radmacher, who served for 22 years at Western Seminary where he was President and professor of systematic theology, in a discussion board, spoke about how Gothard hides the sexual molestation committed by him on young girls, with words like “defrauded” as opposed to “fondling”:

We’ve got to get away from this terminology that is so vague—the one that Bill likes to use so much is “defrauded,” which nobody understands what it means. … However, when [former staff woman] says that Bill came in to her room at 11 o’clock at night, knocked on the door, was not invited in, did come in; and she was in her nightgown and he caressed her and fondled her, then those words begin to turn lights on to people

When I gave my first warning in regards to the Duggars, I almost immediately received the reaction of Adam McManus, a radio host with whom I did an interview a number of years ago. Within the conversation Adam refused to call Bill Gothard a cultist regardless of his sexual deviancy. Here is the discourse:

Adam: were you serious when you said you think the Duggars are a cult or were you just trying toget a rise out of your friends?

Theodore Shoebat: I understand that this is a sensitive issue, but I sincerely believe they are a cult. I am not trying to get attention. On my thread, I expose a lot of things people see as sacred or righteous. There are many cults that give big bowls of punch with microscopic drops of poison, and these are the ones we need to watch out for

Adam: I have interviewed them and met them. I disagree. What leads you to draw that conclusion?

Theodore Shoebat: They are supporters of Bill Gothard, a known cult leader

Adam: Bill Gothard certainly has had his issues — primarily being inappropriate with young women. And some have concluded that he teaches a form of modesty which is sadly not even seen among Christians today who too often dress like the world. None of that makes him a cult leader.

Theodore Shoebat: Muslims have the same modesty. Modesty does not necessarily make one orthodox. Cult leaders exploit their female followers, Bill Gothard is just like this.

Adam: You’re right that modesty does not necessarily make one orthodox, nor does it make one a cult leader. I wish more people — women in particular were modest in their dress. There are all kinds of immoral men — Christian and non-Christian — who exploit women — including those in the sex trafficking world. But that does not make them cultists.

Theodore Shoebat: Anyone who makes a religious institution and uses that to his advantage over women, is a cult leader.

Adam: How do you figure that? Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker took advantage of women. But they were not cultists.

Theodore Shoebat: Have you not read the testimonies of women who were sexually harassed by this man? He was taking advantage of them and using God as his justification, a trait of any cult.

Adam: Yes, I have read some of those testimonies. But that does not mean he is a cultists. Was King David a cultist?

Theodore Shoebat: So since Muhammad had sex with multiple women, this alone in your mind does not make him a cultist?
King David didn’t use God as his justification, we cannot use moral equivalency

Adam: Not everyone admits to their sin at first blush. Ultimately, Bill Gothard did admit that he had been inappropriate. David and Gothard were both motivated by their sinful lusts.

Theodore Shoebat: You never answered the question

Adam: Joseph Smith was a cultist. He taught things that the Bible is clearly at odds with — multiple wives, there is no hell, men can become gods and populate planets of their own, etc. What was false about what Gothard taught?

I would classify Muhammed as the founder of a false religion.

Theodore Shoebat: Does Muhammad’s sexual relationships with multiple women alone make him a cultist? Yes or no

Adam: I don’t define whether someone is a cultist based on whether they have sex with lots of women. That would make Hugh Hefner a cultist. it’s about advocating a false religion which claims to be Christian — whether or not they exploit women.

Theodore Shoebat: So then by your own logic Muhammad’s sexual relationships with multiple women, under a supposed authority of God, alone does not make him a cultist. Amazing logic

Also, by your own logic, one can have sex with multiple women under a title of Godliness, and still not be a cult, but a true religion. Again, amazing logic.

Adam: Ted, I am not defending sin. I’m just saying it does not define a cult. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are both cults because of the theological error of their ways — totally apart from any sexual sin which they may or may not participate in.

Theodore Shoebat: So if a church teaches good doctrine, but practices group sex and polygamy, would you classify that as a cult? What if you yourself were a member of this church, would you say that you were in a cult? Yes or no.

Adam never answered my last question, but yet blocked me on facebook.

His refusal to call Gothard, and his Duggar following, a cult, or any group that uses God to gain sex, a cult, illustrates his own unreasonable loyalty toward Gothard and the Duggars.

We must always strive to fight evil, as St. Paul tells us:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)

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  • jimmy

    “He did not teach anything false in his ATI or IBLP ministries.”

    His teachings are false virtually cover to cover. Bill Gothard takes his own opinion and declares them the commands of God. His Non-Optional Principals, which he teaches as the word of God, are nothing more than his personal opinion. It is not just Bill Gothard’s fall that is the issue, it is his teachings, being spread by ATI and IBLP. This is why the most respected homeschooling organization in the country, HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defence Association, has recently published an article warning that the teachings of Bill Gothard are dangerous:

    http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V30N2/V30N202.asp

    As Michael Farris, HSLDA president, said:

    ” People are misled when human ideas are wrapped in false claims of being God’s directives. Different forms of critical analysis are necessary when one is examining God’s words versus man’s words. Innocent people follow teachers in good faith thinking they are following God. And when the directives turn out to be only man’s ideas, the followers often find that someone in their family has been damaged in the process. Only God’s ideas are infallible. Man’s ideas will always fall short.”

    Bill Gothard has been called out by biblical scholars for decades as having one of the most twisted biblical interpretations ever seen:

    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/category/atitruth/

    There are tens of thousands who have been harmed by the false teachings, many of whom are now in recovery. This group is a good starting point for those who have been harmed in various ways by the teachings of IBLP and ATI:

    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/

    This tackles many of the major false teachings:
    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2011/10/a-call-for-discernment/

    There is currently a petition being circulated asking IBLP to review the core teachings with a doctrinally sound seminary, calling out specifically many of the core teachings of the organization which have major scriptural issues. It is signed by scores of biblical scholars, seminary leaders, pastors and Christian leaders from around the country.

    http://iblpopenletter.com/

  • marlene

    This puts me in a catch 22 situation. While I would support outlawing homeschooling in order to protect those who are being abused and indoctrinated, the alternative of public school is completely undesirable. My 2 grandsons are being homeschooled by their mother for reading, writing, arithmetic and art – and by me with science, music, spanish and arabic (which we are learning together). They’re way ahead of the grades where they would be in public school, happy, well adjusted and free of all illnesses and diseases. They are also well socialized. WWJD?

  • gloria royal

    There has to be another way to deal with cults. Besides out lawing home schooling. My self and my two Daughters home schooled for one year it was a nice bonding time becouse of Financial situationthey had to go back to public shool that was seven years ago . Fast forward to last night at the dining room table my granddaughter is reading me her paper that she had to written, question was . wasChristopher Columbus good or evil man the material that she had to look it up what they wanted her to find out that he was evil traitor, Indian killer ,a baby a slave trader and it went on and on.thats public for you

  • jimmy

    Mike,

    I’m glad you feel that it worked out for you. I am glad that you do not feel spiritually harmed by his teachings. Tens of thousands did not have that experience and are in recovery.

    Perhaps somehow you missed the IBLP teaching that blames and shames the victims of sexual abuse:

    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2013/04/how-counseling-sexual-abuse-blames-and-shames-survivors/

    And perhaps you somehow missed his unbiblical and frankly, extremely evil teaching against adoption. He is against it:

    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2011/10/adoption-the-ultimate-act-of-grace/

    I have the IBLP adoption book referenced in the article. Care Booklet # 5, Making Wise Decisions on Adoption. Gothard gave it to me personally, to support the anti-adoption views he was expressing to me. It is so outrageous! Never in my life have I heard of a prominent Christian leader discouraging people not to adopt. We are commanded to care for orphans and we, ourselves, have been adopted by Christ.

    The bases of the discouragement is his false teaching of Exodus 20:5; “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,”

    He stirs up fear in his followers that adopted children have hidden sins that they have inherited from their ancestors. Every biblical scholar who has reviewed his use of this verse in his teaching has said that he is using it out of context. God is talking about idol worship.

    He also teaches that adopting is taking growing your family size into your own hands instead of trusting God. If your infertile? Don’t adopt, because it shows you don’t trust God to perform a miracle, like with Abraham and Sarah.

    But, the booklet goes beyond just warning people not to adopt- it encourages people to send their adopted children away. In one example in the book, it talks about a family that adopted a baby boy at age 1. The family then encountered financial setbacks in the husband’s business. It is presented as though this was God’s punishment for taking matters into their own hands in growing their family. Finally, at age 6, after being counseled to do so, apparently by the organization or Gothard himself, they sent the child away to an out of state orphanage. Amazingly, they were rewarded with a surprize check in the mail, soon after they sent the child away- a sign that God was pleased with their decision, as presented by the booklet. Soon after the this, the wife conceived. Although she was not infertile, this was taken as another proof of God’s pleasure with their decision.

    This is sick stuff. I’m not sure how you missed it. Then again, many people have discussed how they were exposed to these terrible teachings and somehow did not scrutinize them against Scripture. Looking back, they can’t believe that they took this garbage in.

    You say you used the home school curriculum. I’m curious. Did you do one of the first assignments in the Wisdom Booklets? Did you go to a mall and make judgments “discernments” about people’s character based on the clothing they were wearing?

    With that amount of exposure to IBLP and Gothard, it would have been impossible to avoid his teaching on Grace. Along with his false teaching on Chain of Authority, it is the core of his teachings. Gothard strips away the meaning of Grace, as a free gift from God, ..by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. ”
    -Ephesians 2:8

    He redefines Grace as: “The Desire and Power to do God’s Will.”

    To Gothard, Grace is something we earn from God, not a free gift. The success of our lives is dependant on how much Grace we earn from him- that’s works, and it misses the mark totally on God’s gift to us:
    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2013/05/from-clear-conscience-to-clear-thinking-journey-from-guilt-to-grace/

  • I agree. I just find it ironic that the RCC is not labeled a cult while the Duggars are. They don’t condone the sinful behavior of Gothard.

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