13: Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, and the Engine of Abuse
How Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles built a culture of obedience, silence, and sexual confusion that protects predators and puts children at risk.
First: a content warning for Christian Rightcast listeners. This episode directly addresses child sexual abuse, religious abuse, and specific techniques used by the Duggar family and Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles to protect child sexual predators.
Last month, our series on Christian Reconstructionism was hitting its stride. Then news broke that Josh Duggar, made famous by his Christian family’s 19 Kids and Counting television series on TLC, had been arrested for possession of child sexual abuse materials. A number of Christian Rightcast listeners reached out, asking about context for the events, and we considered the best approach.
The story has clear connections to the reconstructionist themes Kristin’s research has focused on: the Duggars have long been advocates of fundamentalist homeschooling, evangelical purity culture, Quiverfull ideology, and the reconstructionism-influenced teaching of Bill Gothard. Given the seriousness of the story, though, we felt a dedicated set of episodes focusing on the issue was justified and necessary.
In this episode, we attempt to explain the context and the ideology of Bill Gothard’s popular and influential Institute in Basic Life Principles; how its focus on authoritarian discipline and sexual purity provided cover for sexual abusers including Gothard himself; how the group’s teachings shielded Josh Duggar from both consequences and treatment; and finally how its manuals for dealing with sexual abuse blamed Josh’s victims for his actions.
If you’d like to better understand the broader ideology of “Purity Culture” that contributes to these issues, but don’t want to tackle the material in this episode, our usual context-building work will be tackled next episode. If you have questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter or drop us a line here in the comments.
References and Source Material
"New charges allege religious leader, who has ties to the Duggars, sexually abused women" by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post, January 2016.
"The Cult Next Door" by Bryan Smith, Chicago Magazine, June 2016.
"The Fundamentalist Trap" by Joshua Pease, The New Republic, October 2018.
"Bill Gothard Resigns From IBLP" by Nick Ducote, Homeschoolers Anonymous, March 2014.
"Bill Gothard’s Brother Accused of Racketeering, Stealing Millions from the Elderly" at Homeschoolers Anonymous, January 2015
"Amended Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard" and "A Summary of Allegations against Bill Gothard and IBLP" at Homeschoolers Anonymous, January 9 2016.
"A Summary of Allegations against Bill Gothard and IBLP" and "10 Revelations in the Lawsuit against Bill Gothard and IBLP" by Libby Lane at Love, Joy, Feminism; January 2016.
"Bill Gothard Threatens Recovering Grace with $1M Lawsuit" at Homeschoolers Anonymous, February 2016
"On Growing Up In Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult" by Micah J. Murray, February 2018