"God is my witness that I have never kissed a girl, nor touched any young lady in a sensual way. However, I do understand in a much deeper way how these young ladies feel and how my insensitivity caused them to feel the way they do. I have deeply repented before the Lord for offending some of the very ones whom I have dedicated my life to serve. I do want to continue pursuing reconciliation in a Biblical way."
The New Year is off to a rocky start for Bill Gothard and the organization he founded – IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles). On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that five more women have joined a lawsuit against the 81 year old Gothard and IBLP, which was founded in 1961. The initial lawsuit was filed last October, and The Washington Post provided some of the details of that suit (see below):
Five women have sued the Institute in Basic Life Principles, once a leader in the Christian homeschooling movement, charging that the organization and its board of directors enabled and covered up sexual abuse and harassment of interns, employees, and other participants in its programs.
Each of the plaintiffs — Gretchen Wilkinson, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost, Rachel Lees and a Jane Doe — seeks $50,000 in damages, alleging that the organization and its board acted negligently, with willful and wanton disregard for them, and engaged in a civil conspiracy to conceal the wrongdoing.
Now a total of ten women have come forward, and one has to wonder how many more victims exist who have not yet broken their silence. In preparation for the article, Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey phoned Bill Gothard, asking for a response to the recent allegation that he had raped one woman. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is what Gothard had to say:
“Oh no. Never never. Oh! That’s horrible,” he said. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.”
The Washington Post article went on to state that Gothard denied sexually harassing women and that he would refrain from commenting until he reads the lawsuit.
Christianity Today has just reported on this development, stating:
Five more women have added their complaints to a lawsuit accusing Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) founder Bill Gothard, now 81, of sexual abuse and harassment.
They join five women who filed suit in October against IBLP, saying the institute ignored and mismanaged their complaints of Gothard’s and other staff's behavior. IBLP asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of supporting facts. Attorneys for the women asked for permission to refile the suit.
They did, this time with twice as many plaintiffs, including one who brings the first accusation of rape against Gothard. His name was also added as a defendant, according to legal documents reviewed by CT.
The Washington Post article further stated that
IBLP’s founder and longtime president, Bill Gothard, resigned amid allegations by more than 30 women that he had sexually harassed them. Former followers have said that Gothard was revered as an almost saint-like figure, and that members of IBLP’s homeschooling arm, the Advanced Training Institute, feared questioning him
Is it any wonder that it has taken this long for women claiming to have been hurt by Bill Gothard to come forward? We are deeply grateful for an online organization called Recovering Grace, which has provided a public forum for those negatively impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). According to its website,
Recovering Grace is an online organization devoted to helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Recovering Grace provides a unique perspective in that it was founded and is operated by adults (and their spouses) who were raised as children in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. We all have attended Bill Gothard’s seminars, and most of us served within the IBLP organization in some form or fashion. Among the members of our team are pastors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, businessmen, and stay-at-home moms. We have all taken different journeys, but we all have one thing in common: We survived ATI….Together, we have decided it is time to speak out.
The first time we spoke out about Bill Gothard was back in April 2013, when we were just becoming familiar with the important work being done by those over at Recovering Grace. That TWW post entitled ‘Recovering Grace’ Reaches Out to Those Harmed by Bill Gothard’s Teachings began as follows:
In our four years of blogging, we have yet to focus on Bill Gothard and his unusual teachings. That is, until now… I consider myself fortunate that I (Deb) had never heard of Bill Gothard until a few years ago. How did my Christian parents miss being influenced by him during my formative years? I believe it was divine providence.
Gothard, who turns 80 next year, has had a tremendous influence in Christendom for over fifty years, and the fruit of his labor is becoming more and more apparent. He attended Wheaton College, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1957 and a Masters in Christian Education in 1961. That same year he began an organization which evolved into the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). In 1984 Gothard founded the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), a curriculum-based homeschooling program.
Bill Gothard's popularity peaked in the 1970s, with him often drawing crowds in excess of ten thousand for a one-week seminar. His conservative teachings ranged from encouraging Bible memorization to having large families (despite his never having been married), homeschooling, respect for authority, finances, education, healthcare, and music.
One might be tempted to discount his teaching as fringe, but that would be a mistake. Incredibly, Bill Gothard's teachings have influenced mainstream Christianity.
I wrote a follow-up post in 2014 entitled Recovering Grace Confronts Bill Gothard. Here is the introduction to that post:
It is with a broken heart that we focus once again on Bill Gothard, whose ministry has had a far-reaching impact in Christendom for nearly a half-century. For those who may not be familiar with Gothard, he came up with a teaching called the Basic Seminar, which has been attended by over 2.5 million according to his website. Bill Gothard's bio further states:
In order to focus completely on the Lord and the life work God has given him, Bill has never married. Each day is an exciting race to see how much can be accomplished to advance God’s kingdom.
Over the years, many have taken Bill Gothard at his word — that he chose to remain single in order to advance God's kingdom through his teaching. It has only been in recent years that a darker side of his ministry has emerged.
We are grateful that Homeschoolers Anonymous has been able to obtain a copy of the lawsuit and has made it available on the internet. You can read it in its entirety here.
The Christianity Today article confirms that all of the women were IBLP participants, with eight of them being employees or volunteers of the organization. It appears that the alleged abuse occurred when they were minors and even when some of them were receiving counseling for abuse. The CT article goes on to state:
“The unsupervised counseling received by young women … by patriarchal figures (who were agents and employees of IBLP) was a standard part of IBLP programs and activities,” states the lawsuit.
It claims the institute “frequently received reports of the sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate/unauthorized touching occurring to certain interns, employees, and participants of its programs,” but failed to investigate or report any of it until February 2014.
That investigation led to Gothard's resignation; however, the IBLP board of directors later found that Gothard had acted inappropriately but not criminally, and it critiqued the women’s attorney for “us[ing] the media to propagate false and misleading statements” against current IBLP leaders. (According to World, the lead attorney for the women is the son of the attorney that led IBLP’s investigation of Gothard.)
During the investigation, the never-married Gothard offered an apology for his behavior.
“My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong,” wrote Gothard. “They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent.”
He later posted “a further statement” on his website, stating, "God is my witness that I have never kissed a girl, nor touched any young lady in a sensual way." Gothard explains that he never acted out of “sensual love” but had failed to demonstrate “godly love.” He noted:
"Every offense that I have committed against various people can be traced to a lack of genuine love in my life. The more I have reflected on this painful truth, the more repentant and brokenhearted I have become. I cannot undo my offenses. I can only humbly and sincerely ask each one of you whom I have offended to forgive me for my failure to demonstrate the love of Christ to you. I can also dedicate the rest of my life to living out genuine love and encouraging as many others as possible to do the same. I have now made this my life goal."
Christianity Today further reported that "the institute, which has drawn more than 2.5 million people to its seminars, is struggling financially. Over the past 4 years, IBLP ran a deficit of $15.8 million. Last year, it lost $4.6 million."
IBLP has moved from Illinois to Texas in order to cut expenses. Where have we heard this before? Some have accused them of fleeing the jurisdiction where the lawsuit was filed, but the board flatly denies this.
We will continue to follow this story. Please join with us in praying for these courageous women who are coming forward to share their testimonies about Bill Gothard, IBLP, and ATI. May the truth be revealed!