Bill Gothard is facing new abuse allegations, putting the religious figure famous for his influence on the Duggar family in serious trouble.
This week 10 new women came forward to file a lawsuit against Gothard, who, the Chicago Tribune notes, has been one of the biggest influences in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement. Gothard is accused of raping a woman, who also said she was raped by a “biblical counselor” employed by Gothard’s agency.
Bill Gothard pioneered the Institute in Basic Life Principles, which became very popular among conservative Christian families. The ideas espoused were embraced by the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame, and dovetailed with the Quiverfull movement, which encouraged participants to give up birth control and grow large families.
— WORLD News Group (@WORLD_mag) January 7, 2016
10 women file suit against Bill Gothard, alleging sexual abuse, harassment and cover-up: https://t.co/jwdJ3mKNSR
— Janet Mefferd (@JanetMefferd) January 7, 2016
Aside from his connections to the Duggar family, Bill Gothard also has connections in the political world. He was photographed with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at a campaign lunch and has called on former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to speak at a conference. Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin also attended Gothard’s International Association of Character Cities conferences while she was still mayor of Wasilla.
Gothard denied the abuse allegations when reached for comment this week.
“Oh no. Never never. Oh! that’s horrible,” he said, via the Chicago Tribune. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.”
IBLP was already facing abuse allegations from a smaller group of women in October. This week’s lawsuit, which includes some of the same women, added Gothard specifically as a named defendant.
There could be some strong evidence against Gothard, the Chicago Tribune noted.
“Wednesday’s lawsuit includes an undated letter in which Gothard allegedly wrote to the women who were accusing him. ‘I was very wrong in holding hands, giving hugs, and touching their hair and feet. I was also wrong in making statements that caused emotional turmoil and confusion,’ the letter reads, describing what he did as ‘sin.'”
Bill Gothard has long faced abuse allegations. In 2014, the home schooling advocate was placed on administrative leave after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced from women working in the ministry. He was also accused of failing to report child abuse cases.
As the Huffington Post noted last year, the abuse allegations against Bill Gothard came at the same time as the organization’s financial decline.
“In recent years, IBLP’s net revenue has dropped significantly, and the ministry is losing money. In 2009, it reported a net income loss of $1 million. It lost $4.1 million in 2011, and $3.5 million in 2012, according to its most recently available tax forms. Its net assets dropped from $92 million in 2010 to $81 million in 2012.”
At the time he was placed on administrative leave, some women came forward to speak of abuse at the hands of Bill Gothard. Gretchen Swearingen, known by her middle name, Charlotte, claimed that after Gothard recruited her to work at the IBLP headquarters when she was 16, the inappropriate contact began. She said he would play footsie with her and hold her hand, and later arranged for the two to share a ride from the airport together.
“That’s when he first put his hand between my legs and felt me all the way up,” she wrote.
Swearingen said she “never had the guts” to come forward about the abuse, and the statute of limitations has since passed.
Bill Gothard had connections to another abuse scandal. Last year it was revealed that the Duggar family sent Josh Duggar to an IBLP training center as a teenager after he admitted to sexually abusing a number of young girls, including his own sisters.
[Image via Facebook/Bill Gothard]