Duggar Family Homeschool Program Sued For Sexual Abuse

The parent organization of the homeschool program connected with the Duggar family is being sued for "sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching" in the latest Duggar scandal.

Late yesterday, it was revealed that a lawsuit was filed in Circuit Court for Dupage County, Illinois, by five plaintiffs against the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and its board members. IBLP was founded by Bill Gothard more than four decades ago, and he led the non-profit group until March 6, 2014, when he was forced to resign under complaints of sexual abuse. The allegations in the lawsuit cover an extended period of time.

"IBLP was negligent over the past several decades by failing to properly address alleged sexual abuse and harassment by IBLP employees and that IBLP failed to properly report known or suspected abuse to the proper authorities. The lawsuit further alleges that IBLP's conduct was 'willful and wanton' because IBLP demonstrated an 'utter indifference to and/or [a] conscious disregard for a substantial risk of harm' to the plaintiffs, and that IBLP and its directors engaged in a civil conspiracy to cover up the allegations.'"

The lawsuit comes on the heels of the organization's announcement that it is selling its headquarters' property and moving to another facility it has in Big Sandy, Texas. The Board of Directors gave notice of these decisions in early September.

Gothard, now 80-years-old and a confirmed bachelor, is a long-time friend of the Duggar family. Jim Bob Duggar first connected with the Gothard group in the early 1990s, when Duggar began promoting IBLP's Financial Freedom Seminars in Springdale, Arkansas.

Bill Gothard and Jim Bob Duggar
Bill Gothard with Jim Bob Duggar in Big Sandy, Texas in 2010 [Image via Duggar Family Blog]

Shortly after, Michelle Duggar began using the organization's Advanced Training Institute (ATI) coursework to homeschool her first child, Josh Duggar. (All of the Duggar family children have been homeschooled with the ATI curriculum.) Son Josh, now 27, was confirmed as a child molester when he was 14-years-old, and four of his victims were his own sisters. After a year of continued sexual abuse of minor girls (at least one victim was a non-family member), Josh was removed from the Duggar family home and sent to an IBLP facility for three months.

Recently, Josh admitted to an addiction to pornography and adultery when a bisexual porn star revealed that Josh had twice paid her for unprotected sex while Josh's wife, Anna, was pregnant with the couple's fourth child.

The ATI program was accused by many of laying the foundation for the subjugation of women and blaming young girls if they are the victims of sexual attacks. All of the Duggar family children were homeschooled using the ATI courses and were filmed at the kitchen table studying ATI workbooks for the family's reality show on TLC, 19 Kids and Counting.

The TLC series often featured the Duggar family at ATI conventions and televised sons John David and Josiah attending training at the organization's ALERT academy. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have often been keynote speakers at ATI events, IBLP programs, and most recently at the ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, Texas.

Duggar family daughters Jinger, Jana, Jessa, and Jill with Bill Gothard and Duggar sisters-in-law
Duggar family daughters Jinger, Jana, Jessa, and Jill with Bill Gothard and Duggar sisters-in-law in 2010 [Image via Duggar Family Blog]

Duggar family daughters Jinger and Jana were speakers at an IBLP "Journey to the Heart" program in Indiana on August 12, the day reports surfaced that their brother Josh was registered on the adultery dating site Ashley Madison and that he had paid for a guaranteed affair.

But the Duggar family is intertwined further with Bill Gothard's organizations. Josh Duggar's estranged wife, Anna, is the sister-in-law of ATI's Administrative Director, David Waller. In one episode of the now-cancelled series, 19 Kids and Counting, the entire Duggar family was shown attending the wedding of Anna's sister, Priscilla, when she married Waller in 2012. Anna and Priscilla were both homeschooled by their mother, Suzette Keller, using the ATI curriculum. Priscilla actually worked at the IBLP headquarters, and that is where she and her husband first met. Bill Gothard was at the ceremony.

Longtime Duggar family friend Gil Bates serves on the Board of Directors of IBLP. The Bates family appeared in 16 episodes and in one special of 19 Kids and Counting. One episode in the reality TV series showed the entire Duggar family arriving in Tennessee to attend the wedding of Gil's daughter, Erin, to Chad Paine on November 2, 2013. Chad serves on the staff of the organization and his father, Stephen Paine, is a board member. Two of Chad's brothers and one sister have also worked for IBLP. Bill Gothard gave the opening prayer at the wedding ceremony.

Duggar family arrives for Erin Bates' wedding
Duggar family arrives for Erin Bates' wedding [Image via DCL]

The Duggar family also turned out at the wedding of Gil's daughter, Michaella, which was held in Tennessee on August 15, and filmed for the reality show Bringing Up Bates on the UP network. Michaella married Brandon Keilen, an IBLP employee, and the two first met at one of the organization's events. The disgraced Bill Gothard attended that nuptial ceremony, too.

What might even prove more disturbing in the months to come is that the Duggar family distributes Bill Gothard's books when they attend voluntary missionary tours in Central America every December. Jill Duggar and her husband, Derick Dillard, have now formed a non-profit group, Dillard Family Ministries, and flew to Guatemala over the weekend. The Dillards claim that they are now studying Spanish there. Interestingly, many of Gothard's publications are also published in Spanish. It remains to be seen if they will also spread Gothard's teachings in Guatemala.

Jana Duggar in Central America distributing The Lies We Believe that Cause Stress and Disease by Bill Gothard
Jana Duggar in Central America distributing 'The Lies We Believe that Cause Stress and Disease' by Bill Gothard [Image via Bates Family Blog]

The Duggar family will definitely be affected by these new developments, which come just after TLC announced that it is producing at least two specials featuring Duggar daughters Jessa and Jill.

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[Image via TLC]