The Duggar family is still participating in the controversial programs founded by Bill Gothard, the disgraced creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschooling program. Gothard and the IBLP are currently being sued by over a dozen plaintiffs who allege that he and other ministry officials covered up decades of sexual abuse.
One of the offshoots of the IBLP is the International ALERT Academy, a Christian, military-style bootcamp that multiple male members of the Duggar family have attended. According to Patheos, Josh Duggar was sent to ALERT when he was younger. He was showing signs of being “rebellious,” and he “returned much subdued.” The Duggar Family Blog reports that 19-year-old Josiah Duggar attended ALERT in 2014, and now Duggar Family News: Life Is Not All Pickles and Hairspray is reporting that 17-year-old Jeremiah Duggar is at the ALERT Academy for its nine-week basic training program.
According to Mother Jones, the ALERT camp is located at a 2,250-acre campus in Big Sandy, Texas. The owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, used a family trust to sell the property to the IBLP for $10 in 2001.
Pickles and Hairspray describes ALERT as a “fundie Christian boot camp” aimed at parents who “don’t want their boys in the real military because of secular influences.”
“Some truly believe that there will be a holy war or an uprising against our government and want their boys prepared. Whatever the reason, it makes a lot of money for IBLP and brings new people into the cult.”
The ALERT website does seem to indicate that one of its aims is to prepare Christians for the end of days, which it claims have already begun.
“Before the return of Christ to earth, Scripture tells us that there will be perilous times (II Timothy 3),” the ALERT vision statement reads. “We are in those times, and we are ready to meet urgent needs and to give answers to the problems that perplex others.”
Forging Men who are Strong to Serve pic.twitter.com/Bd88Q6XdQS
— ALERT Academy (@alertacademy) March 8, 2016
“ALERT provides a quality alternative to young men considering military service, as it imports the best features of the U.S. military,” the program overview reads. However, unlike members of the military, ALERT recruits are required to study the Bible and memorize scripture. “Recruits” like Jeremiah Duggar are advised to begin memorizing all of 1 Peter in the Kings James Version of the Bible because they will eventually be required to recite it word for word.
Memorizing the Bible isn’t the most harrowing task that Jeremiah Duggar is facing at ALERT. There’s a lot of physical training, which begins at 5 a.m., and recruits will also learn outdoor and survival skills. According to Homeschoolers Anonymous, some ALERT recruits have described its intense physical training as “abusive.” The Heresy in the Heartland blog reports that a few teenage recruits were “tied together by the feet for an entire day, resulting in injury,” and one ALERT unit was forced to stand outside in subfreezing temperatures because a member of the group had committed a minor infraction. The under-dressed boys weren’t allowed to go indoors until the guilty party confessed.
The ALERT application that Jeremiah Duggar had to fill out is 21 pages long, and wannabe recruits have to pay a $75 application fee just to be considered for the program. ALERT officers later conduct phone interviews with potential recruits to make sure that they meet the eligibility standards.
A section of the application quizzes recruits about their sexual history. They are asked if they’ve ever been involved in homosexual relationships or if they have ever looked at pornography. There are also numerous questions about applicants’ faith, including queries about their “extraneous spiritual experiences.”
“Have you ever heard or seen a spiritual being in your room or anywhere else?” one question reads.
“What other spiritual experiences have you had that would be considered ‘out of the ordinary’ (telepathy, speaking in a trance, knowing something supernaturally, etc.)?” another asks.
Applicants are also required to list any activities they have taken part in that “had satanic involvement.”
The application includes a questionnaire for potential recruits’ fathers to fill out that asks them what they would like “to see developed” in their sons’ lives during their time in ALERT.
Jeremiah Duggar’s father, Jim Bob Duggar, had to fork over $3,375 for the cost of his son’s training. Equipment required for the program can cost $800 to $1,200 extra and includes a tent, sleeping bag, folding knife, first aid kit, water purification tablets, eating utensils, four different types of shoes, and two backpacks.
Jeremiah Duggar’s time at ALERT camp might seem like something that the Duggar family would want to focus on during their new TLC series, Jill & Jessa: Counting On. However, the Duggars are careful not to mention ALERT, ATI, or IBLP on their reality shows. This could be because they don’t want to be seen as supportive of the programs’ founder. Bill Gothard resigned from the IBLP after more than 30 women accused him of sexual harassment, and now he and other IBLP officials are defendants in a lawsuit alleging that they attempted to cover up various acts of sexual abuse and harassment. According to the Chicago Tribune, three of the plaintiffs claim that they were sexually molested by Gothard.
So far, the Duggar family hasn’t spoken out about the IBLP’s woes, and they have not made an announcement about Jeremiah’s ALERT participation.
[Image via Duggar Family Official Facebook]