The Duggar family is expected to return soon for another season of reality TV — but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Some very controversial religious ministries are associated closely with the Duggar name. These conservative groups are currently taking blow after blow, and it looks as though it’s far from over. It seems that the spate of scandals and accusations of sexual abuse have not faded from the public consciousness, and the Duggar family’s loss of their long-running reality show may be only one of many casualties to come.
The religious leadership most closely associated with the Duggar family is that of Bill Gothard. According to Talking Points Memo, the Duggar family say they began following Gothard’s ministries in 1992. Gothard is the driving force behind a number of associated, though at least nominally separate, ministries. These include Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), Advanced Training Institute (ATI), ALERT Academy Character Cities and others. The Duggar family is closely associated with many of these branches, speaking at events for IBLP (such as the Family Conference where Jim Bob Duggar was recently scheduled to speak about Josh’s scandals and their impact on the Duggar family’s reality tv fame, which Jim Bob calls his “ministry”), sending their children to ATI camps, and using homeschooling materials published by Gothard’s ministries.
Though IBLP issued a notice that Bill Gothard was no longer permitted to serve in any roles pertaining to leadership, counseling, or operating the Board of the organization after he was accused of sexually harassing or molesting nearly three dozen women, at least one of whom said she was underage when she alleges Gothard molested her. Despite that, the Gothard, whose ministries are believed to have been the “counseling” Josh Duggar received when Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar first learned he had molested underage girls, may still hold certain connections to the ministry.
Real Estate Australia recently posted a news piece noting that the cult with which the Duggar family is so intricately connected is selling off property in Australia — something a 2015 lawsuit, alleging that IBLP was responsible in part for the molestations and sexual harassment, asked that the organization be prevented from doing. Plaintiffs said they feared the deliberate liquidation of assets to minimize payout to victims.
(Social media posts such as the one above from 2015, and ones below from 2014, demonstrated the Duggar family’s long relationship with IBLP, ALERT, and ATI, both in Jim Bob’s home and as they have left it.)
In the process, however, something else was uncovered: despite assurances that he would be kept out of leadership after the allegations lodged against him, the IBLP Australia site still lists Bill Gothard as the instructor for at least two seminars.
Other reality stars whose fame centers on a large family and fundamentalist beliefs have distanced themselves from Bill Gothard and IBLP, but the Duggar family has remained silent about the scandals, continuing with implicit support for the organization through posting publicly that they are attending events connected to it, even advertising the events on their family blog and social media pages.
In fact, the Duggar Family Facebook page posted on Saturday a tribute to the recent IBLP conference at their Big Sandy property in Texas.
Even when Gothard’s organizations lost accreditation with an evangelical accountability organization last year, the Duggar family kept ties.
On Discovering Gace, one of the many websites associated with Gothard’s multiple ministries, a spokesperson for the ministry noted in January that a judge had refused to dismiss the lawsuits against Gothard and IBLP, and overruled certain other objections from Gothard, allowing the lawsuit to continue into 2017.
IBLP and its affiliated ministries are inextricably intertwined with the Duggar family. These latest revelations of founder Bill Gothard’s continuing connection to it, as well as the sale of real estate in wake of allegations that the organization would attempt to hide assets, aren’t something the family is speaking about as they prepare to return to television, for a season that will likely feature at least one wedding, two pregnancies, two or more courtships, and at least one baby born. The Duggar family has held onto their reality stardom — despite losing one show and replacing it with another — through numerous scandals, and it’s not yet clear whether one more for IBLP and Gothardism could topple their fame.
[Featured Image by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images]