Bill Gothard, Sexual Predator

Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.
Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on February 6, 2014.

Bill Gothard has been a big name in the Christian homeschooling movement since its very inception.

Gothard runs the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP), puts on family life seminars, and produces curriculum and “wisdom booklets” used by Christian homeschooling families across the country, including the Duggars (Bill Gothard himself spoke at Josh Duggar’s sister-in-law’s wedding, which was featured on the Duggars’ television show). Gothard’s influence in the Christian homeschooling world likely eclipses that enjoyed until recently by Doug Phillips, and certainly eclipses that of the Pearls or Botkins.

While my own parents were not strict Gothard followers and were more influenced by other leaders, they did adopt some of the ideas he taught (umbrella of authority, anyone?). Further, I was in an all-girls Gothard Bible study for a time (COMMIT), and several families I was close to were Gothard followers.

Bill Gothard never married. In the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve heard more than a few people comment on this. How odd that someone who makes his living off of preaching about godly family life never married! It’s not like there would have been a shortage of picture-perfect Christian women who would have been honored to marry him, after all.

Well, the reason Gothard never married is starting to come to light—and it’s very, very ugly.

I’ve been following Recovering Grace, a group focused on correcting the errors of Bill Gothard’s teachings and exposing problems in his ministry, since they launched several years ago, and I soon noticed a pattern in some of the posts. It seems Gothard has displayed some weirdly improper behavior, and even harassment, toward some of the many teenage girls who staffed his ministries and offices, often working as volunteer interns and often coming at his personal invitation. It was very common among Gothard followers for parents to send their teen and twenty-something daughters to work for Gothard, and remains so today—one of the girls from the Gothard Bible study I attended as a girl is actually currently at headquarters, working for Gothard.

Many questions have run through my mind as I have read these stories of impropriety on Recovering Grace. One question is how these things could go on without anyone noticing. But as I’ve read, I’ve noticed another pattern—Gothard’s followers were so sotted with hero worship that they refused to see. In story after story, graduates of Gothard’s programs have said they thought it odd that Gothard would spend so many hours alone with teenage girls, behind closed doors, but he was Gothard—and Gothard could do no wrong.

But things have now turned a corner. Recovering Grace has put up a new post, this one pulling together the threads and providing background information, not only about Gothard’s recent past but also about his distant past—a past many of his followers have been unaware of for the past three decades.

The Recovering Grace team has decided that over the next couple of months we are going to release a large volume of information concerning the life and ministry of Bill Gothard. This information will come in the form of personal accounts, never-before-published documents and correspondence, and factual reports of events that were swept under the rug years ago. Additionally, many of the coming articles will clearly show how individuals attempted to reconcile with Bill Gothard and/or follow the Matthew 18 process but were met with persistent refusal to acknowledge the issues, distortion of the truth, and a resistance to follow biblical steps towards humble repentance.

Then came Charlotte’s story. Her story was the first that moved beyond grooming accompanied by uncomfortable and unwanted hand holding, caressing, and footsie. Her allegations are so serious that the Recovering Grace team felt the need to publish the confessions of two witnesses backing up her story. You can read Charlotte’s story yourself, but I do want to post an excerpt (HA note: trigger warnings for child molestation if you read the full version):

We went to a conference in Knoxville in July of 1992. That’s where I first met Bill Gothard. I remember he wouldn’t let go of my hand, and he kept telling my parents how sweet, beautiful, and pure I was… I was 16 years old… He wanted me around him as much as possible, wanted me to be with him as much as he could get me… He’d keep me with him to “talk.” It started out with him telling me how beautiful I was, how I inspired him, and how I made him feel alive. It went to hand-holding, then long hugs. He would touch me and hug me after devotions and then take me to the eight o’clock staff meeting session. His assistant would drive us to the staff meeting…We would meet after dinner in his office around 7 or 8 p.m. That’s when he started really touching me…

I am sure the statute of limitations has passed for a lot of this, and I don’t know whether Gothard can be taken down legally. I’m sure the Recovering Grace team is looking into it. Regardless, I would like to hope that Gothard will be increasingly seen as the sexual predator he is, and that this will dethrone him from his prominent position in the Christian homeschooling world.

I’m increasingly seeing the Christian homeschooling culture as an unsafe place for girls and young women.

I wonder about my childhood friend and her work at headquarters, and I worry for the girls Gothard continues to surround himself with even today. And when I remember that Bill Gothard had successfully weathered a sexual abuse scandal even before I was born, I despair of things changing.

At least now we know why Gothard never married.

15 thoughts on “Bill Gothard, Sexual Predator

  1. Headless Unicorn Guy February 7, 2014 / 9:53 am

    I wonder about my childhood friend and her work at headquarters, and I worry for the girls Gothard continues to surround himself with even today.

    Would “his Harem” be an appropriate description? And they’re constantly (through turnover) young, female, and completely submissive to The Great Man, much like L Ron Hubbard’s bikini-clad “Commodore’s Assistants”.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 7, 2014 / 1:27 pm

      Just saw the caption on the pic. That Doug Phillips ESQUIRE(TM) with Gothard? Guess we know who tutored Douggie ESQUIRE(TM) in how to use Handmaids….

      P.S. I understand Douggie ESQUIRE(TM) is actually rather short. If so, does that pic mean Gothard is also short? The two look about the same height.


      • Warbler February 7, 2014 / 4:31 pm

        I believe both of them are between 5’4 and 5’7, from my mental pictures/memories
        I dont remember being taller than Phillips, but I was about as tall as Gothard (I’m 5’4)


      • Headless Unicorn Guy February 10, 2014 / 1:49 pm

        Then we might have Short Man Syndrome in play.


  2. Heidi Underhill February 7, 2014 / 1:59 pm

    Well you don’t have to marry to be a pervert. This is awful and he should be help accountable!


  3. Julia Fetters February 17, 2014 / 10:01 am

    Please keep posting the Recovering Grace articles as they come out. This needs to be known. ~ 11 year ATI Mom


  4. alvin February 27, 2014 / 5:15 am

    bill or any other professed Christian leader that teach bible principles but do not practice them are in no position to teach others the un compromised word of God, they are blind leaders of the blind.


  5. robert June 21, 2014 / 4:39 am

    Everyone close to Gothard has known he’s a pediphile for years. Just like every cult leader he has people protecting him. 1 Peter 3:16 warns us that people will twist scripture. Gothard twists scripture to control and manipulate those around him. Jesus isn’t like that. Gothard is a son of Satan not Jesus!


  6. Tony Lopez-Cisneros July 9, 2014 / 12:39 pm



    Truthfully, Honestly, Sincerely Yours And Faithfully Recorded & Submitted,

    Tony Cisneros
    2011 (& Possible 2015) Candidate For City Treasurer
    City Of Chicago
    State Of Illinois
    United States Of America



    • Tony Lopez-Cisneros July 9, 2014 / 12:47 pm

      AMEN, AMEN, AMEN, AMEN, AMEN, AMEN & AMEN ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !


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