Members of the Duggar family with Bill Gothard at one of Gothard’s IBLP programs, “Journey to the Heart,” where children are taught to “identify blind spots or secret sins that are keeping them from completely surrendering to God.”
By Shaney Lee, HARO Board Member
The Duggars have made the news again—but this time, it’s not because of another pregnancy, engagement, or wedding.
This time, family matriarch Michelle Duggar has made the news for a robocall made to citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas, warning them about a new bill being considered by the city. The bill “protect citizens against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, marital status, or veteran status,” according to the website ThinkProgress. Michelle’s concerns (or at least, the concerns of the Arkansas Family Council as expressed by Michelle) have to do with granting trans women access to public accommodations for females, such as restrooms and changing areas.
In the robocall, Michelle Duggar urges Fayetteville citizens to vote against the bill so that “men,” particularly “males with past child predator convictions” would not have a legal right to enter spaces designated for “women and children.” (Despite her effort, the bill passed in the early morning hours on Wednesday, 6-2.)
Much has already been written about the transphobic nature of Michelle’s call. While that in and of itself is concerning (especially since the attitude Michelle is promoting is the exact attitude behind the high rates of violence towards trans* individuals), there’s another aspect to this that major media outlets have failed to pick up.
To put it bluntly, Michelle Duggar is a hypocrite.
She supposedly cares about keeping women and children safe from sexual predators, yet her family continues to be associated with a known sexual predator: Bill Gothard.
The Duggars have long been huge supporters of Bill Gothard and his ministry, Institute of Basic Life Principles. They have long used ATI curriculum in their homeschool and promoted it on their website. Their website currently has links to Advanced Training Institute, Oak Brook College of Law (another organization started by Bill Gothard), and has prominent advertisements for the ALERT academy (again, another organization related to IBLP and started by Bill Gothard). Gothard’s Advanced Seminar Textbook was influential in the Duggars’ decision to not use birth control. Photos on the official Duggar family website include an album from an ATI conference in 2010, including a picture of Jim Bob with Bill Gothard himself. Jim Bob and Michelle are listed as IBLP conference speakers for this year.
Bill Gothard resigned from IBLP and all its affiliates back in March of this year when over 30 women accused him of sexual harassment. The stories of some of these women are well-documented on the website Recovering Grace. And yet, in the face of overwhelming evidence showing Gothard to be a sexual predator, the Duggars have said nothing. In fact, they continue to profit from promoting ATI and IBLP.
(The Duggars have also been connected with sexual predator Doug Phillips of Vision Forum. They have similarly been silent about him, though all links to Vision Forum seem to be scrubbed from their website.)
In addition to showing a lack of personal integrity, Michelle’s call reinforces that common misconception that sexual predators are strangers. This is simply not the case–particularly when it comes to children. In the majority of sexual assault and abuse cases, the perpetrator was someone the victim knew. While this does not make sexual assault by strangers “rare” by any means, the narrative surrounding who sexual predators are and how they operate allow people respected by the community and in leadership positions to continue to sexually abuse people for years before anyone will speak up.
It allows people like Bill Gothard to get away with their abuse.
Michelle Duggar is more than willing to throw trans* people, who are no more likely to be sexual predators than anyone else, under the bus, while refusing to do the uncomfortable work of publicly denouncing a known predator whom she has supported and promoted for years.
Furthermore, trans* people are actually more like to be the victims of sexual assault or physical violence:
- “Most studies reveal that approximately 50% of transgender people experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.” (Source)
- “People who identify as transgender were 28% more likely to experience physical violence than those who are gender normative.” (Source)
This is unacceptable. If the Duggars want to have any credibility in speaking out against sexual predators, they must sever all ties with IBLP and publicly speak out against Gothard, as well as apologize for contributing to the bigoted attitudes that put trans* people at risk.
Join the conversation on Twitter: #DuggarHypocrisy.