“Desperate Attempt”: David C. Gibbs III Fires Back Against Bill Gothard, IBLP

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Earlier today HA reported that Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) filed motions with the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois. Those motions aim to disqualify David C. Gibbs III and the Gibbs Law Firm from representing the eighteen plaintiffs in Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles, the court case in which eighteen former employees and students are suing Gothard and IBLP for sexual harassment and assault and mishandling those crimes.

Gibbs issued a statement today to HA in response to these motions. Concerning Gothard’s allegations that Gibbs misled him regarding his role in the lawsuit, Gibbs claims that, “Gothard was fully aware that I was the attorney for Lourdes Torres against Gothard’s protégé, Douglas Phillips, and Gothard was mentioned by name in that Texas lawsuit in April 2014.” Gibbs cites directly from the Torres v. Phillips lawsuit, in which he wrote, “Others who espoused this teaching [patriarchy], such as Bill Gothard or Jack Schaap, have stepped down or are incarcerated for crimes against children.”

Gibbs states that that Gothard and IBLP’s motions “will be fully opposed in court and are full of misstatements and lies.” While Gibbs says he is “guilty of aggressively representing my clients,” he denounces these latest actions as “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”

Relevant materials can be viewed below:

Full text of David C. Gibbs III’s statement against the motions

• Bill Gothard’s Motion to Disqualify and Sanction

• IBLP’s Motion to Disqualify and Sanction

• Exhibit A: Bill Gothard’s Affidavit

• Exhibit B: Roger Blair’s Affidavit

• IBLP’s press release on February 18, 2016: “Motion to Disqualify Attorney David Gibbs III”

• Second Amended Complaint in Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles

Bill Gothard and IBLP File Motions to Disqualify David C. Gibbs III

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On February 5, 2016, Bill Gothard’s attorney Glenn Gaffney and the Institute for Basic Life Principles’ (IBLP) attorneys at the Collins Law Firm filed similar motions with the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois. These actions relate to the court case Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles, in which eighteen former employees and students are suing Gothard and IBLP for sexual harassment and assault and mishandling those crimes.

HA obtained copies of the motions and related exhibits. Both Gothard and IBLP’s motions aim to disqualify David C. Gibbs III and the Gibbs Law Firm from representing the eighteen plaintiffs. They include two exhibits: sworn affidavits (testimonies under oath) and documents that Gothard and IBLP believe prove that Gibbs violated the Illinois Rules for Professional Conduct (IRPC) in his interactions with them.

The sworn affidavits come from both Gothard as well as Roger Blair, who was present when Gibbs first approached Gothard to talk about the abuse allegations. Gothard’s affidavit includes a number of personal emails between him and Gibbs that Gothard believes amount to legal advice and/or representation. In Blair’s affidavit, he claims that he witnessed Gibbs communicate to Gothard that he would help reinstate him on the IBLP Board. Blair additionally alleges that Gibbs offered to help Gothard derail the allegations against him. Blair testifies,

Mr. Gibbs spoke as if he were connected to the individuals behind Recovering Grace and had inside knowledge that would be valuable to Bill. I recall Mr. Gibbs saying, “I know how to handle it.” He stated that Bill “was wronged” and that it was unfair that “people are trying to destroy your ministry as well as other ministries.” Mr. Gibbs stated that he read allegations on the Recovering Grace website and he knew that they were false. He said that he knew how to adequately respond to “get rid of it.”

Gothard and IBLP’s motions differ in a few regards. Gothard’s motion seeks to bar the eighteen plaintiffs from using any information (including “any statements, correspondence, emails, communications, records, reports, or other documents”) collected from Gothard by Gibbs in alleged violation of the IRPC. Gothard bases this request on the legal precedent that evidence improperly obtained can be deemed inadmissible in court.

IBLP’s motion does not seek to bar the plaintiffs from using such information. However, it does contain an additional insinuation: that Gibbs did not include Gothard as a defendant in the original lawsuit in order to obtain evidence from him through deceptive means. IBLP points to an email Gothard sent Gibbs on May 30, 2015 in which Gothard wrote, “God will honor you for your generous spirit.” IBLP believes this indicates Gibbs was providing him with “support and counsel” in order to get information from him. As Gibbs is not generally licensed to practice law in Illinois, but rather is working pro hac vice, IBLP is moving to terminate his temporary license to practice law in the state due to this alleged misconduct. IBLP’s motion also specifically requests that the eighteen plaintiffs be given “an appropriate period of time to secure new representation.”

The motions, exhibits, and other relevant documents can be viewed below:

Bill Gothard’s Motion to Disqualify and Sanction

IBLP’s Motion to Disqualify and Sanction

Exhibit A: Bill Gothard’s Affidavit

Exhibit B: Roger Blair’s Affidavit

IBLP’s press release on February 18, 2016: “Motion to Disqualify Attorney David Gibbs III”

• Second Amended Complaint in Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles

Updates:

It should be emphasized that these motions have neither been granted or denied by a judge or court at this time. Colorado CLE Legal Connection notes that, “Motions to disqualify are far from rare occurrences” and sometimes “are nothing more than a litigation tactic, forcing attorneys to scramble to protect valued client relationships.”

HA reached out to David C. Gibbs III this morning for comment. This afternoon he issued a full statement to us denouncing the latest motions as “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.” You can read a summary of Gibbs’ statement and its full text here.

Bill Gothard Threatens Recovering Grace with a $1,000,000 Lawsuit

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Earlier today, Recovering Grace reported on their Facebook page that Bill Gothard is threatening the whistleblowing organization with a lawsuit. Glenn Gaffney of Gaffney & Gaffney PC, who is representing Gothard against the now-eighteen former employees and students suing him and the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) for sexual harassment and assault, issued a letter to RG, declaring that, “Demand is hereby made upon any and all of your clients that have posted false and defamatory statements on the Recovering Grace website to immediately remove them.” If RG does not oblige, Gaffney threatens that “those persons can anticipate a counter-claim or cross-claim against them” for the purposes of seeking $1,000,000 or more in damages.

Recovering Grace responded to the legal threats on their Facebook page, saying, “While every story that we have ever published was with the knowledge that we might one day have to defend our decisions in a court of law, it is nonetheless disturbing to see these threats in print.”

The full texts of Recovering Grace’s post and Gaffney’s letter follow, along with a screenshot of them:


Dear friends, we wanted to share with you the following letter that was forwarded to Recovering Grace by the law firm representing the plaintiffs suing Bill Gothard and IBLP. While every story that we have ever published was with the knowledge that we might one day have to defend our decisions in a court of law, it is nonetheless disturbing to see these threats in print. Your continued prayers are appreciated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.51.15 PMCounsel — It is unfortunate that Plaintiffs’ attorneys feel the need to circulate these pleadings to the press. Just remember this once the Court rules on the pending motions to disqualify.

Also, demand is hereby made upon any and all of your clients that have posted false and defamatory statements on the Recovering Grace website to immediately remove them.

Those persons can anticipate a counter-claim or cross-claim against them, in conjunction with the principals behind that website, for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress seeking actual and punitive damages in an amount in excess of $1,000,000 (with such an award after expenses be payable to an appropriate not for profit organization) along with such other injunctive and equitable relief the Court deems just.

Every day those postings remain in the public domain undoubtedly will enhance the damages recovery.

Glenn Gaffney
(gg@gaffneylaw.co)
Gaffney & Gaffney PC
1771 Bloomingdale Rd.
Glendale Heights, Il 60139

Second Amended Complaint Filed in Bill Gothard & IBLP Sex Abuse Lawsuit: 18 Victims in Lawsuit

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on February 18, 2016.

Content Warning: Details of sexual abuse and harassment

Yesterday, I received the following summary from the office of Attorney David Gibbs III. While it would have been easy to pull only specific highlights, the reality is that for each individual named, either by their real name or a pseudonym, their lives have been greatly harmed by Bill Gothard and/or the leaders at Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).  I would rather let each survivor’s story be acknowledged and read. This is their voice now speaking out. These are true heroes!  Please pray for them. This is an emotional time for them as they finally get their day in court after years of suffering in silence. ~Julie Anne


 

Atty. David Gibbs III asked me to forward you the attached copy of the Second Amended Complaint in Wilkinson, et al v. IBLP & Bill Gothard. The Complaint was filed within the last hour and is currently pending review. Below is a summary of the case, and a brief synopsis of the facts stated in the Second Amended Complaint for each client.

Our clients are telling the same story that happened over and over again. There was repeated abuse – re-victimizing women and men for being raped. Psychological abuse and sexual harassment of rape victims. Manipulating and torturing people – including criminal activity – over and over again for decades. The Board knew about it time and time again. Ultimately, they did nothing but after Internet pressure sent Gothard out to further harass victims and cover up the abuse.

The Board states that they are looking forward to the order and structure of the legal process to find the truth. That means they hope they can hide behind a legal technicality to get the case dismissed. What the IBLP won’t do is sit down with these 18 victims, and the others that are out there – like Christians – and open their checkbook and do what is right for these people. IBLP built a 100 Million Dollar organization on the backs of people that they required to work 70 hours per week without paying them over time or in some cases not paying them at all – it was slave labor – but they won’t consider using the assets of that empire that was built on the backs of its victims to do what is right to help these people get counseling and to compensate them for what they helped Bill Gothard and others do to them.

Many of these victims have lost their health, their opportunity to be educated, and had their faith traumatized by a man and his organization. It is heartbreaking that IBLP will not do the right thing by those they have hurt. Instead, the re-victimization continues.

For each Plaintiff, in the NIED count (counts I,V,IX, XIII, XVII, etc.), you will find a description of the facts of that Plaintiff’s case – their story – what happened to them. Those facts are then used as the basis of each of the counts for that Plaintiff.

The following is a brief synopsis of the facts stated in the Second Amended Complaint for each Plaintiff:

1. Gretchen Wilkinson – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually molested and harassed by Bill Gothard. (See paragraphs 123 – 129.)

2. Jane Doe – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was a victim of incest and severe physical and psychological abuse at home. Despite the fact that she repeatedly came to Bill Gothard and IBLP for help, she was told to “let go of her bitterness, “to let go of her rights,” and to “stop being rebellious.” Because she was adopted, Bill Gothard advised her family to disowner her, which they did. Because she was medically fragile, this had a devastating effect on her health. (See paragraphs 155 – 173.)

3. Melody Fedoriw – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually molested by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters in 2012 at the age of 15. She made a report to the Hinsdale, Illinois Police Department. The conduct was classified as a misdemeanor and was not prosecuted, because the criminal statute of limitations had passed by the time the report was made and the matter was investigated. An associate of Bill Gothard’s had made a FOIA request for the police report back in 2014. (See paragraphs 200 – 211.

4. Charis Barker – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarter for an 18 month period, beginning when she was 18 years old. The details of his behavior toward Ms. Barker a very similar to the ways he sexually harassed many of his other victims. (See paragraphs 237 – 258.)

5. Rachel Frost – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters while she was a minor and then while she was an adult. This continued over approximately a three-year period. (See paragraphs 282 – 314.)

6. Rachel Lees – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters when she was twenty years old for approximately one year. (Paragraphs 339 – 360.)

7. Jane Doe III – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters when she was 18 years old. Gothard had invited Jane Doe III to come to headquarters for counseling due to difficulties in her relationship with her father. He really had no interest in counseling Jane Doe III. He used this opportunity to try to separate her from her mother, so he could have her at headquarters alone. When Jane Doe III posted her experiences to the Recovering Grace website, Gothard verbally assaulted her for three weeks, until she agree to take the posts down. Jane Doe III made a number of attempts to bring Gothard’s conduct to the IBLP Board’s attention. She even went to CLA directly, to make sure they were aware of Gothard’s conduct for purposes of their “investigation,” but she was ignored. (Paragraphs 385 – 408.)

8. Jamie Deering – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was one of the younger victims. The Amended Complaint states: Gothard invited her to come to headquarters – alone – at the age of 14. Gothard sexually abused Ms. Deering, including inappropriate touching while she was a minor. Gothard also refused to help Ms. Deering when she attempted to contact him, as a result of physical abuse that she was suffering at home. (See paragraphs 432 – 453.)

9. Ruth Copley Burger – the Second Amended Complaint states that she is the adopted daughter of former IBLP “Biblical Counselor” Kenneth Copley. The Amended Complaint states: Copley repeatedly sexually molested and abused Ms. Burger. This occurred while Ms. Burger was living at the IBLP Indianapolis Training Center. Copley would use Training Center rooms – outside his residence – as the site of some of Ms. Burger’s abuse. He had a history of sexual misconduct before he was hired by IBLP and was ultimately terminated by IBLP due to sexual misconduct. Copley also raped Jane Doe II. (See paragraphs 477 – 494.)

10. Joy Simmons – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was sexually assaulted on her 24th birthday. When Ms. Simmons’ parents and her pastor, Pastor York (who is also an IBLP Board member), learned of the sexual assault, they determined that she was partly to blame for the sexual assault and determined that the appropriate course of action would be to send Ms. Simmons to Bill Gothard for counseling at IBLP headquarters. There, Gothard would press her for details of her sexual assault, sexually harass her while counseling her for her sexual assail,t and require her – on occasion – to work 100 hours a week for little to no money. IBLP refused to pay overtime. (See paragraphs 518 – 547.)

11. JANE DOE IV – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was raped at the age of eleven years old. She was sent to IBLP headquarters for rape counseling. There Gothard flipped a coin and decided that they should not report the First Degree Rape, as it would have been classified under North Carolina law. Gothard advised JANE DOE IV that he was the only one who knew how to counsel rape victims, denied her the opportunity to obtain professional counseling, and sexually harassed her while he was counseling her regarding the rape that she suffered at age 11. JANE DOE IV had to go hungry because of the minimal amount of money IBLP paid her, while requiring her to help take care of disadvantaged young girls. She is the only Plaintiff in this lawsuit who was interviewed for IBLP’s sham investigation. (See paragraphs 572 – 602.)

12. Carmen Okhmatovski – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was 17 when she went to work at IBLP. Although she was scheduled to have ankle tendon surgery when Bill Gothard began to pursue her – to bring her to IBLP headquarters, Gothard advised her parents that he knew a doctor who could cure her ankle problem by injecting her ankles with sugar water. When she arrived at headquarters, no medical care was provided for her ankles. Rather, Ms. Okhmatovski was sexually harassed by Gothard when he would frequently call her to his office, before hours, after hours, during the day, and in an IBLP van during trips. Gothard also sexually harassed Ms. Okhmatovski on a trip to Russia. Ms. Okhmatovski was also aware of the rape of another Plaintiff, JANE DOE V. Although the rape by an IBLP staff person had been reported to Gothard and the IBLP staff, it was never reported to the appropriate state child welfare agency or law enforcement. (See paragraphs 626 – 656.)

13. Jennifer Spurlock – the Second Amended Complaint states that she went to the IBLP Indianapolis Training Center (“ITC”) at the age of 15. Once she arrived, despite only having an 8th grade education, Ms. Spurlock was denied any further education by IBLP. While she was at the ITC, a juvenile delinquent by the name of “Jarvis” attempted to rape her. Fortunately, she was able to fight him off. The attempted rape was never reported to the state child welfare agency or law enforcement out of concern that it would discredit IBLP and the ITC. Ms. Spurlock was then transferred to IBLP headquarters and was assigned the job of keeping Bill Gothard company by sitting outside of his door and being at his “beck and call.” Still, Ms. Spurlock was denied any education beyond the 8th grade education with which she arrived. Gothard would regularly sexually molest Ms. Spurlock by rubbing her upper thighs, near her vaginal area and by rubbing her breasts by hugging her and rubbing his chest back and forth on her breasts, while he made disgusting noises. (See paragraph 680 – 718.)

14. Megan Lind – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was forced, by her parents, into the Indianapolis Training Center at the age of seventeen years old. Both before and after her eighteen birthday, Ms. Lind was illegally confined to her room at the ITC. Frequently, the only opportunity Ms. Lind would have to leave her room was for a counseling session with Bill Gothard. During these sessions, Bill Gothard would sexually harass Ms. Lind. After her eighteenth birthday, Ms. Lind was transferred to another IBLP facility where she was illegally confined and required to make meals for the people in the facility. (See paragraphs 742 – 761.)

15. JANE DOE V – the Second Amended Complaint states that Bill Gothard convinced JANE DOE V’s parents to send her to headquarters when she was fifteen years old. When she arrived, JANE DOE V spent a significant amount of time in Bill Gotahrd’s office in counseling sessions and running errands for Gothard. During the counseling sessions, Gothard would sexually harass JANE DOE V. Because a young man on the headquarters lawn crew took an interest in her, JANE DOE V was sent to the Indianapolis Training Center (“ITC”) in 1997. During an IBLP conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, JANE DOE V was raped by a 22 year-old IBLP staff person by the name of Matthew Heard. Although the rape was reported to the IBLP staff and Bill Gothard, the rape was never reported to the state child welfare agency or law enforcement. When JANE DOE V returned to the ITC, Mr. McWah, director of the leaders in training program, whipped her for being raped. JANE DOE V was regularly locked in the ITC “prayer room” for weeks on end. Sometimes the ITC staff would forget that JANE DOE V was locked in the prayer room and would forget to feed her. At one point ,JANE DOE V had an opportunity to run away. The only place she knew to run was IBLP headquarters. When she arrived, Bill Gothard ordered her back to the ITC. (See paragraphs 786 – 816.)

16. Daniel Dorsett – the Second Amended Complaint states that he began working at IBLP in 1993. From 1994 though 1996 he was Bill Gothard’s primary driver. During this time, Mr. Dorsett saw Bill Gothard sexually harass or molest over one hundred fifty young ladies. Gothard told him that if he told anyone about what he saw he would go “straight to hell.” In 1996, while a participant in IBLP’s ALERT program, Mr. Dorsett was illegally locked in a room for admitting that he had committed a sin. During his brief stay in the ALERT program Mr. Dorsett was exposed to unbearable torture when he was required to perform a mock rescue in the freezing cold in his underwear with no shirt or shoes. (See paragraph 841 – 858.)

17. JANE DOE VI – the Second Amended Complaint states that she went to work for IBLP when she was sixteen years old. She worked for IBLP from 1991 through 1998. From 1992 through 1997, she was Bill Gothard’s assistant. During this time period, Gothard constantly touched JANE DOE VI. He would play “footsie” with her (against her will), hold her hands, rub her legs, and fall asleep on her. JANE DOE VI eventually approached two IBLP Board member’s wives about Gothard’s behavior and the Board apparently implemented a policy in 1997 that prevented Gothard from having female assistants because of the sexual harassment. Apparently that policy was never enforced and the abuse continued. (See paragraph 883 – 896.)

18. JOHN DOE I – the Second Amended Complaint states that he was initially a volunteer and was later employed by the Indianapolis Training Center (“ITC”) from 1993 through 1994 and later from 1996 trough 1997. While he will still a minor at the age of seventeen in 1994, JOHN DOE I was sexually molested by an IBLP employee by the name of William Tollett. JOHN DOE I immediately reported the molestation to his father and ITC staff. Although Tollett resigned from the ITC the next day, the molestation was never reported to state child welfare officials or law enforcement. (See paragraphs 920 – 938.)

Here is the pdf file to the 213-page Second Amended Complaint. Be forewarned, it is very disturbing and details sexual abuse.  Second Amended Complaint

HSLDA-Sponsored Magazine Promotes Bill Gothard’s ALERT Academy

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The last time Homeschoolers Anonymous covered The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) magazine, it was because TOS owners Paul and Gena Suarez were accused of covering up allegations of sexual abuse and as well as perpetrating child abuse themselves (including waterboarding children). TOS  boasts a readership of around 200,000 and is endorsed by James Dobson. Back when the allegations of abuse arose, both the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and the Great Homeschool Conventions (GHC) were financial sponsors of the magazine. While GHC dropped their sponsorship last year, HSLDA continues their financial support of TOS.

In the most recent edition of the HSLDA-sponsored magazine (Winter 2016), TOS features a full-spread piece promoting ALERT Academy. ALERT is a self-described “military-style Christian school” that trains young men in crisis-intervention techniques. It was created by Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Gothard is the now-disgraced founder of IBLP. He resigned in 2014 on account of allegations that he sexually harassed and molested over 30 young women, including children, for decades. He and IBLP now face a lawsuit from 17 people seeking damages for alleged sexual assault and rape.

The TOS article is featured prominently on the magazine’s front cover with the line, “ALERT Academy: Cultivating Integrity in Your Son!” The author, John Boulden, describes the history of ALERT while making no mention of its relationship with Bill Gothard, IBLP, and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI, Gothard’s homeschool program). He simply describes it as “an outgrowth of a homeschool program.” Boulden also describes numerous homeschool conferences in Knoxville, Tennessee and Big Sandy, Texas, similarly neglecting to mention these conferences are Gothard’s IBLP conferences. Furthermore, while Boulden talks up the benefits of ALERT’s Basic Training, he does not mention that the training involves Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar principles, especially Gothard’s “principle of authority.”

A homeschool alumnus who attended ALERT Academy, which is still an IBLP programdescribed it as “really nothing more than a glorified boy scout troop; often referred to by some as ‘Gothard’s boy scouts’.” ALERT stands for Air Land Emergency Resource Team. The academy engages in highly controversial training techniques, much like Teen Mania’s suspended Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime (ESOAL) program. Also like ESOAL, ALERT has faced a plethora of abuse allegations. Jeri Lofland details, among other charges, the program’s alleged “refusal to contact parents regarding medical emergencies” and practice of forcing “under-dressed teen boys to stand outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures at night” to elicit confessions. A contributor at Homeschoolers Anonymous describes abusive physical training. And a contributor at Recovering Grace describes emotional and physical abuse as well as medical neglect during his time at ALERT.

Images of TOS’s ALERT article are below:

HA has archived a PDF of the article here.

The Civil War Wasn’t Your Fault (And Other Things I Wish I’d Known)

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Britt Reints.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Micah J. Murray’s blog. It was originally published on January 29, 2016.

I’m in this stretch of my life called “deprogramming”.

It’s the part that comes after brainwashing, and after disillusionment, and after despair. Deprogramming is the long, difficult process of unlearning all the ways my mind was bent by bad religion, rearranging a hundred tangled wires criss-crossing my mind.

Today I came across another pile of bullshit from the cult leader whose teachings were part of my brainwashing for the first twenty years of my life.

So today we are going to deconstruct some bullshit, as we’ve done here once or twice before.

This might not be of particular interest to you, unless you were in the cult I was in (which, sadly, many of us were) or unless you have a morbid interest in dissecting us from a distance like a freakshow (which, sadly, is not an unlikely scenario.)

First, a moment of backstory: Bill Gothard, an old man who has never been married or had children, resigned a few years ago from the cult he built by telling other people how to be married and have children. His resignation came in the midst of a sexual harassment investigation which has recently become a sexual abuse lawsuit. Like any good cult leader, Gothard has not let the utter collapse of his empire or the dozens of serious allegations against him deter him from doing the Lord’s work. Instead, he has simply rebooted the franchise with yet another vaguely named religious undertaking: Life Purpose Power Teams. Though this new project prudently avoids using Gothard’s increasingly infamous name and face, it is saturated with his pseudo-inspirational buzzwords, bullshit spiritual performance checklists, bizarrely specific obsession with multiples of the number seven, and grandiose promises of guaranteed success.

It was from this new venture that today’s fresh hot pile of bullshit emerges, enlightening with a bit of wistful revisionist history.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 6.47.46 PM

(Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.)

At first, the premise seems benign (if somewhat optimistic, anachronistic, and irrelevant):

If everyone in America circa 1860 had followed the steps outlined in Gothard’s new Bullshit Magic Power Squad books (spoiler: reading and memorizing Bible verses, basically), everyone would have been prosperous and successful (including the slaves), the slave owners would have been nicer to the slaves, and God would have blessed everybody. 

“Now hold up, Mr. Cynical Disillusioned Liberal Heretic,” you’re saying. “Why all the profanity? What’s wrong with suggesting that it’s a good idea to read the Bible and pray regularly?”

Nothing except…

GOD’S BLESSING IS NOT CONTINGENT ON OUR RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCE

The underlying economy of Gothard’s Bullshit Magic Power Squad is that God’s economy is a simple machine powered by religious performance.

“If every believer had established the daily disciplines of getting a Rhema* in the morning and quoting it to God while going to sleep, God would have fulfilled his promise of giving them prosperity and success.”

*for the uninitiated, “Rhema” is Gothard’s fancy Greek word than means “a Bible verse taken out of context and arbitrarily appropriated for personal use like a magic fortune cookie quote”

Do you see what he’s selling here? Follow these simple steps, and you can manipulate God into giving you prosperity and success. That’s just not how it works.

GOD’S BLESSING CAN’T BE EASILY ASCERTAINED BASED ON CIRCUMSTANCES

The same idea is also used to imply that the position of the slaves could have been improved — not through the ending of systemic injustice or the repentance of white slave-owners — but by the slaves themselves following the same religious rituals:

If all the slaves would have been trained how to follow these same disciplines of finding and meditating on daily Rhemas, God would have also given them the same prosperity and success.

This raises a few questions for me.

Specifically, what the fuck sort of god have you constructed that’s sitting up there in heaven, looking down on humans made in his image, watching them suffering slavery and torture at the hands of their fellow humans, and this god is saying, “Well, I would totes give you prosperity and success, but it will be another century before a slick salesman with a bad combover from Chicago unlocks the magic formula to my blessing, so I guess you just have to suck it up and keep sweating it out in the cotton fields.”

THE CIVIL WAR WASN’T YOUR FAULT.

This is the most insidious part of Gothard’s if/then approach to religious discipline. Ultimately, his particular brand of spirituality doesn’t lead to further freedom and enlightenment, but to self-doubt, cynicism, and despair.

You see, any good cult is carefully engineered with layers of extra chainsto keep its adherents trapped inside.

I remember, from when I lived in the red-carpeted cult center in Indianapolis a decade ago. I remember thinking, “The system isn’t working for me. I’m following the rules. I’m checking the boxes. I’m doing all the religious shit. And I’m not happy. I’m not successful. I’m not free. I’m empty. I’m broken. I’m hurting.”

But the problem was never with the system. The system was infallible. Hell, it could have prevented the bloodiest conflict the United States had ever witnessed, if only they had known to follow these five easy steps. If only they’d had access to these special insights from Bill Gothard himself (a $100 value, now only $49 when you join a Bullshit Magic Power Squad!)

Don’t you see?

“My system could have prevented the Civil War” is more than just laughable hubris. It carries the implicit suggestion that if we had only tried harder, done more, and followed the rules better, we could have prevented our own civil wars.

We are left wandering the gutted fields of the war-torn South, surrounded by rotting corpses and smoldering homes and generations of racial injustice, and there standing like a smug Lorax in the middle of the devastation is Bill Gothard with his dyed hair and navy suit telling us that all of this could have been avoided if we’d just tried harder, done more, memorized a few more Bible verses, said a few more prayers, attended a few more conferences, made a few more impossible commitments.

We are left wandering our own war-torn battlefields, surrounded by collapsing marriages and dying faith and screaming anxiety and lingering depression — and all he has to offer to our broken hearts is literally a book full of fucking checklists and the arrogant suggestion that God would have blessed us if we had only tried harder, done more, been more.

Dear God, am a fucking good enough for you yet? Will I ever be good enough for you?

THERE IS NO BULLSHIT MAGIC FORMULA

Forget Mr. Gothard’s “5 Essential Steps to Guaranteed Success”. There are no formulas, there are no guarantees, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something, or trying to steal your soul. Probably both.

Let me offer, as alternative, these five suggestions instead:

  1. Fuck that shit.
  2. Know that you are infinitely, unconditionally loved by the God of the universe.
  3. (skip this one)
  4. (skip this one too)
  5. (Seriously, why are you still here? You are free.)

How the Magical Rhemas of Bill Gothard Could’ve Prevented the Civil War

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Mark Kaletka.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 28, 2016.

Bill Gothard has been accused of sexual harassment and abuse by literally dozens of women, most of whom were teens under his care at the time the incidents occurred, but while these accusations have forced him to step down from his position with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), they haven’t prevented him from starting a new ministry, Life Purpose Power Teams. What exactly is this new ministry? The website talks a lot about rhemas, prayer, and accountability partners. According to IBLP, a rhema is “a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with application to a current situation or need for direction.”

But I’m not actually here to talk about Gothard’s new ministry, I’m here to talk about a specific article published on the Life Purpose Power Teams website. It’s unclear whether Gothard or one of his staffers wrote article, which explains “how the Civil War could have been avoided,” but even if it was written by a staffer it was presumably approved for publication by Gothard. And it’s bad. The article lists five things that could have avoided the Civil War. I will list them one by one and respond to each.

1. If every believer had established the daily disciplines of getting a Rhema in the morning and quoting it to God while going to sleep, God would have fulfilled his promise of giving them prosperity and success.

Note that the author does not say that God would have prompted them to own slavery. Nope. Instead, the author states that if they had meditated on the Bible morning and night God would have given them “prosperity and success.”

This actually brings to mind an interesting question—how exactly does the author know believers weren’t doing this?

2. If all believers would have learned and applied Christ’s commands, they would have loved God and their neighbors as Christ loved them. They would have developed the attitude of being a servant to everyone, including their slaves.

Note again that Gothard does not suggest that if believers had truly applied Christ’s commands, they would have ended slavery. No, he says they would have treated their slaves well. Those are two very, very different things.

And you know what? Many southerners defended slavery by arguing that they were treating their slaves well, and that their slaves lived happy lives of plenty and contentment. I get the feeling the author would have listened to their words and then embraced them joyfully as brothers and sisters in Christ.

3. If all believers would have prayed daily for those around them that God would bless them in their personal lives, their marriages, their families, their finances and their health, every American could have been prayed for, including all the slaves.

Oh goodie, the slaves would be prayed for! How nice!

4. If all the slaves would have been trained how to follow these same disciplines of finding and meditating on daily Rhemas, God would have also given them the same prosperity and success.

In case you’re wondering, no, when author speaks of slaves having “prosperity and success,” they are not referring to freedom. In case there is any doubt, see below.

5. With God’s blessing upon the slaves, they would have risen to greater responsibility, influence and freedom regardless of their social status.

Once again, how nice! If the slaves had prayed just so, the author says, God would have made them successful slaves!

I feel compelled to note that many slaves turned to Christianity in their suffering and cried out to God for an end to their captivity. One wonders, does this author believe they were not crying out loudly enough? Or perhaps the problem was that they were praying for delivery rather than busying themselves serving their masters as God intended? The idea that slaves just needed to pray more and study the Bible and then everything would have been all rainbows smacks of victim blaming at its extreme.

After the five reasons comes this lovely tidbit:

How Has God Confirmed This Potential?

One of the most significant accounts in Scripture demonstrates the reality of this potential is the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his envious brothers. He served Potiphar in Egypt. However, he had the fear of God, and he served as unto the Lord.

As a result, God prospered everything Joseph put his hand to. When Potiphar saw Joseph’s success, he gave him more and more responsibility until everything he had was under Joseph’s jurisdiction. All he knew about was the food that was set before him.

In reality, the roles of Joseph, the slave, and Potiphar, the master, were reversed because there are two types of power: the power of position and the power of influence. Both history and experience confirm that the power of influence is greater than the power of position. Joseph had more influence because God blessed all he did.

Huh, that’s funny, because I remember another story about slavery in the same general area of the Bible—a story that inspired Harriet Tubman and others seeking freedom from slavery in the antebellum South. In this story, the Israelites are enslaved to the Pharaoh, who treats them cruelly, and, rather than telling them to be good, faithful, prayerful slaves, God sends Moses to set them free. [Also, as a reader has pointed out, Potiphar threw Joseph in jail at his wife’s bequest after she tried and failed to blackmail Joseph into having sex with her, suggesting that Joseph’s supposed “power of influence” had some very serious slavery-related limitations.]

In the end, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how exactly the author’s points would have prevented the Civil War. It sounds as though the author is suggesting that if all of the parties involved, including southern and northern whites as well as slaves, had simply read the Bible regularly, mediated on scripture, and prayed for those around them there would have been no need for ending slavery. All of the masters would have been kind and all of the slaves would have been successful—in their status as slaves, of course—and that would have been that.

In other words, Gothard contends that the Civil War could have been avoided if people had stopped trying to end slavery. Awesome.

Someone’s Shot of Whiskey

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Intangible Arts.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kit’s blog, Dauntless in Denver. It was originally published on January 26, 2016.

It’s funny, isn’t it, when we hear something we’ve never heard before, and yet immediately, it strikes a chord, and we go, “Yes! That’s IT!” I just had one such experience. I was out shopping today with my friend, Rowena, and we stopped in at Maurice’s, as we always must, when we’re shopping near one. I saw a shirt that said, “I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea.” As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed it. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking the last couple years, as I work on becoming more myself. Of not being afraid anymore. Of dying my hair, and piercing my ears, and wearing my black lipstick, etc., etc.

I remember many, many times when I looked in the mirror, and had no idea who it was staring back at me.

I knew who it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be me. But it wasn’t. I never really matched the part that I played for so long. And after a while, I completely lost who I actually was. As a kid, I was a rather fearless, adventurous tomboy. I often thought about joining the Navy, like my dad had. I was inquisitive, liked to figure out ideas by way of arguing (I deconstruct an idea, and then build it back up- much like an engineer takes apart a clock to understand how it ticks), and I was usually allowed. But after my family joined ATI, that all stopped. I was expected to be the meek and quiet, obedient lady. I was expected to have long hair, dress “modestly” (read…”baggy” and “frumpy”), wear no makeup, accept everything I was told as truth, stay at home until I married, have a dozen children and homeschool them all. That never appealed to me. And yet, it was supposed to. So I told myself it did.

ATI (the fundamentalist cult my family was in for 9 years) basically taught us that we were supposed to be everyone’s cup of tea. That with a bright smile, navy and white clothes, and the right attitude, we could win over anyone. Bill Gothard (the cult’s founder and leader) loved to tell all of us “apprenticeship students” stories of ATI students boarding planes in their navy and white with a good smile, and being randomly upgraded to first class. About ATI students who worked so hard for an employer, they were given a high paying job that normally required a college degree, without having a college degree. He loved to talk about the very rare exceptions to the rule, and tell us that, with the right attitude and dress and actions, everyone would love us, respect us, and the world would be open to us as we made money and gained the ear of heads of state.It took me years to realize what a complete joke that was. So I tried, so hard, to be everyone’s cup of tea. To gain everyone’s respect and admiration. I failed miserably, of course. I was labeled a rebel and a temptress at my fundamentalist church. Apparently, mothers actually warned their sons about me. Funny thing was, I really wasn’t that interested in guys in general until I was in my twenties. But no matter how hard I tried, I never really fit into their little mold of who I should be. As much as I often functioned as an ISTJ, I was still an INTJ. As much as I tried to function as a neurotypical, I was still Autistic (though I didn’t get my diagnosis until the age of 32). As much as I tried to content myself with not going to college and with the idea of being a stay-at-home homeschool mom to goodness knows how many kids, it never worked. It just wasn’t who I was.

But who I was, was bad.

And to be concealed and denied and buried and crucified as much as possible.

And so I forgot. For a very long time, I completely lost sight of who I was. After I got out of ATI, bits and pieces came back. My INTJ was eventually coaxed out of hiding. I started to wear makeup and clothes that, while still extremely modest by most standards, would be considered scandalous by ATI standards. I listened to secular music (GASP). I lived alone. I got a college degree, and then a graduate degree. I even started teaching college. When I finally read the Divergent trilogy and was reminded of who I was, I immediately started changing how I dressed and did my makeup. I got contacts, later, I got a much edgier haircut and even dyed it black and purple. I got more ear piercings, and planned a nose piercing and tattoos (which have yet to be gotten). As I looked in the mirror, more and more, I saw myself looking back at me. I was coming out of hiding. Sure, some people may look at my hair and makeup and piercings and clothes (which seriously, are still super modest by most standards), and make judgments about my character, based on that. Some may decide they don’t like me. And some may look at my departure from Christianity and decide I simply wanted to live my own life my way, and not by God’s rules. That I wanted to live my life governed by the “pleasures of this world.” They can judge all they like. It’s not true, not by a long shot. There’s way more to it than that.

But it’s okay if some people judge. It’s okay if people decide they don’t like me anymore. Or decide that I make them sad, or anything else. At the end of the day, I really would rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. Because at least if I’m someone’s shot of whiskey, I’m being myself.

I’m not watering myself down and forcing myself into a mold, and wearing a mask.

I’m not playing a part. I’m being, well, me. Does it hurt to be rejected? Yeah, sometimes. But in the long run, I’ll be far more satisfied with my life, and far more at peace, if I’m open and honest. If I quit playing a part. At the end of the day, I can respect who I am. And I have the support of my parents, who know pretty much everything there is to know. While they may not agree with me on everything, they do absolutely respect me, support me, and they’re okay with where I am in life. I have many others, too.

People who have known me for a long time have witnessed this transformation. Some have been surprised, some haven’t. Most recognize I’m much more at peace with myself than I ever was before. And I am. I’m done being everyone’s cup of tea. I’m going to be myself. Sure, it takes courage, but hey. That’s what life is all about. Being brave, and not letting fear rule your life. Could I really call myself “Dauntless” if I was letting my fear of others rule my life? Nope. So I’m going to be brave and be myself. Otherwise, life is just a really sad exercise in jumping through hoops, toeing the line, and making sure all the “I’s” are dotted and all the “T’s” crossed. And that’s just a shame.

10 Surprising Revelations in the Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard and IBLP

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 11, 2016.

Last week, I published a summary of the allegations included in an ongoing lawsuit against fundamentalist guru Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles, which he founded in the 1980s and spent three decades running. The lawsuit focuses on Bill Gothard and IBLP’s negligence in failing to report abuse and failing to train their employees to recognize and report abuse, and at its center are allegations that Bill Gothard spent decades grooming, sexually harassing, and molesting teenage girls he employed at his organization’s headquarters.

Having read through the lawsuit in full, I want to take a moment to mention ten things even I found surprising. Many of the allegations included in the lawsuit have been common knowledge since being posted in 2013 and 2014 by Recovering Grace, a website run by graduates of IBLP programs critical of Gothard and his teachings. However, the lawsuit also includes information I had not seen before. I want to focus on these points because of the questions they raise about why Gothard’s abuse was not recognized and addressed earlier.

As a quick note, I would appreciate it if you would keep down the snark in the comments section out of respect for the survivors who are bringing this suit. Their suit isn’t some sort of “gotcha” against Christians or against fundamentalists or even against Gothard himself, it’s an attempt to bring justice to Gothard and ensure that IBLP actually fixes the problems that allowed Gothard’s abuse to go unaddressed.

I want to throw into stark relief the extreme predatory nature of Gothard’s actions. I want us to look at these points and ask how this could have gone on for so long.

1. Gothard once gave his credit card to a girl he was grooming and told her to “fix” her clothes. When she expressed confusion, one of his assistants explained to her that Gothard was unhappy with her ankle length skirts and would like her to buy some that were calf length.

2. Gothard paid for a young woman he was grooming and sexually harassing to have cosmetic surgery to remove two skin blemishes which he called “a distraction.” The lawsuit positions this move as part of the increasing control Gothard was assuming over the young woman’s body.

3. Gothard told an 18-year-old girl who rebuffed his advances that if she had still been 17, he would have called social services and gotten her taken away from her parents.

4. Gothard tried to convince a woman to divorce her husband and take a job at headquarters because he wanted to groom and molest her daughter, who had told him she would not be without her mother. See also above.

5. Gothard once had a girl he was grooming placed in a bedroom opposite his office window “so he would know when she could come to his office, after everyone else had left.”

6. Gothard preyed on girls as young as 13, had parents send girls as young as 14 to his headquarters at his request, and assigned girls as young as 15 to be his personal assistants.

7. In the early 1990s, Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, a young woman he was grooming. At the time, he was nearly 60 and she was around 20. Gothard did not mention the subject to Rachel herself. It was not until Rachel learned two decades later that Gothard had asked the board’s permission to marry her that she recognized Gothard’s behavior as predatory.

8. Gothard told a victim of childhood abuse “that parents were to be believed over children and that children were to obey their parents no matter what, even if they were being sexually abused.” When Jane Doe II reported her father’s sexual abuse to Gothard, he immediately called her father on speakerphone and asked him if the allegations were true (not surprisingly, her father said they were not).

9. Gothard made a habit of having teenage girls come to his office alone late at night under the guise of “Bible study” or “mentoring.” This isn’t technically a new revelation, but it is striking how many of the plaintiffs refer to these late-night one-on-one sessions. For an organization that teaches that people of opposite genders should never be alone together, it is startling that this practice was allowed to continue for so many years without raising an eyebrow.

10. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took teenage girls as “pets.” It was also common knowledge that Gothard’s behavior with regard to these girls was not appropriate. At one point in the early 1990s, after Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, the board barred Gothard from having female personal assistants. This ban was never enforced, and Gothard continued his pattern.

I’m sitting here trying to come up with some explanation for how this went on for as long as it did. People knew this was going on. The IBLP Board of Directors knew, the personal assistant who told Jane Doe III to buy shorter skirts knew, the employee who arranged the room assignment for Jamie Deering knew. People knew something was off. We’re talking about an organization that sent teenage boys home for merely talking to girls, while its leader held late night one-on-one “mentoring” sessions in his office with teenage girls.

Well sure, you say, it was a cult. That’s how cults work. But I want to stress just how widespread IBLP’s influence was within the Christian homeschooling world throughout my entire childhood and beyond. There were hundreds and thousands of families involved who had no idea that anything untoward was happening. This wasn’t so much an insular group like we’re used to thinking about, with its members cut off from contact with the outside. Rather, it was one that faced outward and led wide swaths people across the country to trust it its leadership and its “godly” mission and methods.

I am filled with sudden respect for one of my younger brothers, who approached me five years ago at age 17, worried. He told me that our parents wanted to send him away to a program in Texas, but that he was worried that it was a cult and wanted my advice. (It was Gothard’s ban on rock music that worried him—he played the drums and loved Christian rock music, which my parents grudgingly allowed.) At this point, I hadn’t given Gothard’s name a second thought. I grew up learning about the “umbrella of authority” and I attended a COMMIT Bible study for teenage girls, but my family had never been an ATI family, and I’d paid little attention to his name.

I texted my brother this morning. I wanted to let him know about the lawsuit. I wanted to make sure he knew just how right he had been, five years ago. What made the difference, exactly? How could he see it while so many others—including my own parents—did not? My brother told me, actually, that he and my dad had visited Gothard’s ALERT program headquarters in Texas, in anticipation of sending him there. Apparently my dad was a bit worried there might be something “off” about Gothard’s ministry—my dad by nature is antiauthoritarian, except in his parenting, and I think the focus on a single leader threw him off—but the visit assured him that all was fine, and that the ministry was godly and sound, one he could get behind.

And perhaps that is the problem. For whatever reason, my 17-year-old brother was already starting to push back and ask questions, but to those predisposed to see anything with a “godly” image as de facto good—well, you can see how that might prime people to accept Gothard’s ministry without asking too many questions, especially when so many others were already supporting it—after all, could they really be all wrong? And yet they were. And perhaps that is the biggest lesson for anyone—don’t assume that a leader or organization is legit just because it has a lot of followers, or projects a certain image.

Also, don’t create authoritarian power structures focused on a single leader.

I keep coming back to the fact that there were people close to the situation who knew these things were going on and did nothing. I can better understand people following the ministry without any knowledge that something was “off,” but once you’re in the organization and you see what’s going on—it’s boggling. There are, of course, explanations. Someone who said something might not be believed, or might be kicked out or shunned. Some might have doubted what they were seeing, given Gothard’s godly extra-human reputation. And some, too, might have assumed that if something was actually wrong, someone would surely have spoken up, so it must not be. And then, too, there’s the fact that obedience was central to Gothard’s teachings.

And so, in the end, we have a cautionary tale. This isn’t simply about one more Christian organization beset with sexual scandal, it’s about power structures and beliefs that create a situation where numerous people let significant warning signs go by, either unrecognized or ignored, but unaddressed either way. No more.

Some of my readers may be wondering what came of my brother, and what I told him when he came to me for advice. To tell the story briefly, I googled Bill Gothard’s name to assess my brother’s concerns and quickly came upon blogs written by homeschool graduates raised in ATI voicing their concerns and processing their experiences. It was those blogs that inspired me to start this blog, and it was those blogs that informed the response I gave to my brother. Over the next year I helped him wade through his options and find ways to make his own choices. He never did go to ALERT, and for that I am thankful. And so perhaps, in some small way, the voices of survivors can serve as an antidote to Gothard’s abuses.

A Summary of Allegations against Bill Gothard and IBLP

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 7, 2016.

CW: Descriptions of child sexual abuse, rape, and sexual harassment

It has been nearly two years since Bill Gothard stepped down from leadership at his ministry, the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP), amid a growing number of accusations that he sexually harassed and molested girls and young women in his employ. This past October, a group of individuals filed a negligence lawsuit against IBLP. This lawsuit has been amended, and Bill Gothard is now named as well.

This week, Homeschoolers Anonymous obtained the text of the lawsuit, which involves complaints made by ten women, seven named and three Jane Does. This document is over 100 pages long. In the interest of improving accessibility, I have read through the entire document and am listing a summary of each woman’s allegations below. But first, some general thoughts.

Some of the allegations listed in the document were previously published at Recovering Grace, a website run by graduates of Gothard’s programs to express criticism of Gothard and his teachings, and others are similar in content to these allegations. In sum, Bill Gothard selected girls as young as 13 from the audiences at his conferences and invited them to come work at headquarters. Once there, he groomed them sexually and molested them. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took “pets,” and yet his behavior was allowed to continue unchecked.

Other allegations included in the lawsuit are new, though not surprising. One plaintiff discloses that Gothard raped her, including full intercourse. In addition, we learn that Gothard and his employees failed to report disclosures of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking as required by law for organizations working with children, and that this was true not only for allegations made against Gothard but also for disclosures that involved sexual abuse conducted by other IBLP employees or by children’s parents.

In several cases Gothard responded to teenagers’ disclosures of parental abuse by calling the parents, sometimes in front of the teen, to ask them whether the allegations were true. At one point he told an individual that children must obey their parents even in cases involving sexual abuse. However, when an 18-year-old girl Gothard was pursuing rebuffed him, he told her that if she were 17 he would have called social services and had her removed from her parents’ home.

We also learn more, in the allegations, about Gothard’s grooming and the extent to which he would latch onto a specific girl as his “pet.” The plaintiffs allege that Gothard told them he loved them, that they were special to him, that they were his “energy giver,” and more. He dictated where these girls lived, what clothes they wore, how the wore their hair, and even paid for them to undergo cosmetic surgery. That all of this was taking place and was common knowledge and nothing was done attests to the abusive power cult leaders wield over their followers.

Also of note, the lawsuit makes it clear that Gothard continued his predatory behavior all the way up to the point he stepped down from IBLP in 2013. Two of the plaintiffs, Melody Fedoriw and Jane Doe III, describe abuse that occurred in 2011 and 2012. This is especially appalling to me, given that I had friends from growing up who worked for IBLP and at headquarters during this period and in the years immediately before it. I’ll be honest—when I first opened the document I scanned the list quickly, worried that I was see a familiar name.

For most of the women listed in the lawsuit, the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse they suffered at Gothard’s hands have passed. For this reason, the lawsuit focuses not so much on the abuse itself as on the failure of both Gothard and IBLP to handle the abuse as required by law and on the damage caused through the sham investigation conducted by the Christian Law Association (CLA) in 2014.

According to the lawsuit, Gothard himself chose the CLA to conduct IBLP’s internal investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct. CLA is a fundamentalist Independent Baptist organization run by David Gibbs, Jr., a personal friend of Gothard’s and a frequent speaker at IBLP conferences. CLA has no staff qualified for investigating abuse allegations, and the organization failed to contact or interview the individuals named in the lawsuit, in spite of the fact that many of them had already published their allegations and that it was these allegations that had triggered the internal investigation.

The lawsuit also claims that IBLP has made moves to sell its holdings in Illinois in order to avoid being sued there, where the majority of the abuse occurred.

These women—both the plaintiffs and those who have not been in positions to come forward—deserved better. They were failed on multiple levels. My heart goes out to the ten women serving as plaintiffs on this lawsuit, and with every survivor of Gothard’s abuse who has had to put one foot in front of another day after day. One of the women, Jane Doe III, describes the personal harassment and verbal assault she faced from Gothard after publishing her accusations in the comment section of Recovering Grace in 2012. To my knowledge, this is the first time any of Gothard’s survivors have come forward under their own names. Many of these women will lose family members or friends for what they are doing. They and the other survivors supporting them from behind the scenes are to be commended for their efforts to bring Gothard and IBLP to justice and help protect future young people from facing similar pain.

I am going to summarize the allegations of each woman below, with quotes from the lawsuit. I am doing so in order to get this information out there. Remember, there are still individuals out there defending Bill Gothard. I don’t want them to have any excuse—including the excuse that the information is buried in a 100+ page document full of legalese—not to view and learn the allegations involved in this current website.

First, a very brief summary:

Gretchen Wilkinson was groomed and molested by Gothard during counseling from 1991 to 1993 while was still a minor.

Jane Doe was severely abused by her adoptive parents. When she reported this to Gothard as a young teenager, he blamed her and failed to notify the authorities.

Jane Doe II was sexually abused and trafficked by her father. When she told IBLP staff they failed to notify the authorities. She was also raped as a child by IBLP employee Kenneth Copley while at the Indianapolis Training Center. She reported this, but the other IBLP employees did not believe her.

Melody Fedoriw was groomed and molested by Gothard while working at headquarters in 2012 at age 15.

Charis Barker was groomed and sexually harassed by Gothard while working at headquarters in the late 1990s, beginning at age 18.

Rachel Frost was groomed and sexually harassed by Gothard while working at headquarters in the early to mid-1990s, beginning at age 15.

Rachel Lees was groomed and sexually harassed by Gothard while working at headquarters in the early 1990s, beginning at age 19 or 20.

Jane Doe III was groomed by Gothard in the late 2010s beginning at age 13.

Jamie Deering was groomed and molested by Gothard while working at headquarters in the early to mid-1990s, beginning at age 14.

Ruth Copley Burger was sexually abused by her father, Kenneth Copley, while the family lived at the Indianapolis Training Center in the mid-1990s when she was 11 or 12.

Now a more detailed summary. As you read this, if you choose to do so, please remember that these women have come forward not to give people more fodder to use to mock “fundies” but rather to bring accountability to IBLP and bring Gothard to justice. They are have told their stories not to initiate a snark fest but rather to bring change. Many of the women involved in this lawsuit are still strong believers in God and the Bible. This isn’t about making a strike against religion, it’s about making a strike against abuse and bringing meaningful change.

Gretchen Wilkinson

Gretchen was an IBLP participant and employee as a minor from 1991 to 1993. She was molested by Bill Gothard while being counseled in his home office. According to the lawsuit:

45. The molestation included Bill Gothard placing his hands on Ms. Wilkinson’s breasts and on her thighs—up to her genitals, while she was clothed.

Gretchen was a minor at this time. Gretchen published her account with Recovering Grace under the name “Charlotte.”

Jane Doe

Jane Doe attended IBLP conferences from 1982 to 1988. Jane Doe was abused and neglected by her adoptive family, including sexual abuse by multiple male relatives and severe physical abuse. According to the lawsuit, “she was beaten so severely by her adoptive family that she would duck and flinch anytime someone came near.” When Jane Doe told Gothard about her abuse as a teenager, he not only failed to report it but also blamed her for her own abuse.

80. On several occasions—including when JANE DOE was 14, 15, and 16 years old, JANE DOE informed Bill Gothard of her physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Bill Gothard’s response was to advise her to ‘let go of her bitterness,’ and to ‘let go of her rights,’ and to ‘stop being rebellious.’ Bill Gothard always made the abuse JANE DOE’s fault.

Gothard also sought to cast demons out of Jane Doe.

82. When she was approximately 15 years old, JANE DOE became aware of Bill Gothard’s teaching that adopted children should be ‘given back’ to their biological parents or to the state. Bill Gothard taught that due to the ‘curse of the sins of the forefathers’ adopted children were doomed to repeat the evils of their biological parents. Bill Gothard also taught that adoptive children tainted a family’s biological children. Thus the reason they should be given back.

83. Bill Gothard attributed his teachings about adopted children to ‘demonic forces’ that he claims affect these children. He taught that if adoptive children were not ‘returned,’ they should at least be ordered to ‘earn their keep’ in the family home. It was his teaching that they should be treated more like slaves than children.

Under the influence of Gothard’s teachings, Jane Doe’s parents ultimately kicked her out of the house and disowned her. Her mother beat her again the day she was kicked out.

At around this time Jane Doe spoke again with Bill Gothard, expressing concern that her siblings, too, were being abused. Gothard never reported anything to social services. Jane Doe wrote to the IBLP Board, letting them know what she had told Gothard, and they, too, failed to report anything.

Jane Doe II

From 1991 (when she was four) through 2009, Jane Doe II participated in IBLP programs and served as an IBLP volunteer. She was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused in her home, as were her siblings. According to the lawsuit, she was “raped by her father and other relatives” and “sold for sex by her father through commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.” Jane Doe II reported both the severe sexual abuse and the human trafficking to IBLP staff, but those staff members did not contact authorities.

As a child, Jane Doe II was raped by Kenneth Copley, a counselor at ATI’s Indianapolis training center. Jane Doe II reported this rape to IBLP staff, but nothing was done and nothing was reported to authorities.

Jane Doe II later told Gothard about her abuse.

128. On at least five occasions, JANE DOE II told Bill Gothard that she was being sexually abused by her father and that her younger siblings were also being abused. Bill Gothard took pleasure in the details presented and kept pressuring JANE DOE II for more explicit details of the abuse that took place.

129. On one occasion, when JANE DOE II disclosed details about her abuse and the abuse of her siblings, Bill Gothard called JANE DOE II’s father on a speakerphone and asked if the allegations were true. JANE DOE II’s father denied the allegations. JANE DOE II was humiliated by this process. The last time JANE DOE II tried to disclose abuse, Bill Gothard personally threatened her. Bill Gothard taught that parents were to be believed over children and that children were to obey their parents no matter what, even if they were being sexually abused.

A short time later, Bill Gothard took Jane Doe II to his “private suite” and raped her.

During this entire time, neither Gothard nor any of the numerous other IBLP staff members who also knew of Jane Doe II’s accusations against her father and against Kenneth Copley notified authorities.

Melody Fedoriw

Melody attended IBLP’s Journey to the Heart in 2011 and worked at IBLP headquarters during much of 2012. During her time as an employee at headquarters, Melody, only 15 years old, was groomed and molested by Gothard.

169. Bill Gothard would call Ms. Fedoriw into his office late at night for Bible study and to mentor her. During this time, Bill Gothard would always want to sit on the couch with Ms. Fedoriw.

170. During the Bible study and mentoring process, Ms. Fedoriw reported the fact that she was being abused by a parent to Bill Gothard.

171. Bill Gothard then called Ms. Fedoriw’s parents and disclosed the abuse information that she had disclosed in confidence to her abuser.

172. By the second instance of late night Bible study/mentoring, Bill Gothard was putting his arms round Ms. Fedoriw and pulling her closer to him.

173. Despite the fact that Ms. Fedoriw confronted Bill Gothard about his conduct, it continued.

174. Bill Gothard continued to touch Ms. Fedoriw in ways that made her uncomfortable, including rubbing her back and legs. While Bill Gothard was rubbing Ms. Fedoriw’s legs, he would move his hands to her upper thigh. Bill Gothard was touching Ms. Fedoriw very close to her vaginal area, when he rubbed her upper thighs.

The above quote is long, so let me summarize. Gothard had one-one-one late night mentoring sessions with Melody, who was then 15 and living at headquarters. When Melody disclosed abuse she had suffered at her parent’s hands, he called her parent and reported what she had said. He also sexually molested her during these mentoring sessions despite her attempts to get him to stop.

In March 2014, after Gothard stepped down from his position, Melody reported Gothard’s conduct to the local police department. The police department classified Gothard’s actions as criminal but did not prosecute because they had passed the statute of limitations.

Charis Barker

Charis Barker’s involvement with IBLP began in 1986, when her family enrolled in the ATI program when she was six, and continued through 2000. In 1997, when she was 17, Gothard singled her out at an IBLP seminar and invited her to come work at headquarters. When she was 18, she left home for headquarters, first as a volunteer and then as an employee. While there, Gothard groomed and sexually harassed her.

211. At lunch, at times in his office, while riding in his van, while sitting on his couch, whoever possible, Gothard’s feet would touch Ms. Barker’s feet, whenever her had the opportunity.

212. Gothard’s sexual harassment of Ms. Barker got to the point that the only way she was able to prevent Gothard from touching her feet, while riding in his van, was for Ms. Barker to sit on her feet.

213. Whenever she sat on the couch in his office, he would sit very close to her and put his hands on her knee.

214. During church he would lay his head on her shoulder and he would at least pretend to fall asleep.

Over time, Charis became more and more uncomfortable, and ultimately contacted her parents, who “assured her that Bill Gothard would never inappropriately touch anyone.” Gothard’s behavior continued for the 18 months Charis spent at headquarters. Charis stayed to complete her year-long employment contract (after six months of volunteering). Her parents told her that if she was kicked out of headquarters, she should consider herself kicked out at home, too.

Charis published her story with Recovering Grace under the pseudonym “Grace.”

Rachel Frost

Rachel Frost was a volunteer and employee at IBLP headquarters from 1992 to 1995. Gothard singled Rachel out at an ATI conference when she was 15 and asked her to come work at headquarters. Rachel initially demurred, saying that she was too young, but Gothard hounded her and wore her down, paying for her plane ticket and handing her cash to attend to her needs once she arrived. Gothard then groomed and sexually harassed her.

259. Gothard told Ms. Frost that he wanted to keep her close to him, so she started her work at headquarters as one of his personal assistants (secretaries). However, at the age of fifteen (15), she had poor secretarial skills and no understanding of how the organization ran or who was important. After a week in his office, Ms. Frost was moved to the ATI Department.

Gothard paid Rachel special attention and would touch her feet with is during lunch; she eventually learned to keep her feet back behind her chair to prevent this. Gothard sent a 17-year-old boy home for talking and flirting with Rachel.

265. Gothard advised Ms. Frost that she had a special place in his heart and advised her that he wanted her to remain at headquarters indefinitely.

Rachel returned home after three weeks because of family issues, but Gothard called her soon afterward to ask her to travel with him on a trip to Australia and then to come to headquarters permanently. He offered to pay all of her expenses. Rachel’s parents wanted her to stay at home and finish her education, but were worn down by Gothard’s constant requests. At age 15, Rachel took the GED and headed to headquarters to work for Gothard’s ministry “indefinitely.”

Once she was back at headquarters, Gothard continued to single Rachel out, and gradually initiated further inappropriate physical contact. He sexually harassed Rachel during van trips, pushing his thighs against hers, grabbing her hair, and touching her legs with his fingers and her feet with his feet.

274. As a result of the special treatment and physical attention she received from Gothard, Ms. Frost was referred to as Gothard’s “pet,” his “type,” his “favorite,” or a “Gothard girl.” The sexual harassment, and special attention were no secret. Gothard’s conduct was common knowledge to the IBLP staff.

Rachel began looking for excuses to avoid Gothard, and ultimately left for a job as a nanny. Rachel published her story on the Recovering Grace website.

Rachel Lees

Rachel Lees served as Gothard’s secretary from 1992 to 1993, during the same time Rachel Frost was at headquarters, and had many similar experiences. Rachel was 19 or 20 when Gothard met her at a seminar in New Zealand and asked her to come work at headquarters. He assigned her to himself personally. When she was running low on money, he gave her cash. He quizzed her about former boyfriends and wanted to hear the details of any moral failings she may have had.

312. Approximately six to eight weeks after Ms. Lees began working for Gothard, she noticed that he found reasons to touch her. The touching consisted of sitting so close to her that they were touching. He would sit close, so that his arm or hand would brush against hers. It progressed from there to other physical contact, which made Ms. Lees uncomfortable. The other physical contact included lingering hugs and holding hands. Gothard also began to find reasons to be alone with Ms. Lees.

313. Gothard told Ms. Lees that it was fun. He liked being with her, “just you and me.”

At one point, while on a trip to Dallas, Gothard called Rachel to his hotel room alone, and embraced her as they sat on the couch. At another point, Gothard embraced her and whispered in her ear, telling her that she was his “jewel” and his “energy-giver.”

317. On a long drive to Detroit, Ms Lees felt Gothard put his hands on hers. Later, she felt his foot brush up against her leg. When she first felt his foot run up the back of her leg, she was startled. He locked his leg under hers, and she felt his foot rubbing against hers. He was playing “footsie” with her. But Ms. Lees describes Gothard’s actions as more intimate than that. His foot stroked the back of her leg, played with her toes, explored her leg all the way up her calf muscle and back down over and over again, while he was tripping her hand in between them. When Ms. Lees lifted her hand to intentionally break his hold, Gothard pulled her hand over his thigh. When she resisted, he held her hand and rested it on his thigh, covering her hand with his. He patted her hand, massaged it, rubbed her fingers with his dumb, running his dumb slowly up and down between her fingers, over and over. Gothard would frequently hold hands with Ms. Lees during travel.

And once again, this attention was not secret.

318. Gothard’s emotional and physical attraction to Ms. Lees was no secret at IBLP. On one occasion, the wife of an IBLP Board member approached Ms. Lees and told her that people had expressed concern about “the attachment between you and [Gothard].” “People are starting to notice that he is paying you special attention.”

At one point, one of Gothard’s sisters accused Rachel of wanting to marry Gothard, and was angry with her. Gothard pushed his control further, arranging for a doctor to remove Rachel’s small skin blemishes, which he called “a distraction.” In 1993 Rachel was forced to leave IBLP headquarters due to immigration issues.

Years later, Rachel learned that Gothard had sought permission from the IBLP Board to marry her. She was horrified at this information, finally recognizing him as a predator. She learned that the board denied Gothard permission to marry her. At this time, Bill Gothard was nearly 60 years old. Rachel was 20. The board also reportedly told Gothard that they were not going to allow him to have female personal assistants in the future, but they never enforced this rule.

Rachel published her story with Recovering Grace under the name “Meg.”

Jane Doe III

Jane Doe III participated in ATI from 2003 through 2012. In 2006, Gothard approached Jane Doe III at a seminar and asked her to join a missions opportunity on his staff as soon as she turned 14. Jane Doe III declined the invitation because of a medical condition, and Gothard spent the following five years badgering her.

352. . . . Gothard frequently used the stress in JANE DOE III’s home as a reason that she should come to headquarters.

353. In 2011, at the age of 18, Bill Gothard aggressively pursued JANE DOE III at a conference in Indianapolis. At 11:00 PM one night, he called JANE DOE III’s father to ask permission for her “to come to headquarters for 3-4 weeks” to “learn how to respect him.”

354. Gothard did not want JANE DOE III to work. He just wanted her to come counsel with him personally to learn how to deal with the stress of her strained relationship with her father.

When Jane Doe III’s parents finally agreed to let her come to headquarters for several weeks, Gothard wanted to come pick her up in his van immediately. Her mother refused, insisting on driving her to headquarters herself the following week.

356. When JANE DOE III arrived at headquarters, Gothard announced: “the day I have been waiting for for six years—you are finally here.”

357. Gothard then informed JANE DOE III, that her “[f]ather has lost his authority over [her], because of his behavior. We are your family now.” He made an analogy to Jesus on the cross telling John to care for Mary, her mother.

Rather than counseling her, Gothard focused on convincing Jane Doe III to stay at headquarters permanently. He attempted to turn her against her mother, and to convince her to send her mother away. When Jane Doe III refused, and explained that her mother was her “best friend” and that she would not be separated from her, Gothard commented efforts to convince Jane’s mother to divorce her father and stay and work at headquarters.

361. Gothard would hold JANE DOE III’s hand, touch her hair, carries her, wink at her, whisper in her ear, kick her feet under the table, place his shoes on top of hers when sitting on the couch, and be very flirtatious with her. Frequently, he would press his thigh against hers while sitting together, place his arm along the top / back of the sofa or chair. He would complement her hair, smile and laugh several times per day. He directed her never to cut her hair. He would say to her: “[JANE DOE III] come over here.” “You belong here. Perfect Angel. Beautiful. Amazing.” He said to her: “I love you, you know that, right?” “Maybe you dad doesn’t love you, but I do.” “God has put a special love in my heart to you.” “You are my energy giver.” “I love being around you.” She felt that other people knew that she was one of “Gothard’s pets.” This made her uncomfortable and she would shake her head and with a stern look would frown and correct Gothard and tell him: “No, I’m not perfect.” Despite JANE DOE III’s clear disapproval, the unwelcome complements kept coming.

Gothard gave Jane Doe III his credit card to buy new clothes and had his assistant tell her that he was unhappy that her skirts were ankle length rather than calf length.

364. After ten days, JANE DOE III and her mother decided to leave. After Gothard tried another failed attempt to convince JANE DOE III’s mother to separate from / divorce her husband, Gothard attempted to have JANE DOE III stay by trying to get her to say that her mother was abusing her. Gothard asked: “How old are you again?” When JANE DOE III said: “18,” Gothard replied: “Well, if you were 17 we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, because I would call up DFS immediately and tell them you are being abused and have you taken away from home. After all, emotional stress is just as bad as physical abuse.”

In 2012, both Jane Doe III and her mother wrote about their experiences in comments on the Recovering Grace website. Gothard saw the posts and personally contacted Jane Doe III, verbally besetting her and accusing her of being a liar and of “trying to viciously destroy his life’s work and his entire organization.” Gothard continued to harass and verbally assault Jane Doe III until she removed her comments.

In 2014, Jane Doe III contacted IBLP headquarters hoping to talk to the IBLP Board of Directors about what had happened, but she was refused access. She managed to get in contact with the director of ATI, who told her the Christian Legal Association (CLA), which was conducting a review of the accusations, would be in contact with her. When she failed to hear from CLA, she contacted the group directly, leaving a detailed message. She never received a return call.

Jamie Deering

Jamie Deering was involved in IBLP’s ATI program beginning in 1992. In 1994, when she was 14, Gothard personally invited her to come to headquarters. Jamie’s story is much like those of Rachel Frost and Rachel Lees, with one exception. During a trip to Russia, something “very bad” occurred in the middle of the night that left Jamie sleeping on the couch in another couple’s room and led to Gothard being sent home. Jamie has not recovered full memory of the event, and has other memory gaps as well.

Beyond this, her experiences mirror those of other girls sexually abused by Gothard during these same years, with the same process of groom and the same “pet” status.

404. Gothard went so far as to make sure Ms. Deering’s bedroom was directly across form his office window, so he would know when she could come to his office, after everyone else had left.

. . .

407. As part of his sexual abuse of Ms. Deering, Gothard would tell her where to sit. Gothard would then sit across from her, with his legs spread wide apart. Gothard would frequently have an erection and he wanted Ms. Deering to know it.

408. On airplanes Gothard would have Ms. Deering sit next to him, and—under a blanket—he would touch her thighs and her hand. Ms. Deering was very uncomfortable with this and was afraid people would know what was occurring.

. . .

412. On one occasion, Gothard required Ms. Deering to touch his groin area on top of his clothing.

. . .

414. As a result of the special treatment and physical attention she received from Gothard, Ms. Deering was referred to as Gothard’s “pet,” his “type,” his “favorite,” or a “Gothard girl.” The sexual harassment and special attention were no secret. Gothard’s conduct was common knowledge to the IBLP staff.

At one point when Jamie was back at home, her father physically abused her. At a loss for what to do, Jamie called Gothard for help. Gothard refused to help in any way and did not report the incident to the authorities.

Ruth Copley Burger

Ruth is the adopted daughter of Kenneth Copley and lived at the Indianapolis Training Center from 1994 to 1995. Her father had already been forced out of a previous ministry due to sexual misconduct, and was forced to leave IBLP in 1995 due to “sexual misconduct involving other IBLP staff in the age range of 14 to 20 years old.” In 1994, when Ruth was 11 or 12 years old, Copley began sexually abusing Ruth. Copley used the IBLP facilities to conduct this abuse, which I will not describe.

Ruth has suffered PTSD and has been suicidal on multiple occasions, leading to two hospitalizations, as a result of the abuse she faced at the hands of her adoptive father. Ruth published an account of her abuse in 2010 or 2011 and added more details in 2012. Her allegations came to the attention of the IBLP Board of Directors, and were badly mishandled during the sham 2014 CLA investigation.

Conclusion

Over the past two years, multiple Gothard defenders have asked why, if all of this did happen, no one had had attempted a lawsuit. It’s ironic, really, because these are the same people who argue that Christians should not sue Christians, and should instead settle disputes within the church, and here the were, using the lack of a lawsuit as proof that there was nothing to the allegations. There were, of course, multiple barriers to starting a lawsuit, including the statute of limitations and the personal costs involved in doing so.

Still, I am glad to see that there is now a lawsuit, and I would like to hope that it will help put remaining objections to rest, bring justice for survivors, and save future young people from similar predation. I’ve said it before and I know I’ll say it again—evangelical Christians need to clean up their act when it comes to abuse. Between blaming victims for what happened to them, elevating religious leaders beyond question, and sweeping problems under the rug because they might detract from an organization’s “godly witness,” there are some serious problems that need addressing.

We can only hope that this lawsuit will prod others to clean their houses.