Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate: Part Two

Homeschool

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kallie Culver’s blog Untold Stories. It was originally published on June 16, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part One

Homeschooling: The Girl Behind the Mask

For my family, homeschooling was both a calling my parents felt and a practical venture for a season. I am the only child, in my family of nine children, who was homeschooled from Kindergarten through 12th grade. My parents initially started homeschooling my older sister and I for practical reasons. At first it was because the Christian school my older sister attended did not have room for both of us the year I was supposed to enter – so, rather than put us into two different schools, my mom chose to school us at home that year.

At that time, we lived in California, where my father was completing his Master’s in Divinity with the Master’s Seminary under the leadership of John MacArthur. It was also during this time that my parents befriended and came under the mentorship of Gary and Ann Marie Ezzo, the founders of Growing Families International, the authors of the well- known parenting book Baby Wise, and subsequent parenting curriculum Growing Kids Gods Way. After graduating from seminary, my father took the position of Texas State Director for Growing Families International, which allowed us to move back home to our family ranch in the Texas panhandle. For the three years my father held that job, it required him and my mom to travel all over the state of Texas and to surrounding states for numerous leadership and parenting conferences, often on a weekly basis. Given how extensive their travel schedule was, my parents found that homeschooling was a practical choice to continue.

However, after my Father resigned from that position and settled into life at the ranch permanently, the decision to homeschool moved from just being a practical one to something my parents felt God was calling our family to continue. Some of my parents’ best friends in the area were already homeschooling as well, and through them we had discovered an active homeschool group in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle area, known as the Santa Fe Trail Homeschool Association. We soon joined this group and met many family friends in the area who also homeschooled. Many of these families were also members of ATI, (Advanced Training Institute, under the leadership of Bill Gothard) so although we never officially joined ATI, we soon began to actively participate in several of their events, programs, and social networks. As we began to get more deeply involved with these homeschool circles, adopting the mindsets, teachings, social norms, and beliefs became second nature. The more time we spent and the deeper relationships we formed, the more natural it became.

Never for a moment did I ever think I would leave that community, much less question it, feel betrayed by it, or have aspects of it haunt me for years after I left it.

One of my greatest struggles in life stems from the fact that I have been a people pleaser from a young age. For a long time I believed my worth as a person and happiness in life were determined by the number of friends I had, making people happy, keeping the peace, and fitting in. I see now how that drive and belief affected everything about my young life. I can even see it intricately interwoven into my choice to adopt my family’s faith at eight years old.

For years, if someone asked me to put Jesus or my faith into one word – it was the word “Friend.” I remember, as a child, watching my friends and other members of my family go to the front of the church every first Sunday of the month for communion, but I was never allowed to go. So one Sunday when my father came back to the pew, I asked him, “Why can’t I take communion?” His response was that communion involved having a relationship with Jesus, and this was a way for those who wanted and lived out a relationship with Christ to remember Him and commune with Him. Of course he put that message in words that an eight year old would understand, but the heart of what I remember him saying was that you had to be friends with Jesus to take communion. That was something I could understand and was something I did not want to be left out of. So that day, right there in that pew I asked my dad if he could pray with me. In my simple understanding, I asked Jesus into my heart and to be my friend that would never leave me. That friendship is what I have clung to for years.

From then on, for many years, prayer for me was talking to my best friend. I could pray about whatever I was really feeling and I was never rejected or admonished for that. This is also what led to my first love for writing, as I began journaling at the age of nine, where I wrote to Jesus instead of in the common Dear Diary format. I have numerous journals saved in a box under my bed telling the saga of my childhood in letters to Jesus. That tradition stayed with me well into college, until I began to doubt whether even that friendship I trusted for so long would survive. Even then the journaling habit remained, while I just left the salutation off and continued writing in a conversation style wondering some days if the God I had been writing to for so long was really listening or had ever actually listened for that matter.

Through these years of being in a spiritual wilderness questioning everything, it has also been that foundational friendship that I keep coming back to. I know from both friends and others with similar backgrounds that, once they found the courage and were willing to strip away every aspect of their faith adopted because of family expectations, the community, a sense of obligation, or a lack of knowledge about any other alternative – for many there was nothing left. For those who have chosen to walk away from faith altogether, I value and respect them just as much as those who I know have wrestled to find new understandings of faith, because I know that, growing up the way we did, to make that decision is probably one of the hardest they will ever make. Choosing to hold up our beliefs to the light of truth and be deeply honest about what we can really stand behind with integrity is no small feat.

It would be so much easier in many cases to just be silent about how you really felt and keep up a mask for appearance’s sake. For me, when I strip everything away that I am holding onto just for loyalty, for loved ones, or for fear of the truth – I could never completely dismiss the relationship I have felt and built with God from a young age. It’s not for a lack of questioning the idea; it’s more that I know now, through countless sleepless nights wrestling over it with gut wrenching sobs, or laying there in the blackness with silent tears coursing down my cheeks, that despite all my confusion, my anger, my deepest fears, or my unanswered questions, I still can not deny that a relationship of a lifetime is there.

What makes me believe that? It’s not the numerous hours I spent in church, reading scripture, memorizing scripture, studying or debating doctrine, or living the quintessential Christian life. It’s the comfort I found as a child in believing I had a friend who actually cared. It’s the peace I grasped for as a teenager, who spent years hiding a paranoid fear of the dark and of rape. I can never forget the number of nights that I spent with a lamp on knowing that God was the only one listening and how prayer was often the only means for finding any sleep. It’s the faith and expression of God my husband saw in me that I couldn’t even see myself. Even though my faith and how I daily experience a relationship with God have changed, and even though there have been many days questioning its very existence – I know it is still there. Christ’s life still draws me with his exemplary compassion to serve and love people around him. There is a mystery, a silence, a peace, a love, and a source of life beyond me that still beckons me to rediscover faith on my own.

When it comes to honestly evaluating my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences concerning homeschooling, however, I see now that it was a perfect mask. It was a place where my people-pleasing personality, self-doubt, and self-hatred made me readily embrace the more legalistic homeschooling culture I was surrounded by.

I was twelve when I attended my first ATI Basic Seminar, and I went home vowing to never listen to music with a drum beat in it and to memorize all of Romans 6, 7, and 8. Next came the Advanced Seminar, followed by the Anger Resolution Seminar, both of which I came home from with lists of notes and new resolutions to follow. It frustrated me to no end at the time that my dad would never commit to actually joining ATI, and so I did my best to be a loyal follower without actually being a member. My sister and I excitedly signed up for the King’s Daughter Magazine, which we looked forward to every month to read about other girls out there living just like us learning how to be godly young women preparing to be godly wives and mothers.

I lived and breathed teachings on purity, modesty, and courtship, making sure I was a pristine example with every outfit, action, word, and thought. I watched the Character First! videos countless times, memorized the poems and songs, learned how to play them on the piano, and began to dream of the day I could go to a training center to teach it myself. That dream would later come true when I was seventeen and moved to the Oklahoma City ATI Training Center for my spring semester to work with the Character First team. The list of experiences I had and the norms I adopted are too many to list.

So what began as a lifestyle and calling for my parents, for me became a lifestyle and mantra of my own.

Homeschooling was the only right form of education, because even considering the alternative would mean admitting my doubts, questions, and envy of other kids my age that went to school. Those emotions I felt were weak and selfish, so I hid behind judging them for being different and felt sorry that they didn’t have parents who heard God like mine did. Judging them, preaching at them, pitying them, and praying for them became second nature, hiding the honesty of my envy and confusion. Just writing that makes my heart ache, when I think about the girl that I was back then. I think of the friends and extended family that I know who put up with me, while I pushed them further and further away with my arrogant self-righteousness. A girl so desperate to hide the world of fear I lived in. A girl who touted the good girl routine like her life depended on it, because to ever put down that mask was unthinkable.

Emily Freeman could not have worded my life more perfectly when she wrote, “I was a good girl and I wanted to be a good girl, but it often kept me from saying what I really meant.” In fact, my desire to be good even kept me from exploring my own opinion, and I grew up to believe that my opinions didn’t actually matter much anyway. I avoided vulnerability for fear of being rejected or being labeled as needy. Good girls aren’t needy; they are needed. And so instead of living free, I lived safe.

To admit I wanted or needed something different meant I questioned God and my parents. To be myself was something I was convinced no one wanted or cared to even notice. I gobbled up legalism, rules, and doctrine like they were food for my soul. A list to perform… Perfection and routine… I could do that. It would take years before I realized I was on a train headed for nowhere but endless heartache. It would take my entire world being shattered before I would come to understand that not only was God not looking for me to be perfect, but also people who really loved me weren’t looking for that either. In reality, all I wanted was to feel I belonged, but instead all I knew how to do was to try to fit in, and my efforts continually left me wanting.

Brene Brown so poignantly states, “We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them— denying our vulnerabilities and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness. Perfectionism is exhausting because hustling is exhausting. It’s a never-ending performance.”

This was my world.

Homeschooling for me was a never-ending, exhausting performance.

Part Three>

A Call for Stories for HA’s Upcoming Series on Gothardism and ATI

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

*****

It is time for Homeschoolers Anonymous to talk about Bill Gothard.

It is time to speak up about Gothard, the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and Gothard’s homeschooling cult, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). 

IBLP was founded in 1961 and it grew consistently over the next two decades as hundreds of thousands were exposed to Gothardism.  At first, the seminar was called Basic Youth Conflicts and Gothard focused on the causes of, and solutions to, teenage rebellion.  He expanded with the Institute of Basic Life Principles (often called the Basic Seminar), which covered more general life advice and expanded on themes of forgiveness, the wrath of God, and other ways to apply fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture to your life. Gothard told stories about wooden “African masks” screaming when families to burned them (to release the demons). Bill Gothard built a vast multi-million dollar ministry with many facilities and programs across the United States, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Some Terminology

IBLP is the parent organization, headquartered in Illinois on a vast campus.  IBLP has a plethora of different organizations within it. I will explain some of the terminology that you will see in this series.  IBLP refers to Bill Gothard’s seminar series — usually given in churches or in home for those who cannot access a conference.

Gothard founded a series of training centers, youth “retreats,” and international orphanages (in Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Ukraine – usually on property gifted to him by devoted followers, and thousands of young people in ATI spent months – sometimes years – volunteering or serving at these “ministries.”

ATI was Gothard’s homeschooling cult, founded in  1984, sold Wisdom Booklets as the primary curriculum.  Wisdom Booklets were a set of 54 booklets with sections on science, math, history, English, and course, ancient Greek.  ATI describes the Wisdom Booklets like this on their website:

In most educational systems today, the curriculum divides learning into academic subjects that are studied independently of one another. In some schools, the Bible is added as merely another subject to be studied. The ATI curriculum however, begins with Scripture and then combines valuable information with character training and life principles.

Each of the fifty-four Wisdom Booklets was based on a verse from Matthew chapters five through seven.  The Wisdom Booklets were divided into linguistics, history, science, law, and medicine sections, the subjects were not taught in any sort of order.  Rather, the subject or issue being covered was related back to the Bible verse. Jeri Lofland wrote a fantastic article about Gothard’s philosophy on education, available here.

Jim Logan, one of Gothard’s closest friends and ideological allies, told stories (at all sorts of IBLP events and programs) of exorcisms and demonic possessions, which bolstered Gothard’s message about spiritual warfare.  If you want to see the sort of thing he teaches, watch this sermon about the “Manifestations of Demons.”

One of the most troubling IBLP affiliations is Joel’s Army, which uses a disturbingly militaristic tone (there are two good investigative features here and here).

But not all of Gothard’s non-profits organizations are strictly focused on promoting Gothard’s brand of fundamentalism.  In fact, he has made a concerted effort to gain influence in secular circles domestically and internationally (especially in Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine).

The Character First! program, which I helped lead in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, taught character qualities to public school children gathered in an auditorium.  The sessions were never overtly religious.

Through the Character City program Gothard succeeded in bringing his message to a wider audience – municipal employees.   For more information you can check out this training manual for “How to Build a Character City.”

Jeri Lofland published another great article on the political reach and influence of Bill Gothard available here.  Mike Huckabee is one of the most prominent politicians adhering to Gothardism.

The Umbrella of Authority

Central to Gothardism is the “Umbrella of Authority,” which explains how God reveals his will and why people can be exposed to evil.

Gothard believed the nuclear family unit to be the central unit in proper Christian living and all divine inspiration flowed through the male head of household – typically the father.  All members of the household should subordinate themselves to the male head, or risk attack from Satan.  Because if you stray outside the Umbrella of Authority, God allows Satan to have his way with you.  If it was God’s will for you to, say go and be a missionary, your father would agree with you.  His disagreement would be a sign that it was not God’s will.  Gothard also preached that music with a “backbeat” was literally opening up young people’s minds to Satan and causing rebellion, which he justified with some creative racism.

Through the IBLP video seminar, the Advanced Seminar, the preaching of Bill Gothard and his disciples, hundreds of thousands were exposed to his teachings.  In the early-1980s, Parents who wished to apply Gothardism in a more radical manner to their lives could enroll in the Advanced Training Institute.  There was a yearly conference in Knoxville, which eventually spread to half a dozen satellite locations across the US, and all the youth were required to wear navy and white. Once a year the people of Knoxville would joke about the cult that descended on the University of Tennessee campus

My family joined ATI in the mid-1990s and we quickly became eager devotees to the teachings of Bill Gothard. My parents were first exposed to Gothard’s teachings at an IBLP seminar, which consisted of Bill Gothard covering all the things you needed to know to live happy and healthy.  Nuggets of wisdom like most mental health problems were caused by Satan building strongholds in your mind, that Rock and Roll music especially opened up young people to Satanic influence because the African-Americans brought their demon-worshipping beats from Africa, or that spiritual authority in a house flowed through the father, then to other members of the family.

To summarize Gothard’s view on music, when the Africans were brought to America as slaves, they brought with them their music. The African music was built around complex beats and rhythms, which Gothard claimed were used in their Satanic rituals.  The African-American slaves continued their tradition of “rhythmic demon worship,” but it slowly morphed into what we know as the blues. Gothard argued that early blues musicians literally “sold their soul to the devil” to expertly play the guitar. Gothard traced these Demon Beats through their development into Elvis’ rock and roll. He made it very clear that the Africans corrupted “white music” with their Demon Beats.

In my discussion with alumni of Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute and reading through stories of alumni, I have discovered a number of troubling patterns and trends in parent-child relationships. I believe that ATIs doctrines and ideology promote spiritual abuse and dysfunctional families.

HA’s Current Stories on Gothard and ATI

HA has featured some stories about ATI and the impact on families of involvement in Gothardism. Ralph discussed his experience with ALERT, the quasi-paramilitary force trained in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Big Sandy, TX.  One of our most shocking stories of physical and sexual abuse, Mary’s “Home is Where the Hurt Is,” occurred in a well-known ATI family.

Two of our anonymous posters, “Cain” and “Thomas” (friends during their time in ATI), wrote about some of their spiritual and emotional abuse as a members of ATI, which included book burnings.  Cain recalled an instance of when a specific rock and roll song stopped him from considering suicide, despite the depression and desperation imposed by ATI’s ideolgies. “Esperanza” wrote about how the forced veneer of being a “perfect ATI girl” led her to self-injury. “George,” raised in ATI, tells of his journey to homosexuality and freedom. “Susannah” wrote about her complex PTSD and how ATI’s toxic teachings on mental health impacted her life.

Jeri Lofland discussed the impacts on her life of ATI’s teachings on her life.   Adam O’Connor published two poems about ATI’s encouraged book burning and their miseducation through the Wisdom Booklets (“Bonfire Chorus,” and “homeskooled )q.e.d.)”    Lana Hope wrote about ATI’s arcane doctrines on sexuality and why she rejected them.

Submit Your Story!

You might think, “Wow! HA already has a lot of stories about ATI, why have more?”  Trust me — we have only scratched the surface. I have been blown away by the response to my initial discussion among our alumni community. People are excited to tell their ATI stories.  If you want to contribute, but don’t know what to write, simply read through these stories and let the memories come back to you.  Try to capture the memories, and your more mature perspective now, in writing. Not all of your memories may be negative, so feel free to submit positive stories.  We do not want to present a one-sided story, just the truth.

The deadline for submission is Sunday, December 8, 2013.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.

The Political Reach of Bill Gothard: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

Bill Gothard, Mike Huckabee, and the Leiningers at a 2007 Huckabee for President fundraiser.
Bill Gothard, Mike Huckabee, and the Leiningers at a 2007 Huckabee for President fundraiser.

Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland  on September 5, 2013. It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations”, “Of Isolation and Community”, “His Quiver Full of Them”, and “David Noebel, Summit Ministries, and the Evil of Rock”.

With Bill Gothard’s ceaseless emphasis on authority, obedience, and chain-of-command, it should be no surprise that he is compulsively attracted to men (and more rarely, women) whom he perceives to be in a position of power. He believes without question that his organization has answers that can solve the problems faced by any public official, if they can only work together to promote Gothard’s vision.

This characteristic has resulted in an extensive mycelial network whereby Gothard silently influences public policy across the country.

Its reach is difficult to measure, however. While Gothard loves to privately advertise his latest affiliations, he always exaggerates their scope or significance. And he frequently drops an old project when something shinier comes along.

Below I list some of Gothard’s better-known political alliances*. Since I left the organization in 1999, there are undoubtedly more fibers of connection now than I am able to trace here. As time passes, however, we can also see more clearly whether his “new approach” has yielded “lasting solutions” for those who have advocated them.

*There is no doubt that Gothard favors conservative political causes. I once heard him describe Rush Limbaugh as “our man on the radio”.

INDIANA

During his two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, Stephen Goldsmith partnered with Gothard to create the Indianapolis Training Center, selling a city-owned building to IBLP for a token $1 around 1993. During Goldsmith’s unsuccessful bid for Governor, ITC staff (many of them minors, most from other states, some salaried by the non-profit IBLP and others paying for the educational opportunity of working there) assisted the mayor’s campaign, running a mailing center from the top floor of the hotel and handing out campaign literature at polling places on Election Day. Some even registered to vote in Marion County to support him.

George W. Bush later made Goldsmith his chief domestic policy adviser. 

Goldsmith “helped formulate the president’s ‘faith-based initiatives’, which give tax dollars to churches.” In 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose Goldsmith to be his deputy mayor of operations, a position which included oversight of law enforcement agencies.

Goldsmith’s domestic policy came into question when he was arrested for assaulting his wife, Margaret in their home. Though Margaret later recanted her story, Goldsmith was pressured to resign. According to Mr. Bloomberg, “I think that domestic violence is a phenomenally serious scourge on our society. We work very hard to attack the problem of domestic violence and the implication — the accusation — unfortunately made it untenable for him to continue to work for the city.” Stephen Goldsmith filed for divorce earlier this year.

Back in Indianapolis, Margaret Goldsmith had worked for juvenile court judge James Payne, who used his court to send delinquent Marion County youth to the Indianapolis Training Center as an alternative juvenile detention facility. Despite investigations into allegations of child abuse at the ITC, Judge Payne was made Director of Indiana Department of Child Services, a post from which he resigned last year after charges of interference with a DCS neglect case involving his grandchildren.

FLORIDA

With support from followers Rep. Steven Wise (R-Jacksonville) and now-Congressman Dan Webster (R-Orlando), Gothard considered opening a similar youth training center in Jacksonville, Florida in 1997. Though that never materialized, Jacksonville children were sent by the court system to the correctional residential program at ITC.

Delinquent youths were designated “Leaders-In-Training” and spent their days studying the Bible, watching Bill Gothard lecture videos, doing the chores necessary to run a hotel, filling in homeschooling workbooks from Accelerated Christian Education, memorizing character qualities, and dressing up for dinner. Denim, television, and rock music were strictly forbidden. Discipline reportedly included solitary confinement in “prayer rooms” and spanking without parental notification.

According to The Cult Education Institute, former Florida governor Jeb Bush “implemented Gothard’s controversial character education program, Character First!, at his charter school in Liberty City.

The governor also publicly encouraged the Palm Beach County School Board to approve Character First!, which is also listed as a model program in state law.”  (Watch for more on the Character Training Institute in a future post.)

ARKANSAS

Gothard touts former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee‘s name on materials promoting his “Character Cities” initiative. The two were photographed together at a private campaign luncheon in Houston in late 2007.

For years, Gothard cultivated close ties to Huckabee, an alumnus of Gothard’s “Basic Seminar”, and to Jim Dailey, mayor of Little Rock. With encouragement from Mayor Dailey, Gothard opened his Little Rock Training Center in an empty VA hospital purchased by Hobby Lobby and donated to Gothard’s Institute.

Despite Gothard’s grandiose vision, the enormous structure was in poor repair and was never utilized as fully as the Indianapolis facility. Still, it served as a base for the Institute’s prison ministry. Gothard quotes Governor Huckabee’s support for conducting his seminars for Arkansas inmates: “I am confident that these are some of the best programs available for instilling character into the lives of people.”

Having gotten his foot in the door in Arkansas, Gothard combined forces with CCA, the nation’s largest operator of privatized correctional institutions, to promote his intense lecture-based seminars inside more prisons.

Gothard was enthusiastic about character education being made mandatory in Arkansas schools and visualized schools restructured into age-integrated “learning teams” instead of age-segregated classrooms. The Institute also operated a secretive character-building Eagle Springs program for youth in rural Altheimer, Arkansas. (The Eagle Springs program was later moved to Skiatook, Oklahoma. Many allegations of corruption and abuse have been made by girls who participated in the program involuntarily.)

Another Gothard devotee is Jim Bob Duggar, a Springdale Republican who served two terms in the State House, now best known for the reality show “Nineteen Kids & Counting“. Not only are the Duggars enrolled in Gothard’s homeschooling program, the Advanced Training Institute, their family website links to at least twenty Institute programs and calls Gothard’s organization their “#1 Recommended Resource“. Jim Bob and wife Michelle are featured speakers at ATI national conferences.

Though Duggar lost his last two election bids, he hasn’t abandoned politics. During the 2012 presidential primary, Jim Bob and his well-known family campaigned for candidate Rick Santorum. Duggar’s oldest daughter has worked closely with the current IBLP indoctrination program for girls, while his oldest son now directs political lobbying for the conservative Family Research Council.

OKLAHOMA

The Family Research Council was founded by Jerry Regier* in 1983. He was succeeded as president by Gary Bauer and eventually became a versatile member of Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating’s administration. Regier was Keating’s Cabinet Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as Acting Director of the State Department of Health, tasked with reinventing “the scandal-ridden” agency. Like Mayor Goldsmith in Indianapolis, he is a proponent of partnerships between government departments and the faith community. Under his leadership, Oklahoma became inundated with materials from the Institute’s character training program, which was largely created at Gothard’s training center campus in the heart of Oklahoma City.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, “Regier brought Character First! management training to the Department of Juvenile Justice [in Oklahoma]. In this program, employees are recognized on their anniversaries and birthdays for certain character traits they exhibit. He encouraged the use of several of Gothard’s programs with juvenile offenders before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 1996, including a “log cabin ministry” that places juvenile offenders in cabins in the wilderness with peers who are trained by Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute.”

Like the Indianapolis Training Center, the Oklahoma building was formerly a hotel. It was purchased by Kimray, Inc. and leased to IBLP for $1 a year. Kimray is run by Tom Hill, who served on Gothard’s Board of Directors for over a decade and piloted the secular adaptation of Gothard’s “character qualities” in his company.

Gothard gathered support from numerous state and local officials prior to establishing operations in Oklahoma. A 1994 news article lists several:

Several local officials wrote letters to Mayor Ron Norick supporting Gothard’s program, including state Rep. Carolyn Coleman, R-Moore, and Sen.Howard Hendrick, R-Bethany. Both joined other local officials in a visit to Gothard’s juvenile education center in a renovated Indianapolis hotel last spring.

With them were Richard DeLaughter, assistant Oklahoma City police chief, and John Foley, director of Oklahoma County’s juvenile division.

DeLaughter said… the facility emphasizes the Bible “so it obviously is not for every kid and every family. ” “I don’t think anybody thought it was the end all and be all answer for every one of our juvenile problems,” he said. “As an option, it was pretty good. “

Rep. Joan Greenwood (R-Moore) was a homeschooling mom who used Gothard’s curriculum. Howard Hendrick later served as Director of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services. At Hendrick’s retirement, he was replaced by former Oklahoma City prosecutor Wes Lane, who has been a speaker at Gothard’s “Character Cities” conferences. On the DHS Commission, Lane was responsible for investigations into cases of child abuse and neglect.

Congresswoman Mary Fallin (now Governor of Oklahoma) joined Tom Hill and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in welcoming attendees at a Character First! conference. That 2009 conference was held at the refurbished hotel where I served as an ATI student volunteer in 1999. I remember the character posters on the walls in the lobby, and reciting Bible passages to one of the “adults” (I was in my twenties) before dinner–the only meal offered on Sundays–was served in the dining room.* (Governor Keating later recommended Jerry Regier for a post in Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s administration. When Bush made Regier his Secretary of Children and Families, Regier quickly implemented the CharacterFirst! program within the department. Regier now works in the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.)

GEORGIA

Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, has spoken at national IBLP conferences. The Insurance Commissioner for the State of Georgia, Ralph Hudgens, is not only an ATI homeschooling dad but also sits on the Institute’s mostly harmless Board of Directors.

TEXAS

Another “advisory board” member whose name no longer appears on the IBLP website is San Antonio billionaire Dr. James Leininger, a shrewd investor described as “one of the most powerful people in Texas politics”. Leininger and Rick Perry have had a rewarding symbiotic relationship for many years as Perry rose through Texas state politics. See a photo of Bill Gothard and Mike Huckabee with Dr. Leininger at his Houston home on Flickr.

Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX) formerly chaired the IBLP board and has recognized Gothard’s Institute from the House floor.