Please Don’t Deny Our Agency

 

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on November 16, 2015.

I wrote the first draft of this post last summer. I wasn’t satisfied with it as it was, so I set it aside and promptly forgot about it. A conversation with one of my sisters reminded me of the post, so I’ve pulled it out and dusted it up.

In writing, last summer, about Josh Duggar’s Ashley Madison account, I noted that:

Josh and Anna didn’t have sex until they married, so they had no way of knowing whether they are sexually compatible. Further, Josh doesn’t believe in birth control and he and his wife Anna have had four kids in five years. There is no way this hasn’t taken a tole on the couple’s sex life. Josh also does not believe in divorce. None of this justifies Josh’s cheating. He is a grown man, and in choosing the beliefs he has he has made his own bed.

Quite a few commenters objected, arguing that Josh didn’t chose his beliefs, his parents chose them for him. While I understand where this is coming from, I have a problem with where this logic leads—namely, that any individual who grows up in the Christian homeschooling movement and does not deviate from their parents’ beliefs as an adult is some sort of automaton, bereft of agency.

I grew up as the oldest of a dozen homeschooled children in a family similar to Josh’s in many ways. If I hadn’t left the fold, I would probably be pregnant with my fifth child right now and homeschooling my oldest, but instead I am part of the Homeschoolers Anonymous community, one of scores of other young adults now critical of our Christian homeschool upbringings. While I was not raised in ATI, as Josh was, dozens of individuals of my generation who were have formed Recovering Grace and found other outlets for opposing Bill Gothard’s cultish teachings.

What I am trying to say is simply this: Being raised in a Christian homeschooling home does not rob a person of agency. If it did, I would not be where I am today.

It’s true Christian homeschooling is often centered around ensuring that children will adopt their parents’ beliefs, but you know what? We all turn 18 at some point, and at some point we leave home. When we become adults, we make our own choices. Some of us chose to reject our parents’ beliefs entirely. Others pick through, keeping some things and setting aside others. Still others choose to make our parents’ beliefs our own. We exercise our agency in different ways, but we do have agency.

I am familiar with the concept of “bounded choices.” I understand that some of us have more room to question than others, that some of us have more exposure to other people and beliefs than others, and that some of us have more resources and marketable skills than others.

There are indeed young women in these communities who go straight from their parent’s home to their husband’s home, with no college or job skills, and immediately commence bearing and raising children. But you know what? Telling these women that they only believe what they do because their parents taught it to them, denying their agency and their ability to make their own choices—these things will only contribute to the sort of infantilization many of us experienced as adolescents. It doesn’t help.

That conversation I had with my sister? She wanted to make sure that I respected her agency. She was concerned that I knew that she held the same beliefs as our parents because she believed them for herself and not because it was what she had been taught. She was worried that, because I had a rather dramatic experience of resorting and choosing my beliefs as a young adult, I might assume that she was not exercising her own agency. She wanted to make sure I saw her as an autonomous person making her own choices.

When we speak of young Christian homeschool graduates being “brainwashed” we push people like my sister away. When we affirm their agency and autonomy (while also challenging their beliefs when necessary) we help promote both. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider the challenges faced by homeschool alumni from controlling or dogmatic homes, and we should absolutely promote greater freedom and openness by speaking out against harmful practices and supporting scholarships and other initiatives to help those who may find themselves stuck. But denying the agency of those who espouse their parent’s beliefs helps none of this. We can affirm agency while also promoting expanded options.

But let’s return to Josh Duggar. Some of you may argue that Josh was, in some sense, trapped. He had a wife and four children and no marketable job skills that he could apply outside of his parents’ circles of influence.

Let me tell you a story about a Christian homeschool graduate who, like Josh, courted, married, and set up house with a young woman who had just graduated from homeschooling herself. Together they had four children in five years. This homeschool graduate was trained for the ministry, and only for ministry, and was expected to follow in paternal footsteps. In the early years of marriage the fledgling family was financially dependent on family. Small children in tow, the young family moved several states away for a new job pastoring a church.

Are you noticing some parallels? You should be. Josh also married young through a parent-controlled courtship, had four children in five years, was financially dependent on his father, and moved several states away to take up a much-lauded job doing what he was expected to do to further the family name.

But this story ends differently. This homeschool graduate struggled with dysphoria, entered a period of intense questioning, and then left the approved path. Though assigned male at birth, this homeschool graduate came out as transgender and transitioned to living openly as a woman. She left the ministry and had to find an entirely new career, starting from scratch with four children to care for. Neither she nor her wife had any job skills to fall back on. And yet, they overcame overcame. You can read Haley’s story, as told by her wife Melissa, here.

Hayley chose to question her parents’ beliefs and leave their subculture. Josh chose to adopt his parents believes and stay in their subculture. Both had agency.

Yes, children who grow up in Christian homeschooling families are often more sheltered than other children. We may study out of textbooks that are extremely limited in ideological scope. We may not have any friends whose beliefs differ from ours. But the entire premise of this blog and so many others is that Christian homeschooling does not work. Children are wildcards, not robots waiting for programming. Regardless of how controlling our parents may be during our childhoods, once we turn 18 we make our own decisions. Please do not deny us that.

 

Stop “Knowing” What Anna Duggar Will Do

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on September 12, 2015.

The downside of the cute, quiet  ATI-patriarchal-quiverfull life of the Duggar family is now all over mainstream media. While it’s somewhat of a relief to see the public realize that conservative homeschooling is not as innocent as it seems, as an ATi alum myself, it’s also gets very triggering and downright weary to hear the media mock my childhood leaders as if it’s nothing but a good story for them. Likewise, seeing the Duggar kids pictures on the front page of the tabloids makes me sad. The Duggars aren’t a juicy story to devour. They are a broken, hurting family.

I don’t like what the Duggars have done and are doing, never will, but I am so sick of the media turning the victims into a juicy headline, as they seek to ‘unlock’ what Anna Duggar will do. Poor Anna, she is a headline: “Anna Duggar won’t leave Josh,” the headlines read. In philosophy, we call reducing a woman to a headline the equivalent to reducing her to an object.

Here is what I want to know: How does the media know Anna won’t leave Josh?

They are guessing.

The media is browsing around ‘interviewing’ homeschool alumni or any and everyone who can give them a juicy line about what it’s like to be a Duggar. But none of the juicy lines, usually which were pulled out of context without really understanding of the greater picture, yield any real knowledge of what Anna Duggar will do. The media is guessing.

We need to stop ‘knowing’ what Anna Duggar is going to do.

The media is assuming Anna won’t leave based upon what they think women in cults do when they are cheated upon. But here is the deal. I grew up ATI, and I have seen families divorce on grounds of infidelity. I’ve seen them not.

The media is going to assume the worse about cults, the darkest reality of a cult, not because they care about Anna, but if they can make the ATI religious group the darkest and most freaky group humanly possible, than they can get more page views. So ‘homeschool leaders could support her’ isn’t a good headline. ‘Anna is trapped for sure’ is a much better pickup line.

I should mention that if Anna wants to leave, she does have Biblical grounds for divorce. No, not everyone will argue that she has Biblical grounds for divorce (i.e. John Piper), but she has it, and most Christians know it.

I should mention that even the extreme fundamentalist leader Kevin Swanson recently admitted that Josh Duggar is a disgrace in the podcast Homeschool Murderers. Even leaders are starting to think Josh is kind of evil.

Within Anna’s own family, some have supported Anna all the way, including one of her siblings and cousin Amy. She and Josh have a lot of siblings; I’m sure there are plenty more who will also support her if she divorces Josh.

I do believe that if Anna wants to get out, she will find people within conservative homeschooling who won’t condemn her for divorcing Josh and won’t blame her for not having enough sex with him.

Josh didn’t just cheat. He willingly walked into bars, willingly set up profiles online, and cheated on her over and over. People know they can’t blame Anna for that. Sure, some of the homeschoolers will say Anna just should have had more sex with her wayward husband. But for pete’s sake, she was extremely pregnant with her fourth child when some of this was going on. Leaders can try to ‘blame Anna,’ sure, but it’s going to collapse in their faces. Plus Josh’s parents wouldn’t have sent him away if they thought more married sex was going to cure him.

It won’t be easy for Anna to leave, but she can, if she wants.

Another thing I keep hearing: “Anna Duggar won’t leave because she’s brainwashed.”

Stop calling homeschool alumni brainwashed. It’s insulting and rude.

At this point, we don’t know if Anna will leave or not. It’s her choice, not our choice. It could take her days, months, or years to work this out. Everyone has a different journey. But I believe in Anna, just like I believe in all other homeschool alumni. If other homeschool alumni have escaped, so can Anna.

I don’t have a clue what Anna will do. Neither does the media. But Anna owns this story. It’s her story, not ours, and the media needs to quite telling Anna’s story.

They need to quit ‘knowing’ what Anna will do.

Josh Duggar’s Treatment Center’s Troubling Connections to Child, Sexual Abuse Cover-Ups

Image of convicted child molestor Jack Schaap, whose sermons Reformers Unanimous recommends to its students (including Josh Duggar).

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 20, 2015.

Earlier this week Josh Duggar checked into Reformers Unanimous (RU), a Christian residential addiction treatment program in Rockford, Illinois, run by North Love Baptist Church and co-founded by the church’s authoritarian Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, Paul Kingsbury. Over the past twenty-four-hours, I have spoken with a number of individuals involved with or affected by either North Love or Kingsbury. Of primary importance are allegations that Kingsbury is actively supporting an accused sex offender, Richard DeVall, who is serving as a missionary in Bolivia and is sponsored by North Love Baptist Church. If true, this would seem to disqualify Kingsbury from running a recovery program for individuals suffering from porn addiction and sex addiction*, but Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches seem to run by their own rules.

There are some striking similarities here. After Josh Duggar molested his younger sisters as a teenager, he was sent to one of Bill Gothard’s training centers to take part in a construction program while receiving Christian mentoring. A decade later, Bill Gothard resigned after several dozen women leveled accusations of sexual abuse against him. This time Josh has been sent to Reformers Unanimous, a program founded by a church that has a history of involvement in Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles and which focuses on physical labor and Bible study. Paul Kingsbury, co-founder and chair of Reformers Unanimous, is alleged to be providing financial support through his church to an accused sex offender who has refused to return to the country to face charges. In other words, the Duggars appear to have sent Josh for round two of the same failed treatment.

In this article, I will lay out the case against Kingsbury in four sections. First I will examine Kingsbury’s relationship with Jack Schaap, who was convicted in 2013 of violating the Mann Act by transporting a minor across state lines for sex. Next I will look at Kingsbury’s alleged role in preventing accused sex offender Richard DeVall from coming to justice. Third, I will examine Kingsbury’s alleged history of failing to notify parishioners and others when a known sex offender is in their midst. Finally, I will look at the strict authoritarian manner in which Kingsbury allegedly runs North Love Baptist Church. I will finish by turning back to the Duggars and tying together some of the overarching themes running through this story.

Kingsbury’s Relationship with Convicted Abuser Jack Schaap

According to his bio on the North Love website, Kingsbury “surrendered to serve Christ with his life under the preaching ministry of Dr. Jack Hyles of Hammond, Indiana” and went on to graduate from Hyles-Anderson College. Jack Hyles spent the last decade of his life embroiled in controversy over a child sexual abuse coverup in his church. His son-in-law, Jack Schaap, who succeeded him as pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond after his death in 2001, is currently serving a twelve year prison sentence for violating the Mann Act in connection with a sexual relationship with 16- and 17-year-old parishioner. During the trial, it came to light that Schaap had groomed the minor during counseling sessions and had sex with her in his office.

Kingsbury’s relationship with First Baptist Church of Hamnond and Hyles-Anderson is longstanding. Dan Parsons, who attended a Christian school run by North Love in the late 1970s and taught at the same school in the late 1980s, told me that students from the school were taken annually to youth conferences at Hyles-Anderson. Indeed, Kingsbury appears to maintain a relationship with First Baptist Church of Hammond and Hyles-Anderson to this day—he spoke at a Bible conference at First Baptist Church of Hammond only months after Schaap was sentenced.

Further, First Baptist Church of Hammond operates a chapter of Reformers Unanimous. This program was first brought to the church by now-imprisoned Jack Schaap. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that a sermon by Jack Schaap remains on a list of sermons Reformers Unanimous “recommends heartily” to RU students. According to Chicago magazine, Schaap was “part of what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse.” I was unable to find Kingsbury’s response to Schaap’s conviction, but I did find comments by one of his parishioners condemning those who would condemn Schaap and invoking Kingsbury as her authority for doing so. Kingsbury’s relationship with Schaap—and Schaap’s relationship with Reformer’s Unanimous—raises concerning questions about the culture of Reformers Unanimous.

Kingsbury’s Alleged Support for an Accused Sex Offender

Several years ago, Bob Jones University invited GRACE, an organization run by Billy Graham’s grandson and Liberty University professor Boz Tchividijian, to conduct an investigation of their handling of rape and sexual assault on campus. The final report released by GRACE detailed a situation in the early 1990s where BJU expelled and then readmitted a man accused of sexual assault. According to the GRACE report, “the alleged perpetrator minimized the extent of his crime, but he admitted to touching her inappropriately without her consent while he believed she was sleeping.” The perpetrator was readmitted to BJU after claiming that he had reconciled with his victim, but this was later revealed to be a lie.

This man, identified as Richard DeVall, is currently serving as a missionary in Bolivia. According to the GRACE report, his victim finally went to the authorities in 2012. Shortly after this she received a letter of apology from DeVall. Not satisfied, she contacted DuVall’s missionary agency, Baptist Pioneer Mission (BPM), asking them to remove him from the field “due to potential risks he could pose to others.” They refused, telling her that DeVall “had been repentant to the mission board by confessing his offense and writing a letter of apology.” When she asked whether BPM would encourage DeVall to return to the United States to face charges for his crime, the board responded that they would “use any legal means to protect” DeVall. In spite of claiming in his apology letter that he would “cooperate and work with all those who are involved in the issue,” DeVall insisted that the matter must be handled “in a Biblical way” and, according to GRACE, has refused to return to the United States to face criminal charges.

BMP’s listing of policies and procedures states that “To be eligible for appointment with BPM, the missionary applicant must be a member of and commissioned by his or her New Testament church.” According to my sources, North Love Baptist Church is DeVall’s sending church. Kingsbury, as pastor of North Love, promoted DeVall’s mission work on his blog in February 2012. The month before, in January 2012, DeVall gave a sermon at North Love. BJUGrace, a Facebook group dedicated to seeking “grace and truth, righteousness and peace in the abuse allegations at Bob Jones University,” recently posted regarding the connections between Kingsbury and DeVall as well. According to BPM’s website, “BPM will only serve individuals who are recognized and commissioned by their local church to engage in missionary work (church planting).” While BPM is DeVall’s sending agency, North Love plays a crucial role as his sending church, and as senior pastor, much of the responsibility for this falls on Kingsbury.

One would think that accusations of sexual assault leveled against a missionary would lead a church to have second thoughts about sending them into the field, but it appears that this has not occurred in DeVall’s case in spite of the fact that both my sources and BJUGrace allege that Kingsbury was notified some time ago of the details of DeVall’s crime. Kingsbury may believe DeVall has repented of his past sin and reformed his ways. This would be in keeping with IFB theology and Gothard’s teachings, but it flies in the face of DeVall’s unwillingness to return to the U.S. where he faces the possibility of criminal charges. If it is true that North Love is continuing to sponsor DeVall even with Kingsbury’s knowledge of the allegations against him, and that they have sent him into the field and are keeping him there out of fear that he will face criminal charges if he returns to the U.S., these are serious charges indeed. What impact might such unwillingness to take sexual abuse seriously and such inattention to systems of accountability have on the culture and teachings of Reformers Unanimous?

Kingsbury’s Alleged Failure To Warn Parishioners against Sex Offenders

Working alongside Kingsbury, Pastor Ray Borah served as the Academic Dean of North Love Baptist Collegepastor at North Love Baptist Church, and counselor at Reformers Unanimous. Before coming to North Love, Borah was employed as a youth pastor at a church in Florida. While serving as youth pastor, Borah, who had been married for well over a decade, allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage girl and became sexually involved with two other teenagers in his youth group. It is not clear whether Kingsbury knew of these allegations when Borah joined North Love, though the recent GRACE investigation revealed that the allegations had been reported to Bob Jones University some time before Borah joined Kingsbury’s pastoral staff, but were not investigated.

About three years ago, Borah committed another sexual offense, this one at North Love itself. What happened is unclear and has been subject to much rumor. While there is little definitive information, we do know that at this time Borah parted ways with North Love. According to sources I have spoken with, neither Kingsbury nor anyone else at North Love warned either parishioners or others who came in contact with Borah after he left North Love about Borah’s offense. This put additional individuals at risk.

This is not the first time Kingsbury has been involved in a failure to notify parishioners or other relevant parties that they have a sex offender in their midst. According to Parsons, in the late 1970s, when Kingsbury was a youth pastor at North Love, the English teacher and basketball coach at the school attached to the church was “caught peeping into the girls’ locker room.” The man was forced to confess, but the confession was kept extremely vague—”I got away from the Lord”—and no one was notified what he had done. “That was all hush hush,” Parsons told me. “Nobody who knew was permitted to talk about it.” This man was let go from the school, but was not blacklisted in any fashion. As a result, he simply traveled to another state and found a job at a Christian school there.

While Kingsbury was not senior pastor during the situation involving the school’s English teacher and basketball coach, as youth pastor he presumably participated in keeping the matter quiet and learned by example how affairs of this sort should be handled. Indeed, Kingsbury, who became senior pastor in 1982, only a few years after this incident, describes the senior pastor at the time as his “mentor.” In allegedly failing to notify others when they have a sex offender in their midst, Kingsbury has put others at risk and has shown himself to be either unaware of or uncaring about best practices for handling sexual abuse. This does not bode well for the practices of Reformers Unanimous, which Kingsbury co-founded and which continues to operate under his direction as chairman.

“The Authority To Do Whatever He Wanted”

In perhaps the most startling part of our conversation, Parsons described an alternative Halloween activity that Kingsbury put on during the late 1970s as an example of Kingsbury’s abusive and manipulative tactics. As Parsons explained, after the various activities at the alternative Halloween event had drawn to a close, the youth gathered in the gym, expecting to hear a short sermon. Instead, Kingsbury had the church deacons and other leaders enter the room and “stage a mass shooting with guns that shot blanks.” According to Parsons, the men “came in and scared everyone and shot into the crowd” in an effort to “scare all the kids into making a decision to accept Christ.” The experience clearly made a big impression on Parsons. “They’re very big on that fear, that kind of persuasion,” he told me.

Parsons also told me that Kingsbury rules North Love with an iron fist. Speaking of his experience at North Love in the 1970s and 1980s and his discussions with church members in the decades since, Parsons told me that Kingsbury teaches his congregation that the King James Version of the Bible is the only acceptable translation and relies heavily on “The Trail of Blood,” a 1931 pamphlet that purports to reveal that the Baptists are the true heirs of the early church. “That gave him the authority to do whatever he wanted,” Parsons said. “‘If you’re not listening to me, you’re not following the New Testament, period.’” Individual Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches frequently function as their own cults of personality, lacking an authority structure that provides accountability. The senior pastor at an IFB church—a position Kingsbury has held since 1982—often wields a great deal of authority over his parishioners, and in Kingsbury’s case, Parsons told me, that power extended to what church members wore and what Bible edition they used.

Parsons also described North Love as a Gothard church. During the 1970s and 1980s, he told me, teachers at North Love’s Christian school were required to attend Bill Gothard’s seminars annually. These conferences typically took place on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and were held in nearby Chicago. According to Parsons, the school would shut down on Friday so that the teachers could attend. After Gothard introduced his homeschool curriculum in the 1980s, some families took their children out of North Love’s Christian school to enroll them in Gothard’s program, with the support of the church. Kingsbury echoed Gothard’s teachings about women and gender, barring women from wearing pants (the school’s cheerleaders were required to sign a pledge that they wouldn’t wear pants even at home) and preaching against birth control. “Pastor Kingsbury preached from the pulpit that women were baby machines,” Parsons told me. Gothard resigned from his ministry last year as an increasing number of women accused him of sexually molesting them while they were working for him. While Parsons no longer has close friends at North Love, he told me that his friends who have retained the beliefs they were taught at North Love tend to defend Gothard. “They say that he didn’t do anything wrong,” Parsons noted.

Over the past few years, fundamentalist churches have suffered one sex abuse scandal after another. Fundamentalist colleges and missions agencies have taken a hit as wellSpeaking in 2013, Boz Tchividjian shocked many when he stated that evangelicals are “worse” on sexual abuse than Catholics. Tchividjian argued that evangelicals’ individualism makes them wary of transparency and accountability, causing abuse to go unseen, ignored, or unreported. In addition, Tchividjian noted that evangelical pastors and missionaries who are ousted over abuse allegations often simply switch churches or missions agencies, leaving their sordid pasts behind them. Without an overarching hierarchy, a church may never be told of a new pastor or missionary’s past misdeeds. When churches promote strict modesty standards and portray women as temptresses, victim blaming becomes all too common, contributing to the collapse of any attempt at best practices. The cult of personality that frequently develops at IFB churches only exacerbates these problems. When one man holds all the power, that power is easy to abuse.

Conclusion

Kingsbury founded Reformers Unanimous as a ministry of North Love in 1996. Parsons described the early material used by RU as “pretty much just mindless filling in the blanks.” When I asked Parsons whether it would be accurate to say that RU seeks to cure sexual deviance in the church not by addressing the sexual ethics and power structures that so often contribute to it but rather by terming it an addiction and throwing the Bible at it, he laughed and agreed with my analysis. As others have reported already, Reformers Unanimous does not appear to have any licensed counselors on staff, and its residential program appears to be made up entirely of physical labor and Bible study. This is a path Josh Duggar has been down before, but it is the only path his parents seem able to envision. Questioning the beliefs and dynamics that lead to abuse is difficult; solving problems with a larger dose of Bible reading is the familiar default.

The Duggars have made a career out of bottling up their children’s sexual energies, keeping them set on zero until marriage and then unleashing them, but most of what they teach is common in fundamentalist churches. Women are expected to dress modestly so as not to give men the wrong idea, and sexual assault victims are asked what they did to lead their abuser on or cause their assault. When married men have affairs, their wives are blamed for not being sexually available enough to keep them at home. On top of all of this, wives are expected to submit to and obey their husbands (and children are expected to submit to and obey their parents). When taken together, these teachings can be a recipe for disaster. And there’s more, too. Once a man confesses and repents of his sexual offense, his victim must either forgive him or face charges of bitterness. A parent who is loathe to leave her children alone with a man who has molested children in the past may be accused of not believing in God’s capacity to change lives. None of this is conducive to a healthy sexual ethic, healing for abuse survivors, or safety for the community at large.

As of this week, Josh is at Reformers Unanimous, whose chairman and cofounder, Paul Kingsbury, had a longterm working relationship with convicted sexual predator Jack Schaap, is allegedly protecting an accused sex offender from justice, and allegedly has a habit of failing to notify people when a known sexual predator is in their midst. How an individual alleged to have such a troubled relationship with both legal accountability for sex offenses and established best practices for handling cases of sexual abuse can be expected to run an affective and above-board rehab program for individuals who come to him seeking help for addictions to porn or sex is perhaps question of the week.

* There is some disagreement over what porn addiction and sex addiction look like and whether they are properly labeled addictions. However, regardless of where one falls on the question, Reformers Unanimous is out of step with professional opinion in how it understands and approaches both conditions. This is transparently obvious in the simple fact that the RU website states that 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography. RU appears to see “looks at pornography” as synonymous with “addicted to pornography,” which also calls into question the program’s ability to treat those individuals it admits.

Josh Duggar Checks Into Treatment Center After Porn Star Details “Very Traumatic” and “Terrifying” Sexual Encounter

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Increasingly disturbing revelations continue to surface in the tragic circumstances surrounding the Duggars, the former TLC celebrity family of “19 Kids and Counting.”

This last May it came to light that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and the now-disgraced former executive of the Family Research Council’s legislative action arm, had molested five children when he was a teenager, including members of his own family. Other celebrities from the Religious Right immediately stepped up to defend Josh and minimize the horrors of child molestation, including: Rick Boyer, board member of the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV); Matt Walsh, viral blogger and popular homeschool speaker at the Great Homeschool Conventions; Mike Huckabee, Republican Presidential hopeful endorsed by HSLDA’s Michael Farris; Ray Comfort, a popular New Zealand Christian evangelist; and Kevin Swanson, director of Generations with Vision and former executive director of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

Then a week ago, Gawker broke the story that Josh had paid almost $1,000 for a “guaranteed” affair via the adultery-promoting website Ashley Madison. This led Josh to publicly confess to cheating on his wife, though in his statement he appeared to blame a “pornography addiction” for leading him to that point. Josh said,

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.

 

Ironically, it was then adultery — rather than the far more chilling and actual crime of molesting children — that led several of Josh’s previous defenders to finally realize the absolute seriousness of Josh’s situation. Rick Boyer said in a public Facebook post that he “was wrong” that Josh was currently living “an exemplary life.” However, Boyer also qualified that by saying he “was right in all that” regarding child molestation, namely, that Josh’s “poor sisters had been abused far more by the buzzard-like media than they ever were by Josh” (image archived here).  Similarly, Matt Walsh said in a public Facebook post that he “was wrong about the Duggar situation” (image archived here). But unlike Boyer, who had the gall to say the media “abused” molested children more than their actual molester, Walsh realized what we homeschool alumni have been saying all along: that the Duggars should never have paraded around their family on TV right after their son molested five children, including siblings. Walsh said,

The more I think about this, I realized I was too easy on the the Duggar parents as well. Jim Bob and Michelle knew that their oldest son was struggling with severe sexual sin, they knew their daughters had been abused, they knew their family was in the midst of moral and spiritual turmoil, yet they STILL decided to put themselves and their children on TV for ten years.

Of course, back in May, Walsh just dismissed people saying this very thing in the flippant way he always treats people with different opinions than his own.

After Josh’s Ashley Madison account became public, secret profiles of Josh’s on Facebook and OKCupid also surfaced. These profiles revealed his private online relationships with strippers and porn stars, including a relatively new porn star named Danica Dillon.

Today Danica revealed the full extent of her relationship with Josh — namely, that while Josh’s wife Anna was pregnant with their fourth child, Josh allegedly forced Danica into having “very traumatic” and “terrifying” rough sex without the use of protection. Though Danica is taking pains to claim the sex was “consensual,” the fact that Josh exchanged money for sex that Danica clearly was not comfortable with — considering both her fear of his use of force as well as his unwillingness to use protection — indicates very clearly full and enthusiastic consent wasn’t important to Josh. Danica says that Josh was “basically tossing me around like I was a rag doll.”

Furthermore, Josh’s unwillingness to use protection clearly puts not only himself and Danica in danger of sexually transmitted diseases, but also Josh’s wife Anna – who was completely oblivious to Josh’s extraordinarily risky and abusive sexual actions.

My heart continues to break for Anna and I really hope she can receive help if she wants it.

Anna was raised in a conservative Christian homeschooling environment that promoted sexual purity until marriage at all costs. Purity was guaranteed as the sure-fire way to stay safe from romantic heartbreak and sexual diseases. Yet now Anna has to deal with the potential devastation of those very things despite following the purity script. At this point we have no idea how many sex workers Josh forced into having unprotected sex with him and thus potentially exposed Anna to any resulting diseases.

This is yet another tragic example of why we need to rethink how homeschooling parents teach their child about “purity”: Sexuality and sexual health are far more complicated than the white picket fence and white wedding dress fantasies of purity culture. When two young people engage in betrothal or courtship and hardly get the opportunity to have personal, private, one-on-one conversations with each other, they have no idea if their spouse, for example, experienced sexual abuse as a child. So even if your spouse never engaged in willing, premarital sex, you don’t know if your spouse is STD-free. That’s something couples need to talk about, even couples who grew up “pure.” And if your spouse cheats on you like Josh did, he might not think about the importance of protection, and thereby place you at risk for STDs — without you even knowing about it. This is why realism in sex and relationship education is desperately important — and potentially life-saving.

In the wake of Danica Dillon’s allegations, Michelle Duggar today wrote on her blog that, “Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center.” An image of her full statement follows:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 11.24.19 AM

Text is:

We are so thankful for the outpouring of love, care and prayers for our family during this most difficult situation with Josh. As parents we are so deeply grieved by our son’s decisions and actions. His wrong choices have deeply hurt his precious wife and children and have negatively affected so many others. He has also brought great insult to the values and faith we hold dear. Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center. For him it will be a long journey toward wholeness and recovery. We pray that in this he comes to complete repentance and sincere change. In the meantime, we will be offering our love, care and devoted support to Anna and our grandchildren as she also receives counsel and help for her own heart and future. During this time we continue to look to God—He is our rock and comfort. We ask for your continued prayers for our entire family.

When it became public several months ago that Josh had molested five children, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar originally claimed that they had sent him to a “faith-based” treatment center run by Bill Gothard, whose sexual abuse counseling material blames victims for their own abuse and discourages wives from leaving husbands who molest their children. Similarly, it is rumored that Josh has again been sent to a “faith-based” treatment center, this time Reformers Unanimous (RU). RU, which offers treatment for pornography addiction and sex addiction, is run by Paul Kingsbury. Kingsbury has zero academic credentials in counseling, medicine, or therapy. Though he calls himself a “Doctor” due to two honorary degrees, his highest actual level of education is a Bachelor of Arts from Hyles-Anderson College, an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist college. Kingsbury was mentored in his career by Dr. Jack Hyles, who infamously defended child molestors in the church he founded, First Baptist Church of Hammond.

However, as of the time of publication, the Duggar family has yet to officially confirm where Josh checked himself into.

3 Things You Should Know Before Writing About Josh Duggar

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Sarah Joy.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on August 21, 2015.

With the latest round of Josh Duggar scandals, it’s time to address a few things that have been floating around, both in the religious blogosphere and tabloid and mainstream media. If you’re going to write about the Duggars, here are some things you need to know.

Before I begin with my list though, I want to say one other thing. If you defended Josh Duggar the child molester I don’t even want to hear your condemnation of Josh Dugger the adulterer. Consensual sex between two adults isn’t in the same universe as child sexual assault. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to reexamine their life.

With that said, here are some things you need to understand if you’re going to write about Josh Duggar.

1. Fundamentalist ≠ Quiverfull

It’s tempting to conflate the two concepts, especially since those who were involved in the latter insist that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but they’re not the same thing.

Fundamentalism is, at its core, a theological position dating to the formulation of the Five Fundamentals of Christian doctrine and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the early 20th century. The five fundamentals were the core doctrinal beliefs that those who came to be called “fundamentalists” believed were central to orthodox Christian doctrine. Those fundamentals were the inspiration of scripture by the Holy Spirit and Biblical inerrancy, belief in the virgin birth of Christ, that Christ’s death was an atonement for sin, the bodily resurrection, and that Christ’s miracles happened.

Pretty much every Evangelical church in America believes in those Five Fundamentals, though most of those churches would eschew the “fundamentalist” label because of the additional baggage the term has taken on over the years. It’s entirely possible to believe in the Five Fundamentals and still believe in women’s equality, marriage equality, evolution, and left-wing politics.

What most people, including evangelicals, mean when they refer to “fundamentalists” are people who have taken the first fundamental—inerrancy of scripture, and turned that into an extremely literal and rule-based reading of the text. The distinction that I was given growing up was that fundamentalists are rigid and legalistic. The Bible is a rule book and as long as you follow all the rules you’ll have a happy life.

You don’t have to homeschool to be a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists send their kids to public and private schools. Fundamentalist homeschooling says that if you’re a really good Christian you’ll homeschool your kids, but just as not all homeschoolers are fundamentalists, not all fundamentalists are homeschoolers.

All quiverfull are fundamentalists but not all fundamentalists are quiverfull. Quiverfull adherents will tell you that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but the vast majority of fundamentalists in the last hundred years that the term has been in use have taken steps to limit the size of their families.

Quiverfull is a politicized ideology based on Psalm 127 that says you should have as many children as possible because those children are arrows in the culture wars. It’s explicitly about taking over society by outbreeding the rest of the population.

Fundamentalism itself wasn’t even politicized until the rise of the Moral Majority and related groups in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most fundamentalists believed that Christians should stay out of politics. The quiverfull movement came even later and didn’t gain much foothold until the 1990s.

Bottom line? Quiverfull is a subset of the politicized fundamentalism that developed in just the last forty years.

2. Quiverfull is an Ideology, ATI is a Cult

The Duggars are members of ATI, the high-control, authoritarian homeschooling cult founded by Bill Gothard. Bill Gothard teaches quiverfull ideology, but ATI is about so much more than just quiverfull.

As I’ve written about before, like Scientology, ATI even has its own set of definitions of common words and concepts.

image

I’m not sure if there’s an aspect of life where Bill Gothard doesn’t tell members how to live. He tells you what kind of bread to eat (whole grain), how to dress (navy blue and white are especially godly), when a husband and wife can and can’t have sex (follow the Levitical purity laws, so wait a week after a woman’s period, 80 days after a girl is born, 40 for a boy), and even how to do road safety so as not to get raped when your car breaks down (really).

If you don’t follow all of Gothard’s rules then you’ve stepped out from under the Umbrella of Authority and are open to all sorts of attacks from Satan.

You can be quiverfull without following any of those rules. Heck, you can be quiverfull and believe that dating is okay and that women can dress however they want. Anyone who talks about the Duggars and doesn’t make the distinction between quiverfull, fundamentalism, and ATI, or who treats fundamentalism and quiverfull as the same thing doesn’t fully understand the issues at play.

3. I don’t know if Anna Duggar will stay, neither do you

I feel the need to emphasize this because all of the tabloid speculation and comments from unnamed “insiders” is just that, speculation.

The only person who knows what Anna will do is Anna, and she may not know yet herself. Whatever she decides to do, she’s got a difficult road ahead for her and for her children, and the choices she makes aren’t going to be easy ones no matter what decision she finally makes. Her life has been turned upside down these last few months, she has a newborn, and the entire world is watching her. For all we know, she’s been weighing her options since the molestation story broke. She may not make a decision for a long time, and that’s okay.

Know this though. Adultery is the one area where divorce is unquestionably Biblical. This idea that because she was raised in a fundamentalist, quiverfull ATI family and married into another one means she can’t leave is bogus. That’s not how any of this works. Leaving because of the molestation scandal? That could have gotten her shunned, told she was being unforgiving and bitter over something that happened before she met Josh and that he’d repented over. Leaving because she discovered he was cheating on her? That’s acceptable because the Bible specifically allows divorce for adultery. It’s a messed up standard, but that’s what it is.

If anybody tells you they know what she’s going to do because of patriarchal culture, they’re bullshitting you.

Conclusion

This whole story makes me sad for Anna because she was sold a bill of goods, that if you followed all the rules, did the courtship like you were supposed to, and got to work on having the dozen kids while staying under your husband’s umbrella of protection your life will be great. And it’s not. ATI breeds dysfunction and she and the kids are paying the price.

I feel awful for Josh’s sisters too. They got trotted in front of the camera to do damage control and proclaim how he had changed, he wasn’t the same person, and they’d all moved past it. And now they know without a shadow of a doubt that they were sent out in front of cameras to sell a lie and protect the Duggar brand.

There are no winners in this.

An Open Letter to Anna Duggar

Dear Anna,

We don’t know each other. But I feel a connection with you and Josh because, like both of you, I grew up in a conservative Christian home and was homeschooled my entire life. Like Josh’s parents, my parents were leaders of homeschool groups and organizations (albeit on a smaller scale than Josh’s). So I grew up under the spotlight. I am familiar with living a life where your every move — and every stumble — has the potential to be examined by all sorts of people ready to critique you.

Of course, there’s also a huge chasm between you and Josh and myself. Whereas Josh and his parents — and consequently you and your children — have become new faces of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement we all grew up in, I now help facilitate a very different movement: the rising voices from alumni and graduates of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement who are speaking up about the abuses and pain they experienced. I have no idea if you’ve ever heard of Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out. And if you have, I’m guessing you probably heard about us in a negative way — that we’re apostates, the Benedict Arnolds of homeschooling, the greatest threat to homeschooling freedoms, and so forth. So it’s highly probable you will never even read this.

But if you do, here’s all I really want to say: My heart breaks for you and your children and I’m so sorry for all the pain you have gone through this last year.

I have seen the Internet gleefully throw parties over the transgressions of your husband. I don’t want to minimize those transgressions, and I hope you know we should not minimize them. Child sexual abuse destroys bodies and souls. I know this personally, as I was sexually abused as a child. What Josh did is inexcusable and it is important that we talk about that. If you haven’t already, please talk about it. Get Josh to a qualified, licensed therapist. Ask him the hard questions: Does he still struggle? Does he think about hurting your children? I know these are uncomfortable questions but they need to be asked. Your children deserve to be safe and you deserve to know the truth.

But you and your children do not deserve to reduced to the punchline of cruel Internet jokes. You do not deserve to be bullied into leaving your husband or shamed for making your own decisions in that regard. I know many people are doing those very things and my heart goes out to you. You deserve better than that.

What Josh did years ago — molesting children — and what Josh did recently — cheating on you — doesn’t just impact Josh. They impact you. They impact your children. And it makes me furious to see so many people talk about and mock Josh as if you and your children do not exist. So many people seem to pay no regard to how their words and their actions will impact you. They want to redefine your last name to refer to sexual abuse, even though you and your children never abused anyone. Yes, Josh has hurt many people. Yes, we need to talk about that. But you and your children will live under that shadow for the rest of your lives. We need to remember that.

I also want you to know that what happened — Josh cheating on you — is not your fault. What your spouse or partner does by means of his own will is never your fault. And anyone telling you otherwise is lying. Anyone telling you otherwise is victim-blaming and victim-blaming is wrong. It is not your fault that Josh chose to break his wedding vows. It is not your fault that Josh could not control his sexual urges. It is not your fault that he betrayed you.

It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.

Marriage (and all relationships, really) are about communication. And Josh failed to communicate his needs and struggles with you. Instead he threw you to the wolves of his infidelity. Even worse, his infidelity was on a site that got hacked, and now most people around the world know in explicit detail how he hurt you. In fact, they might have known he hurt you before you knew. And they chose to disclose that fact with explicit details that served no purpose other than to shame and laugh at your husband. That just kills me. I’m so sorry you had to find out like this.

I know all sorts of people online are giving you unsolicited advice now. They’re saying you should divorce Josh, you must leave him if you truly love yourself, you better flee from him if you love your children. Anna, that’s not their place. And it’s not my place to tell you what to do, either.

You — and you alone — have the right to decide what is best for yourself.

I hope and pray that you do make your decision based on that criterion (and that criterion alone) — namely, what is best for you. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and safe, Anna. You really do deserve that. I know that the homeschooling world we grew up in often said otherwise. It often said that, as a woman, your place was to please your husband. That your needs were less than your husband’s needs. That you had fewer rights to happiness and health.

But the world we grew up in often lied. It is within your rights to make decisions that guarantee your happiness and health. Do not feel you must make your decision based on any other criteria — what is best for the Duggar Family™ Brand, what your religious subculture demands of you, what Josh demands from you, etc.

The only exception to this, of course, is if staying with Josh puts your children in danger. I don’t know Josh, and I don’t know if you lay awake at night worrying if Josh’s allegedly “in the past” actions of molesting children truly are in the past. I don’t know if you have picked up on warning signs, slowly but ever so surely, indicating that he might hurt your children. I just don’t know. But I do know that if you are worried, if your inner radar is going off, please do not wait to act. Please do everything you can to protect your children, even if that means hurting the Duggar Family™ Brand and betraying your religious subculture. The Duggar Family™ Brand and your religious subculture are not Jesus. They are not your gods. They do not deserve your absolute obedience. Jesus calls us to follow him and part of that call is to protect children from adults who would harm them. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” If you have questions or worries about this, I highly recommend checking out the resources from Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an organization run by Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian. My organization HARO also has resources on child abuse.

To be honest, Anna, I don’t pray much anymore. From a young age I was praying to Jesus. From a young age I learned how others prayed in public and I strived to imitate them. I strived to pray my public prayers in a way that elicited those “Amens” and “Yes, Father”s that proved someone knew how to pray well. And I’ve seen so much hypocrisy among both myself back then as well as other homeschool leaders who prayed one way but lived their lives another way. So praying these days leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

But I want you to know I am thinking prayerish thoughts for you.

We here are Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out are thinking about you and wishing you the best.

If you ever need help or support from fellow alumni, we’re here for you.

Sincerely,

Ryan Stollar

HARO Executive Director

Josh Duggar Blames Porn and Satan in Public Statement

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 20, 2015.

Josh Duggar has now released a public statement.

Statement from Josh Duggar:

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.

I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.

I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust.

The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country, in my heart I had allowed Satan to build a fortress that no one knew about.

As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose to our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.

I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.

Josh Duggar

The idea that porn viewing leads to porn addiction which leads to cheating on one’s spouse is a common one in evangelical circles. It’s also false. But it’s very clearly an idea Josh is leaning on heavily. He’s positioned himself perfectly to travel the evangelical speaking circuit as anti-porn advocate with a powerful testimony.

Also, by putting the mention of his infidelity behind a double mention of porn, he made it easy to miss and effectively minimized it. I already had one person ask me whether the infidelity refers to the porn, not, you know, actual infidelity. Josh may not realize that most people don’t care that he watched porn. Seriously.

It’s the cheating on his wife thing that is an issue here.

Josh says he “allowed Satan to build a fortress.” What that means is that it was Satan who worked this evil in Josh’s life, and Josh’s only mistake was allowing it. This is most definitely a variant of “the devil made me do it.” It’s a way to shift responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate that Josh acknowledged that the consequences he is facing are deserved, that he stated that we have the freedom to choose our actions, and that he has admitted that he was a hypocrite. Still, I’m bothered by the way he blames both porn and Satan for what happened, and I can explain why.

First, notice what doesn’t appear in this statement: Any acknowledgment that any of Josh or his parents’ beliefs may be implicated in what happened. Now yes, lots of people cheat. But remember that Josh and his parents have portrayed their rigid beliefs about sex and relationship formation as the key to creating healthy, happy, sound marriages.

Courtship, not having sex until the altar, all of that is supposed to protect you from problems like this one. And it didn’t work.

There is nothing in Josh’s statement admitting that perhaps a highly chaperoned courtship and sexual abstinence before marriage isn’t so foolproof after all. Instead it’s all about porn and Satan. The problem, the statement suggests, is that Josh didn’t follow the rules closely enough, not that the rules themselves may be flawed.

I was raised in a home much like the Duggars’, but I am no longer religious, and my husband isn’t either. In the Duggars’ worldview, that means we have given ourselves over to Satan, because we are no longer protected from sin or temptation by the blood of Jesus. My husband and I began our relationship as a courtship, but switched to just dating when my parents’ started layering on restrictions. We had sex before the wedding. And you know what? We don’t subscribe to that whole no-porn business. And yet, somehow, neither of us has ever been anywhere near cheating.

The Duggars promote very specific sex and relationship rules, rules that are supposed to protect young adults from just this heartbreak. I’ve been saying for years that these rules are seriously flawed, and others who grew up in this environment have as well, but the Duggars have continued to promote courtship and abstinence as the foundation for sound marriages. Courtship and abstinence before marriage were supposed to give Josh and Anna the perfect relationship and a fairy tale marriage, but it didn’t. Josh’s infidelity ought to put a dent in their starry-eyed promotion of courtship, at the very least, but given the way this statement is phrased, I don’t see that happening.

The Duggar boys aren’t allowed smartphones for fear they’ll access porn. The Duggar children, including the adult children, are only allowed on the internet with someone else sitting by them watching them, to make sure they don’t access objectionable things like porn. It’s almost like they never stopped to ask themselves whether making such a huge deal about porn might backfire when their sons got out of the house and had control over their own internet.

When you obsess over sex, you shouldn’t be surprised when sex becomes an obsession.

But you know what?

I don’t think any of these questions will be asked, and I don’t think any of these conversations will be had, at least by the Duggars.

And that’s sad.

Sex Abuse Victim Allegedly Filing Lawsuit Against Josh Duggar

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

By now, nearly everyone with access to the Internet has likely heard of the Duggar family tragedy. At least five young girls were allegedly molested by Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. The family waited several years to report the crimes. When they finally did so, they only told a police officer who was a family friend, who himself was later convicted of child pornography.

A new report today by InTouch Weekly reveals that one of Josh Duggar’s alleged victims is preparing to file a lawsuit against him. The report says,

A non-Duggar family molestation victim is preparing to file a civil suit against Josh Duggar, sources tell In Touch magazine exclusively in the new issue on newsstands today.

The shocking development means that Josh and his parents Jim Bob and Michelle could be forced to give depositions and testify about Josh’s molestation scandal. The Duggars likely will have to answer every question as they will not be able to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because the criminal statute of limitations has expired.

While I would not normally feel comfortable citing from a gossip magazine, InTouch Weekly has led the investigative journalism charge on the Duggar tragedy. The information they have uncovered on this issue has thus far been credible.

For further reading:

PSA: Re: Smiling in Public

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Josef Stuefer.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on May 22, 2015.

Just because someone is smiling in public does not mean everything in their life is happy, perfect, and healthy.

I’m reminded of this, in light of the Josh Duggar situation, because both parent-like sets of people in my life see the Duggars as The Best Family Ever. And because the Duggars are good at being The Best Family Ever, it makes it hard for their fan base to see past the barrage of smiles and actually listen to what’s being said and taught and what the consequences of those are for the Duggar kids.

My family was a poorer, less popular, less business-savvy version of the Duggars. Bill Gothard aside, they believe basically the same things the Duggars do. As much as the Duggars want to tell you they just love kids and are totally not quiverfull, their line about just “doing what God wants them to do” re: breeding is quiverfull ideology, and my parents (like the Duggars) are quiverfull.

My parents spent my and my siblings childhoods training us to always smile and look/act/be happy even when that wasn’t the emotion we were having. Happiness was godly, happiness meant no one thought anything was wrong, happiness made my parents the go-to parents in our local community for child-rearing tips and advice.

So it pains me when people don’t see that the smiles are fake. They look at families like mine, like the Duggars, like countless others, and say “But look, they’re smiling! they’re happy! everything is obviously great!” as if the mouth is not a series of muscles that can be willed into an upside-down frown on demand, or out of necessity.

A smile does not indicate a healthy, happy situation. It doesn’t take much to see past the plasticity and into the tired eyes behind the upturned lips.

Just because a family is smiling on tv doesn’t mean it’s happy. Us quiverfull kids are great at smiling. Listen to our words and our silence, not our masked faces.

Use your empathy.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar Reverse Decision, Withdraw from Homeschool Conference

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

This evening, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar reversed their commitment from earlier today and withdrew from speaking at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family.

The Super Conference is a homeschool conference put on by the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), the largest statewide homeschool organization in Colorado (reaching over 10,000 families). Earlier in the day, the CHEC board announced that Jim Bob and Michelle would not be withdrawing from the conference despite recent revelations concerning their troubling handling of child sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by their son, Josh Duggar. The board issued a public statement that said, “Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar will be joining us on Friday evening of the conference. They humbly desire that the evening be focused on how the Gospel has penetrated their lives and given them hope in the trials that Christian families face.” You can view the CHEC board’s original statement here.

Tonight, however, the CHEC board revised their statement and informed conference goers that the Duggars had withdrawn due to “recent and increased attacks and pressure on the family.” You can view the new statement as an archived PDF here. An image and full text follow:

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 8.05.47 PM

Text is,

A Note from the CHEC Board on the Duggars

Updated statement as of Wednesday, 5/10/15 at 7:15 pm

By God’s Providence, CHEC just received word that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have decided not to come and address the 2015 Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family. This latest change comes in light of recent and increased attacks and pressure on the family.  They have graciously requested to withdraw entirely from speaking at this year’s conference and therefore will not be appearing at the Friday evening event on June 19th.

We thank you for your patience as we have interacted closely with Jim Bob the last several days.  Please be in prayer for the Duggar family during this difficult time.Thank you for your support of CHEC and the Rocky Mountain Super Conference.

The CHEC Board of Directors

About CHEC and the Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family

CHEC was founded in 1990 by Kevin Lundberg, who is currently a Republican Senator for the state and most known for his opposition to IUDs. Lundberg was replaced as CHEC director in 1999 by Kevin Swanson (now the director of CHEC’s radio program Generations Radio), whose hyperbolic rants against homeschool alumniGirl Scout cookiesTaylor Swift’s “demon songs”, and Disney’s “Frozen” are well-documented by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Right Wing Watch. CHEC organized the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit, where Swanson, late HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka, and male supremacy advocates like Doug Phillips and Voddie Baucham called for abolishing child protection services. CHEC is also known as the homeschool organization from which mass shooter Matthew Murray graduated.

According to their website, CHEC’s upcoming Super Conference on the Family “will explore ways to build stronger families, churches, and governments through SERVANT LEADERSHIP.” The conference features educational tracks on homeschooling, leadership, Christian worldview studies, relationships, and Christian discipleship. It is being held next week, June 18-20, 2015, at the Denver Mart in Denver, Colorado. In addition to the Duggars, conference speakers include R.C. Sproul, Jr. (a defrocked pastor who advocates extreme patriarchy), S.M. Davis (speaker and writer for Bill Gothard’s IBLP and ATI programs), and others.