This is our fourth year running Teach Them Diligently Convention which is a ministry that God has used in miraculous ways in the hearts and minds of families across the country. The longer we continue our tenure and stewardship of this ministry, the more convinced we become of this single truth–that God is completely in control. He Reigns, and He is working mightily all around us.
Yesterday, we heard the completely unexpected news regarding Josh Duggar. Since then, Josh Duggar has withdrawn as a speaker at Teach Them Diligently in Sandusky. While we could fret or argue over what is truth and what is gossip in the recent media reports, we would rather change the focus for a moment to what God has in store for the families that will be arriving on Thursday for Teach Them Diligently in Sandusky, OH.
God never wastes these opportunities, and we are confident that God is about to do something amazing. Despite the disappointment and disbelief that accompanies news like we have heard, we have come to expect that through disappointments, we will witness God working mightily! As our family was praying both for the Duggar family and that God would show us His perfect will for TTDSandusky next week, we found that He had already been at work, and we are so excited to share with you what He has done.
T.C. Stallings, a Cleveland native who played football at the University of Louisville and starred in the Kendrick Brothers’ films TC Stallings in War Room The MovieCourageous and War Room the upcoming movie about prayer, will be stepping in to kick-off our event. He is a godly man who currently serves as a pastor in California. (Also, this veteran homeschool dad confided in us that he makes frequent trips home to visit Cedar Point Amusement Park.) We are convinced that God has specifically chosen him to lay the foundation for what God will do throughout the weekend.
With everything that has happened over the last few days, including how T. C. Stallings was available on such short notice., there is no doubt that God has given a message specifically to T.C. Stallings that the families at Teach Them Diligently in Sandusky need to hear. You do not want to miss the Thursday 5 pm keynote!
We cannot wait to see you all next week in Sandusky!
Not everyone supported Duggar’s decision to withdraw, however. In fact, some people were irate with TTD, thinking that TTD forced Duggar to withdraw. Examples of push back on TTD’s Facebook page include:
Other notable people rushing to Josh Duggar’s defense include Christian evangelist Ray Comfort, HEAV board member Rick Boyer, and Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
I saw that The Learning Channel dropped “19 Kids and Counting” from their line-up, so we dropped The Learning Channel from our personal lineup. If they change their minds, so will we.
Here is an image of Comfort’s statement:
Comfort’s declaration is clearly meant to imply that TLC went overboard in their response to the child molestation accusations against Duggar. And in so minimizing the significance of the allegations against Josh Duggar, Comfort sadly joins other Christian homeschool celebrities including HEAV board member Rick Boyer and Republican Presidential hopeful (and Michael Farris favorite) Mike Huckabee.
Boyer made the comments on a Facebook page. The following is the text from Boyer’s 3 statements:
Sometimes things are not what they appear at a distance. With all respect to everybody who has an opinion, I will unequivocally say that the Duggars are one of the happiest, holiest, humblest families I have ever met. Yes, I’ve met them. I’ve been in their home. I’ve been in their church. I am proud to call them my friends. Why don’t the critics ask the Duggar kids what they think of their oldest brother? Because they’d say he’s a sinner-which you and I are too, by the way-and he’s repented and he’s proven that he’s changed and they love and respect him. As for Bill Gothard, I am personally acquainted with him and I have a friend very close to that ministry. He was thoroughly investigated and what he was ACTUALLY found to be guilty of was touching some girls’ hands, hair and feet. He was honest enough to admit that these things were inappropriate and resign. But good grief, how does that compare with what most people are guilty of? All this piling on by people who are not in a position to really know, is just exactly what our enemies, human and spiritual, were hoping for. So many Christians are suckers.
“Abuse” is the new “racism.” As soon as you’re accused of it, you’re considered guilty. Just what would you like the Duggars to have done? Turn all their kids over to a godless psychologist? Maybe one supplied by the local public school system where “abuse” is so unheard of? Should they have skinned Josh alive, rolled him in salt and hung him on a meathook? They guy sinned, repented, changed, and lived an exemplary life for TWELVE YEARS before a tabloid spent thousands of dollars sending a team to Arkansas to go door to door trying to dig up dirt on this exemplary family. How much would it cost them to find dirt on YOU? Would they have to dig that hard? Do you hear Josh’s sisters railing against him? Not, it’s not the victims howling for scalps, it’s pagans and gullible Christians, eagerly grabbing the bait and shooting their own wounded. Ok, go ahead and follow the crowd. I am taking a stand here and now, and you may quote me anywhere you care to. The Duggars are an exemplary family and I wish I were half the man that Jim Bob Duggar is. I hope I have made myself clear. Let the chips fall where God guides them.
OH, I almost forgot: I love Bill Gothard and his ministry has been the most helpful influence in the development of my family. His teaching, and the teaching of others who learned from him has transformed my life and that of my wife as well, who is the most admired woman I know. We owe much of the blessing we’ve seen on our family of 16 to IBLP (although we are not members of ATI.) I highly recommend Bill’s basic and advanced conferences and I believe every Christian would benefit by attending. Is Bill a sinner? Yes. Did he ever claim to be anything else? No. The Apostle Paul was a sinner too but he was surely one of the most godly men in the New Testament age. I firmly believe that Bill Gothard is one of the most godly men in this age. Perfect? No. Just about a hundred times closer to God than I am (And I make and effort). Have you ever spent THIRTY days in prayer and fasting just to draw closer to God? Have you ever risked your life to witness to Chicago street gangs? Have you ever spent most of your time away from home, when you hate to travel, for the sake of ministering to others? Think carefully before you cast the first stone. There. I hope I haven’t pulled too many punches.
Images of Boyer’s comments can be viewed in full below:
Not only is Boyer a major fan of Bill Gothard and Josh Duggar, he also is a strict adherent to Christian patriarchy and the Quiverfull movement, as he detailed in his 2011 book Take Back the Land: Inspiring a New Generation to Lead America. Despite this, HSLDA recently partnered with Boyer and HEAV during HEAV’s Leadership Conference in March 2015. The conference’s theme was “Essentials of a Strong Organization,” with HSLDA ironically teaching “how to design policies that protect children from abuse in your support group” while Boyer — who apparently thinks nonconsensually “touching some girls’ hands, hair and feet” isn’t that bad and is “abuse,” not abuse — taught about “training leaders, not survivors.”
Did you find your way to Homeschoolers Anonymous because of the press coverage of the Wunderlich and Twelve Tribes cases in Germany? Or did the Romeike case in the United States send you hunting for more info on this HSLDA group that keeps showing up in news stories?
Then this story is for you.
It is in no way meant to be exhaustive, just to provide basic information for people who did not grow up in the homeschooling world and are unfamiliar with HSLDA’s activism.
HSLDA was founded by Michael Farris in 1983. At that time, homeschooling as a movement was in its infancy, and because parents were concerned about the legality, the idea of a legal defense and advocacy organization dedicated to homeschooling was an attractive one.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, HSLDA was involved in liberalizing the homeschooling laws in states across the US, mobilizing homeschoolers to bombard their legislators with phone calls, telegrams in the early days, faxes, and emails. During this time period most of the restrictions and regulations on homeschooling were removed so that in many states there is now minimal oversight of homeschooling families to ensure that children are receiving an education.
In 1991, HSLDA went international with the formation of HSLDA Canada.
A turning point came in 1994 when HSLDA used the power of its network of homeschooling parents to fight against H.R. 6, a federal bill that said that non-public schools applying for federal funds must have teachers certified in the subject matter in which they teach. For reasons that are not entirely clear since the bill was about non-public schools that received federal money—an issue completely unrelated to homeschooling, HSLDA decided that H.R. 6 meant that the federal government would require homeschoolers to be certified teachers. Although many other homeschool leaders disagreed with HSLDA’s analysis and did not see any threat to homeschooling in the bill, nevertheless, HSLDA mobilized tens of thousands of homeschoolers to contact congress and in the process discovered just how powerful a political network they had built.
When you are an organization that is run by conservative members of the religious right (Farris was an attorney with Concerned Women for America who fought against the Equal Rights Amendment, former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips is the son of Constitution Party presidential candidate and former Nixon administration member Howard Phillips, to give a few examples), and you have built a powerful grassroots network that will do your bidding, the temptation to limit your work to homeschooling is evidently too great to resist.
In a case where the only relationship to homeschooling was that the party involved was a former homeschooler, HSLDA and Michael Farris took on the case of Michael New, a soldier who refused to wear a UN beret as part of United Nations peacekeeping actions. In a 1995 Court Report cover story, the case was described as, “Michael New v. the New World Order,” a reference to fundamentalist Christian beliefs about the End Times and the United Nations as ushering in a one world government that would lead to the rise of the antichrist.
In 1997, a constitutional amendment drafted by HSLDA, the “American Sovereignty Amendment, H.J.R. 83,” was introduced by Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth (R-ID). The amendment, which did not go anywhere, would have changed the Constitution so that treaties were no longer on the same level as the US Constitution. The text of the amendment is not available online, but it is evident from HSLDA’s own description that it would have had significant effects on the United States’ ability to meet its treaty obligations.
Another way that HSLDA expanded their reach beyond homeschooling was with the 2007 launch of ParentalRights.org, an advocacy organization devoted to expanding parental rights free from government interference. This includes advocating for a Parental Rights Amendment that would subject all laws relating to parental decisions on the upbringing, care, and education of their children to the highest level of judicial scrutiny, a standard that is extremely difficult to overcome, and which would remove almost all legal protections from children.
On the treaty front, HSLDA has also led the fight against the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among their objections to the treaty is that it would prevent minors from being sentenced to life in prison—something that the international community agrees is unacceptable but that the US still practices. They also object to the fact that the convention uses the best interest of the child standard in determining matters involving children, even though the best interest of the child standard is the guiding standard in American family law already. Furthermore, they oppose the idea that children should have a right to be heard in decisions relating to their interests.
The only countries that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are Somalia, South Sudan, and the United States. HSLDA bears much of the responsibility for America’s failure to ratify the treaty.
HSLDA and Abuse
Starting from 1992 on, HSLDA’s timeline lists their involvement in an increasing number of cases where homeschool families were accused of child abuse unrelated to homeschooling itself. Further, HSLDA’s timeline credits their work with member families in defeating Virginia Senate Bill 621, a bill that did not involve homeschooling but rather the standard of proof in child abuse investigations.
As already mentioned, before founding HSLDA, Farris worked with Concerned Women For America in fighting against the Equal Rights Amendment that would have guaranteed equal constitutional rights for women. Also in the early 1980s, he worked with the Moral Majority in Washington state to try to get sex education materials removed from libraries.
While HSLDA may have started as a homeschooling advocacy organization, over time they have shifted and expanded their focus, fighting against international treaties, expanded child abuse legislation, and fighting for broader religious right causes. They are an organization founded and led by religious right activists who treat homeschooling as yet another front in the ongoing culture wars.
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”.
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 judgeJames 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.
With support from followers Rep. Steven Wise (R-Jacksonville) and now-CongressmanDan 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.)
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.
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.)