Some of his famous admirers include the Duggar family of "19 Kids and Counting" fame on TLC, and former Arkansas governor, 2008 Presidential candidate, and commentator Mike Huckabee.
His organizations are also reaching into surprising places in US society. Though his home school support/curriculum organization Advanced Training Institute is only popular with like minded fundamentalists a follower of his, Tom Hill, started a training course called Character First, that is used in public schools, workplaces and other organizations, in 28 countries. Their website claims that over 300,000 people a year go through their training every month, and the organization, when asked, tries to distance themselves from Gothard, even thought they admit that their founder and Gothard are close friends, and that most of their character principles are taken word for word from the Institute from Basic Life Principles, a Gothard organization and that Tom Hill served on the board of IBLP.
Here's why an organization like Character First, which has gotten into some US public schools, might try to distance themselves from a minister like Bill Gothard:
Their practice and promotion of the abusive "Christian Patriarchy" culture:
They don't make any attempt to hide it, Bill Gothard's Vision Forum website, his group for promoting his ideas on marriage and family plainly spells it out. Here's actual quotes from the website:
Their views on children:
". Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection. Fathers release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, prepare a home, and take a wife. Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection. Even after leaving their father’s house, children should honor their parents by seeking their counsel and blessing throughout their lives."(As I have said before about the IFB culture, especially part of my post on First Baptist Hammond,churches in the IFB don't truly consider someone to be an adult until marriage, especially the women).
Their views on women:
"While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created."
If you want to know how people raised under this kind of system turn out, check out this woman's story. Though she wasn't raised in a family that followed Gothard, her family was in the Christian patriarchy system.
"Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church."
Bigoted/ignorant views on mental illness:
He actually believes that mental illnesses, including schizophrenia are caused by personal irresponsibility, and also guilt. This kind of ignorance unfortunately is rather common in fundamentalism. As I talk about in my guest post series on My Secret Atheist Blog, I was told by my family that my depression and OCD was merely "guilt". I had a pastor who thought that anxiety was a "sin", because it was a sign that someone didn't trust god enough.
Many times, I would hear people with depression say that they needed to let go, and trust god, or claims that their symptoms got better when they started focusing on helping others, as if depression is nothing more than rampant narcissism. This wasn't even during my time in the IFB as a child, this was in a Southern Baptist church. To hear such ignorance now makes me angry, how many people are out there suffering because they actually believe this? How many have even ended their lives, because an ignorant minister convinced them that their mental illness, caused by chemical imbalance, is their fault?
Bizarre beliefs on circumcision:
Bill Gothard is pro-circumcision and believes that opposition to it is an attack on morality:
"However, the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) printed materials still draw a moral line in the sand for believers, stating that “The attack against circumcision in the United States coincided with the revolt against authority and morality in the 1960’s” and that “the term uncircumcised is synonymous with immoral men.”
"These materials also conclude that “uncircumcised men have been more promiscuous than circumcised men,” and that even today there is a strong link between circumcision and moral purity.A suggested ceremony, and a certificate suitable for framing, are included in the materials."
Affiliation with the "Quiverfull" movement:
From the Vision Forum page defending Christian patriarchy:
"God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains."
"The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control."Like many fundamentalists, Bill Gothard believes that birth control is merely a form of abortion, since they think that it leads to the female body rejecting a fertilized egg. Actually, a woman's body is less likely to reject a fertilized egg when she is on birth control, as compared to without.
Accusations of sexual harassment by Bill Gothard and a "blame the victim" culture by his followers toward abuse victims:
The creator of the Bill Gothard survivor's site Recovering Grace tells her story of being sexually harassed as a teen by none other than Bill Gothard himself. From her essay Exploited Innocence:
"Gothard touched the other girl and me regularly and with increasing frequency. At first he merely offered a hand to help us in or out of the van, and laid his other hand on our backs as we entered or exited. If there was bench seating, his thigh was closely pressed against mine or the other girl’s. He would take and hold my or her hand as we walked to and from buildings. Without asking or announcing, he stroked my hair. "
"He took his shoes off and suggested that the group in the back of the van do the same. I thought he was just being casual until he started playing “footsy” with me in front of the others. . I could not figure out how to avoid it without making a scene."Worse yet, in her post, Choosing Both Forgiveness and Prosecution, she talks about her family's reaction to finding out that her 18 year old brother had been molesting her:
"My mother did not become aware of the abuse until I was ten years old. She immediately put an end to it, but blamed me for it in the process, demanding with overtones of disgust that I spend the rest of the day in my room, and that while I was there, I was to “BEG God to forgive [me] for what [I had] done!”"
No one ever told me that the hopeless feelings of hurt and betrayal, shame and worthlessness that plagued me relentlessly were anything other than a deserved reward for my actions, in having allowed these things to happen to me by not telling someone of them immediately, the very first time anything had happened. This was a “principle” my parents had learned in their many attendances of Bill Gothard’s seminars… that the guilt of an attack falls to the young lady who does not “cry out” when assailed. I had failed to cry out.
Her family blamed her for the sexual abuse, because of years of listening to Bill Gothard's teachings.
His views sound much like the views of Ron Williams, IFB pastor and operator of the torture camp for teen girls called Hephzibah House, read part 1 and part 2 of that two part series, but if you have a history of childhood abuse, proceed with caution.
I have wondered why it is that a group as large as the IFB hasn't been exposed more than it has, how could all this publicly available information be out there, and yet most people have never even heard about them?
I'm doing what I can to inform people, but I want you to help. Click on the share buttons below for social media, the more people know about this group, the better, it's time they be confronted by the masses about their behavior.