Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exposing the IFB: Pastor Bill Gothard and Advanced Training Institute

(Author's note: This is a post in the continuing series, Exposing the IFB, about the Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination, a group which many of it's former members refer to as a cult. For more information about this group, including my past posts on them, and links to blogs written by survivors of this organization,  check out the Exposing the IFB page on this blog).

Bill Gothard, Cult, Advanced Training Institute
The reach of extremist minister Bill Gothard's influence goes quite far in the US, and around the world. Most people have never heard his name before, but he has famous followers and his organization has influence in places that you would never expect.

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."

 "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."
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.

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."

This is why the Duggar family, followers of Bill Gothard, have so many children (20 as of right now), especially since him and other pastors in what has become known  as the Quiverfull movement reject all forms of birth control:
"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.


  1. Just beginning to research more about Gothard and followers of his teachings. I grew up Southern Baptist and although I never really experienced any negative issues with the church except for some people with "poor" interpretations of scriptures, I now have family members who cling to a follower of Gothard's...Arthur Burk. Burk has written a manual on the 7 redemptive gifts based on Romans 12 in the Bible. These family members believe without any doubt that EVERY person can be grouped into 1 of 7 traits and that all can be determined by this....driving me insane!!! Also, believe we all have Biblical curses on us even though the Bible clearly states that no one is under a curse anymore who is in Christ!!!

  2. The Duggars have 19 kids, not 20... and just like I, and tons of other people do not agree with some of the stuff they believe in, we can't blame them for not agreeing with the way others outside their church live. To each their own, can't believe people make a huge deal out of this kind of stuff. So what if they don't believe in birth control?! It's a personal decision. Lots of people, outside and inside certain religions do not believe in it. I don't believe in spanking your children. And although I don't think people who do are horrible parents, I definitely don't want to see it or hear about it because I WILL judge them for it. It's just not what I see as right. So I don't blame them for thinking their way is right. And as far as them thinking that if you don't do certain things (Circumcise, not use birth control, live under your father' rule until your married, etc) you're not following God and/or you'll be punished or whatever they believe...SO WHAT?! Do we really care that much about what they think!? I know I sure as hell don't. Everyone should have their own personal relationship with God, if they choose to have one at all. Let these people have their own relationship with Him. It's not making them bad people and it's not making us bad people.
    - And pertaining to the "blaming the victim", obviously "blaming the victim" is wrong, but people from all walks of life do this. It's wrong for anyone, not just these people. By doing this, they are helping children and/or adults who have grown up in this religion to possibly change their views on it's their loss, if they want to come across in a negative way like that. At least they openly share their beliefs and opinions on touchy subjects like these so people can make informed decisions on whether or not this is a religion they would like to follow or get the heck out of.

    1. They have so many children, it's hard to keep up with the number. ;)

      To each their own, can't believe people make a huge deal out of this kind of stuff. So what if they don't believe in birth control?! It's a personal decision. Lots of people, outside and inside certain religions do not believe in it.

      Well, the problem is in making women trapped in such groups feel like they must have so many children. It's dangerous, physically to the mothers, and in forcing the women to have so many, quilting her into believing that she isn't in god's will, and isn't fulfilling her obligation to god and her husband if she doesn't

    2. You are ignorant seriously ignorant. It is foolish to have that many children in the world we live in. I was also in ATI for a couple of years and now I am an Atheist. There is no God.

    3. Can't blame you! What if a child was to be beat daily with a teddy bear filled with razor blades? Would he ever want to hold and cuddle a stuffed animal after that? There is a God, but not the way Gothard presents Him!

  3. For those who grow up in these kinds of religious legalist situations, and then realize what bunk it is, some become atheists. I really sympathize. they saw the worst spin on Christianity and it really messed with their mind and heart. It is like they were beat with a teddy bear filled with razors and surrounded with barb wire...then when they see a soft cuddly animal, it causes pain and confusion and they want to leave the room. (hey, this experiment really happened...a psychiatrist took a toddler, gave him several stuffed toys, then when he reached out to take one, the man would release a cacophony of loud unpleasant noises, scaring the kid to death....the kid grew up hating and fearful of soft cuddly things and it messed him up in other ways.
    There are Christians out there who are not this way. They have faults, but try to livee and show the love of Christ to others. If only you had been raised with these kind of people.

    1. I understand that fully, and I have come to know some great liberal/moderate Christians while blogging, they really are great people.

  4. He may have some good things, but the man has never been married himself, so how can he give advice to especially married couples when he has never experienced it himself. I certainly wouldn't have faith in a person who has no experience in having children of his own. Something wrong with this picture!

  5. I know of some families who became involved with his teachings and their marriages were torn apart. One, having as many children as you can, unless both parties agree this is a real problem; he has never married himself; this is not a voice of experience and not biblical for our day.

  6. At one point I was in ATI, when I was a teenager. None of his teachings are good, they were designed to oppress you. If you are told something over and over and it is continuously pounded into your head, you will eventually start to believe it. On top of it, you are told not to question anything, even in the basic christian religions, you are told not to question. You are told to go on "faith". Now there are all of these people out here following something they have never even questioned because they were "told to". Oppressing the nation, keeping us all pitted against each other because of religious mumbo jumbo so we don't see the bigger picture, and we will never work all together as a unit for the betterment of society as a whole. Question it, read about your Bible and where it actually comes from, do some research. If everyone would grow up from the fairy tales of their childhood, our world would be a better place. As you can see I have come far from my ATI background, long skirts (so as not to cause men to lust), week long seminars, no rock music, girls shouldn't go to college and make something of themselves,..... oppression, do your research!

  7. Recovering Grace website is getting together the testimonies of many young women who have been abused by BG and are wanting to start proceedings of some sort to get him to step down and prevent him from doing unto other young girls. Check out the stories and comments.

    1. I've read Charlotte's account, it's disturbing.

      I'm planning on writing a post soon on not only the new accusations against him, but his deep ties to Micheal Farris of HSLDA, Homeschoolers Anonymous just had a great piece on that aspect of it.

  8. I'm currently reading through Bill Gothard's Character Sketches and what I've found there is deeply disturbing.. I'm also working on a blogpost disagreeing with his ideas on Bathsheba.. All that to say, I love your blog!!

    Here's Mine:

    Ps. nice background lol I have the same one

  9. Who died and made you King?

  10. So according to this Gothard fool I have brought bipolar disorder on myself by being 'irresponsible' and 'guilty'? Wow. I cannot believe what I just read and that his followers actually accept that teaching. G-d help them.


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