Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bill Gothard Releases Statement on Sexual Harassment Scandal

Bill Gothard, founder of the Basic Life Principles ministry and a supporter of Christian homeschooling, is embrolied in a sexual harassment scandal. Recovering Grace, a website dedicated to helping those who have been negatively impacted by Bill Gothard's teachings, has posted statements from multiple women accusing Gothard of sexual harassment. Last month, Religion News Service reported that Gothard had resigned from the Institute of Basic Life Principles, a week after he had been placed on administrative leave.

Gothard's ministry was popular among Quiverfull Christians and respected by the Duggar family, according to Religion News Service and No Longer Quivering. Radar Online reports that Megan Lind, one of the women who accused Gothard of sexual harassment, wrote an open letter to the Duggars urging them to reconsider their endorsement of Gothard's ministry.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) expressed concern over allegations that Bob Jones University officials helped Bill Gothard cover up sexual harassment allegations against Gothard's brother. In a March 27th statement, SNAP urged Bob Jones University to hire an outside firm to investigate these claims, arguing that "it's best to err on the side of protecting the vulnerable and wounded, not the accused and the powerful."

Now, Gothard has finally commented at length on the scandal. In a statement at Bill Gothard's website, which was previously withheld "in order to honor the request of the Board of Directors to wait until an initial review has taken place", Gothard sent mixed messages. On one hand, Gothard admitted to inappropriately touching young women at his organizational headquarters. However, he insists that none of this touching was sexual in nature or intent.
"My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong. They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent."
I found Gothard's excuses flimsy. How on earth does an old man touch the hair and feet of young women without sexual intent? What about accusations of more extreme harassing behaviors? Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism also finds Gothard's excuses hard to swallow.
"Does Gothard honestly expect anyone to believe that a 50 or 60-year-old man could play footsie with a 16-year-old girl, hold and stroke her hands for long periods of time, caress her hair, etc., all without any “sexual intent”? Especially a 50 or 60-year-old man who leads a religious empire and teaches his followers that couples should not touch or have physical contact before marriage? Why in the world, if not with “sexual intent,” would Gothard touch these girls like this, violating not only his own rules but also the girls’ consent and their parents’ trust?

Honestly, Gothard’s claim that he never “touched a girl . . . with sexual intent” sounds rather like Clinton’s wrangling about the definition of “sexual relations.” He’s lawyering, and transparently so. He’s not being completely honest, complete transparent. He’s still making excuses and trying to wheedle out of what he did. He’s still trying to find the least offensive crime to confess to so that he can get out of responsibility for the whole that happened."
Much like the scandal involving Vision Forum's Doug Phillips, the Bill Gothard scandal demonstrates that cults of personality, misogyny, and fundamentalism make for a toxic brew. Religious insularity and patriarchy protect no one; to the contrary, they may have played a role in Gothard's alleged behavior by rendering young women even more vulnerable. Should it be any surprise that such allegations are being lobbed at a man whose organization promotes callous attitudes toward sexual abuse survivors? Whose so-called "umbrella of protection" gives men unfair power over women and authority figures unfair power over subordinates? As more information about the Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard scandals becomes available, let's hope that their followers begin to question the hollow promises of Christian Patriarchy and fundamentalist homeschooling.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Ramblings of Sheldon: Recovering Grace Founders Speak to Christian Radio Show About Bill Gothard

Micah J. Murray: On Growing Up in Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult

Chicago Now: Bill Gothard still goes uninvestigated by police

The Wartburg Watch: Recovering Grace Confronts Bill Gothard


  1. This kind of thing happens so often in these types of organizations it seems the rule rather than the exception. Show me a fundamentalist religious movement that does *not* involve allegations/proof of sexual misconduct and abuse on the part of its founders and other authority figures and … I'll eat my hat.

    1. Agi Tater -- This pattern deserve scrutiny. No more people should have to experience mistreatment because of authoritarian religion.

  2. Honestly, I think these allegations are going to be worse than his admissions when it finally all comes out. I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg unless there is a money cover-up like they do in the Catholic church. What he did according to him was after all what could get a lot of people into trouble, but what we do not know is the severity of the stroking hair i.e. once or continuously for an hour.

    1. Christian -- Now that these women have spoken up and the scandal has gone public, perhaps we'll be hearing from more people and getting more information.


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