Bill Gothard

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Bill Gothard
Bill Gothard 03.jpg
Bill Gothard (2002, age 67)
Born (1934-11-02) November 2, 1934 (age 88)
Illinois, United States
Occupation(s)Instructor, author
Known forInstitute in Basic Life Principles

William W. Gothard Jr. (born November 2, 1934) is an American Christian minister, speaker, and writer, and the founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), an ultra-conservative Christian organization.[1] His conservative teachings encourage Bible memorization, large families, homeschooling, aversion to debt, male superiority and female obedience, and conservative dress.[1][2]

At the height of Gothard's popularity during the 1970s, his Basic Youth Conflicts seminar was regularly filling auditoriums throughout the United States and beyond with attendance figures as large as ten thousand and more for a one-week seminar.[3] In this way, he reached many in the evangelical community from the Baby Boomer generation during their teen years and young adulthood. Other seminars during this time included an Advanced Youth Conflicts seminar, as well as seminars for pastors, physicians, and legislators.[citation needed]

In 2014, he stepped down from IBLP after 34 women accused him of sexual harassment and molestation, with some incidents allegedly occurring when the victims were minors.[2] In 2016, Gothard and IBLP were sued by a group of alleged victims.[4] The lawsuit was dismissed in 2018, as the statute of limitations had been exceeded.[5][6]


Bill Gothard received his B.A. in biblical studies from Wheaton College, 1957 and then his M.A. in Christian education in 1961.[7] He completed his Ph.D. in biblical studies at Louisiana Baptist University in 2004.[8]

In 1961, Gothard started Campus Teams,[9] an organization which changed its name to the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC) in 1974. The organization's name changed again in 1989 to the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP),[10] of which Gothard was the president and a board member until his resignation in 2014.[11]

In 1984, Gothard founded the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), a homeschooling program with a curriculum based on the Sermon on the Mount.[12]

Gothard had many political connections with Republican political leaders, including Mike Huckabee, Sonny Perdue, and Sarah Palin. His ministry was also popular with the reality TV Duggar family and others.[2] He has never married.[13]


Gothard's primary teaching, his "Basic Seminar", focuses on what he refers to as seven "Basic Life Principles". He claims that these principles are universal, and that people will suffer consequences for violating them.[14] Gothard's principles are called Design, Authority, Responsibility, Suffering, Ownership, Freedom, and Success.[15]

The "umbrella of authority" is the idea that in order to be protected from the devil one must have absolute obedience to those above them in the chain of authority.[16]

Gothard teaches that dating is morally dangerous and that courtship is the better alternative. Gothard encourages parents to be involved in their children's courtship, and that a father should be involved in his daughter's relationships, and should at the very least have the right to say "no" when a man asks to marry his daughter. Gothard also advocates conservative dress.[2] Gothard's teachings discourage dating and syncopated music, including Christian rock. He has warned that Cabbage Patch dolls are idolatrous.[1]

Gothard has been the subject of much debate in Christian circles, and occasionally in mass media.[17][18] Various books and articles have challenged Gothard's teachings on legalism, law, and grace, and questioned his handling of the IBLP ministry.[19][20][21]

Sexual harassment allegations

On February 27, 2014, the board of directors of the Institute in Basic Life Principles placed Gothard on indefinite administrative leave while it investigated claims that he sexually harassed several female employees and volunteers.[22] No criminal activity was uncovered, but an investigation found that Gothard had acted in an "inappropriate manner".[22] The claims had been publicized on the Recovering Grace website, which is a support group for former followers of Gothard's teachings.[23] As many as 34 women who worked for Gothard have claimed that he harassed them.[2] Gothard denied the allegations and admitted no wrongdoing but announced his resignation from the Institute in order "to listen to those who have ought [something] against him".[24][2]

On June 17, 2014, IBLP issued a statement,[25] summarizing the investigation conducted by "outside legal counsel". They asserted that although no criminal activity was uncovered, Gothard had acted in an "inappropriate manner" and so "is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the IBLP ministry". In July 2015, Gothard re-launched his website, including testimonials from several women.[24][26]

In 2016, Gothard and IBLP were sued by a group of alleged victims who accused him of sexual harassment and assault.[27] The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit in 2018, citing "unique complexities" with the statute of limitations, but emphasized: "We are not recanting our experiences or dismissing the incalculable damage that we believe Gothard has done."[5][6]



  1. ^ a b c Smith, Bryan (June 20, 2016). "The Cult Next Door". Chicago.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (March 7, 2014). "Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations". Washington Post.
  3. ^ Bockelman, Wilfred (1976). Gothard: The Man and his Ministry: An Evaluation. p. 35.
  4. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (January 6, 2016). "New charges allege religious leader, who has ties to the Duggars, sexually abused women". Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 21, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b Stankorb, Sarah (June 15, 2018). "The Daughters' Great Escape". Marie Claire. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  7. ^ "Biographical Sketch". Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  8. ^ "Outstanding Alumni". Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  9. ^ Cassels, Louis (June 23, 1973). "Clergyman-Novelist Links Wit, Theology". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  10. ^ Poll, Rich (March 1, 2003). "A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life". Christianity Today. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  11. ^ Knowles, Francine (June 18, 2014). "Ex-head of religious group acted inappropriately, not criminally: investigation". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
  12. ^ "IBLP Educational Programs". September 7, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  13. ^ Menzie, Nicola (April 18, 2014). "Bill Gothard Denies 'Sexual Intent' in Hugs, Foot Contact With Young Ladies in Statement Following Resignation". Christian Post. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  14. ^ "Resolving Conflicts". Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  15. ^ "Basic Life Principles". Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  16. ^ "What 'Shiny Happy People' reveals about the Duggars: 'We were taken advantage of'". LA times.
  17. ^ "Religion: Obey Thy Husband". Time. March 20, 1974. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  18. ^ Chandler, Russell (April 5, 1982). "Moral, Morale Questions Rock Gothard Ministry". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Veinot, Don; Veinot, Joy; Henzel, Ron (2002). A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard & the Christian Life. 21st Century Press.
  20. ^ Bradbery, Angela (December 29, 1992). "Minister's Kingdom Not Without Foes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  21. ^ "Gothard Staffers Ask Hard Questions". Christianity Today. February 6, 1981. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Bill Gothard placed on administrative leave". World Magazine. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  23. ^ Knowles, Francine (March 7, 2014). "Leader of Oak Brook religious group resigns amid sex harassment allegations". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on July 17, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  24. ^ a b Smith, Warren Cole (March 7, 2016). "Bill Gothard defends himself on new website". World. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  25. ^ "A Time of Transition: A Statement From the Board of Directors". IBLP. June 17, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  26. ^ "Testimonials". Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  27. ^ Bult, Laura (January 7, 2016). "Bill Gothard, Christian counseling ministry leader with ties to TLC's Duggar family, target of sexual assault lawsuit by 10 women". New York Daily News. New York, NY. Retrieved August 22, 2018.

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