From 'cult' leader to disgraced outcast: FEMAIL reveals what happened to the man behind the Duggars' sinister religion - who 'turned every father into a cult leader', told parents to beat their kids - then found himself shunned over sexual assault scandal

  • Bill Gothard lead the Duggar's church, Institute of Basic Life Principles
  • He stepped down in 2014 after facing a slew of sexual harassment allegations
  • An ex-member revealed what happened to him in Amazon's new docuseries

Daily Mail, UK/June 2, 2023

By LIillian Gissen

When the Duggars were shot to fame thanks to their TLC reality show, they portrayed a picture perfect and wholesome family - which they insisted was thanks to their participation in the fundamentalist religious group known as The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).

But the bizarre Christian organization's idealistic image was quickly shattered in 2014, when more than 30 women came forward and accused leader Bill Gothard of sexual harassment, 10 of whom later filed a lawsuit against him and the church, in which they claimed he had inappropriately touched them.

Around that time, it was also brought to light that the eldest Duggar son, Josh, had molested four of his younger sisters and that his own parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, knew and failed to report the abuse to police.

The incidents lead to numerous other ex-members speaking out against IBLP, and ultimately resulted in Bill being shunned from the organization. But what happened to the disgraced minister after he parted ways with the 'cult-like' religious group?

The woman, named Brooke Arnold, explained in the four-part series, which premiered on June 2, that she decided to meet with Bill at his home in Chicago in 2018 - four years after he left IBLP.

'Bill Gothard used to speak to stadiums every week and now he just sits alone in his house,' she said.

'He came to loom over my life, even as an adult. He was like this kind of Peter Pan-like character living in the home he's lived in his entire life.'

Brooke revealed that Bill was 'waiting at the front door' when she arrived, wearing a 'full suit and tie.'

'He had done his hair. His entire living room was covered in boxes, which were filled with copies of the 37 self-published books that he's written,' she continued.

'We sit down and he says he wants to pray for me. So he looks at the floor and closes his eyes and I look at the floor and close my eyes.'

Brooke explained that she decided to open her eyes while they were 'praying' - and was stunned to see that his were no longer shut either, and he was actually staring right at her.

'I realized, "Why am I pretending right now?" So I open my eyes and when I do, he's looking at me. His eyes are open,' she continued.

'It was kind of like looking the devil in the eye. At that moment, everything made sense to me. It was just a man the whole time.'

Bill started IBLP in 1961, and it began as a 'local youth outreach' in Chicago, Illinois, with a focus on 'affirming God’s Word and its principles which are vital to one’s daily walk with Christ.'

As it grew, he started creating a series of very-rigorous 'guidelines' for members, which controlled almost every aspect of their lives, including how they could dress to what they were allowed to watch on TV and what music they were supposed to listen to.

Barbie dolls, Pokemon cards, and anything made by Disney were all prohibited. Any songs that had a fast beat were believed to be linked to the devil. And Cabbage Patch Dolls were considered satanic.

But the problems with IBLP ran way deeper than Bill's bizarre hatred for children's toys.

He was obsessed with 'authority' and wanted all members to 'obey' him, even making rules for how his members should treat their kids and how they should interact with people of the other sex.

He was a firm believer that children should heed to their parents, wives should do what their husbands say, and all should always follow his orders - and he encouraged physical repercussions if they didn't listen.

He also didn't allow his members' kids to be in public school, instead, they had to be homeschooled, which left many of them isolated, lacking basic knowledge and skills, and completely sheltered from the outside world.

The children were forced to follow a curriculum that Bill had created - which focused more on teaching 'slut-shaming' than 'mathematics,' according to Brooke.

In 2014, after more than five decades in power, Bill stepped down amid a series of allegations made against him.

At the time, IBLP said that it had conducted an investigation and found that 'no criminal activity' had occurred, but that Bill had 'acted in an inappropriate manner.'

Two years later, 10 women filed a joint lawsuit against Bill and IBLP, in which they accused them of 'sexual abuse, harassment, and cover-up.'

They alleged that Bill rubbed their breasts and genitals while they were clothed and placed their hands on his groin. Some of the plaintiffs were underage at the time of the alleged abuse.

Afterwards, he denied the allegations to The Washington Post, stating, 'Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.' The case was dismissed due to the statute of limitation.

Throughout the Amazon doc, many former members detailed some of the harrowing trauma that they endured as part of Bill's 'cult-like' group.

'There's things that Bill Gothard stole from us that we can never get back, like our childhoods,' said Brooke.

Another woman, named Emily Elizabeth Anderson, recalled Bill 'playing with her hair, rubbing her shoulders, and putting his hand on her thigh,' during private meetings that she had with him in his office.

'When Bill first spotted me, I was 13 years old and he was 71,' she said. 'He asked as soon as I turned 14 that I quit homeschool and move up to Chicago and live at IBLP's headquarters [with him] indefinitely.

'[When I arrived] Bill took one of his female assistants, he pointed at me and he looked her straight in the eye and said, "Don't let this one go."'

She explained that meeting Bill felt like 'meeting the Pope, the President, and Justin Bieber all rolled into one.'

'I don't think anyone ever questioned [anything he did]. He said he got his revelations directly from God,' she continued.

'When I was 18, Bill told me that my father had lost all authority over me and that he was my new authority.

'One night at headquarters, he said, "You belong here. I love you, you know that right? Your father doesn't love you but I love you." He played with my hair and rubbed my shoulders. He put his hand on my thigh.'

Jill Duggar recalled young women being asked to meet with Bill for interviews, which he claimed was to determine if they could work for him in the future.

'At headquarters, we would have these weird therapy sessions [with Bill],' Lindsey (seen as a kid) recalled. 'He once asked me, "Are you a virgin?"'

Her husband, Derick Dillard, added, 'It seems to me like it was a vetting process for [Bill to figure out] which types he liked [so he could] invite them further along to more things, to learn more about their vulnerabilities.'

Lindsey Williams, another ex-IBLP member, said he would ask her inappropriate questions about her sex life during their chats.

'At headquarters, we would have these weird therapy sessions [with Bill] and he would always wait for his assistant to leave,' she recalled.

'He once asked me, "Are you a virgin?" I was like, "Yes sir, of course." I didn't even know what sex was, I didn't know how babies were made, I didn't know anything.

'Bill told me to pray so we got down on our knees and all of a sudden I feel his hand creep up next to mine and he kept rubbing his thumb against the back of my hand.

'We have a thing within [IBLP] that we call the six-inch rule, to keep six inches between a female and a male.

'He seemed to have no problem [breaking it]. This became routine, it happened three times maybe four times a week.'

She added: 'I'm one of many young ladies that Bill preyed upon and took advantage of.

'So many other girls were going through the same experience and none of us felt like we had the ability to say anything to anybody because we wouldn't be heard.'

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