The Duggar family has made their way into our homes for over a decade with their reality shows 19 Kids & Counting and Counting On, and it has become easy to dismiss them as an eccentric family with odd views on dating, marriage, and procreation. But, what many don’t know is that the family has ties to a controversial ministry known as the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a non-denominational religious organization that some former members call a cult.
The Duggars have worked hard to put forward a picture-perfect brand of family togetherness, but many survivors of IBLP say the reality of the ministry is a lot less wholesome.
According to In Touch Weekly, the founder of IBLP, Bill Gothard, has teachings that some former followers say are downright scary, and he was even the target of a sexual assault lawsuit back in 2014. However, the Duggars continue to associate with the controversial religious leader and speak at his yearly conferences.
This week, I had the opportunity to encourage other moms and share with them tips I have learned along life’s way. As a busy mom with a growing family through the years, I never imagined me being the one to talk to crowds! My days were filled with all the daily chores of being a mom. Yet, I am so thankful for the opportunity to share our story with others and encourage moms in their faith, their marriages and raising their children. I am amazed at how God can use an imperfect person like me to encourage and help others. I always pray that I’ll have the right words and share my heart with love and care to the lives I come in contact with. I’ve discovered that it is in the most difficult trials of life that we grow the most spiritually and learn to trust God the most. I think sharing out of our joys and our sorrows, allows us to be encouraged together. It was a great night and I loved every moment and every kind face I saw. Love, Michelle
Now, some former members of IBLP have come forward to share their stories, and the one thing they all have in common is the fact that Gothard’s teachings have had a deeply negative impact on their childhoods and upbringings.
Micah J. Murray says his family joined the church back in the early 1990’s and his parents isolated him from anything mainstream or worldly. They did not allow him to watch television or movies, listen to music with a beat, or have any knowledge of current pop culture. And, their reasons were quite bizarre.
“Then there are all the silly wacky things they taught that were also super f–ked up in their own ways,” he explained. “The devil is trying to sneak into your house through Cabbage Patch dolls and Trolls and My Little Pony; white bread is basically a sin and God wants you to eat whole wheat bread instead.”
He added that the teachings also included that ritual purity laws in the Old Testament are the key to a good sex life and fertile offspring, and if God hasn’t answered your prayers it’s because you haven’t yelled audibly at God.
Murray also explained that boys are raised to believe that the weight of the world is on their shoulders, and instead of being equal partners with your wife in marriage, everything is the man’s responsibility.
IBLP also teaches that people are not inherently good, and you deserve punishment instead of love. Plus, you must do things certain ways in order to earn God’s approval, and if you are sick or unhappy, it’s because you did something wrong.
Other former followers agree that the rules of the church are strict and patriarchal, and the lack of education, the brainwashing, and the courting process are not the experiences a child should have.
As for the Duggars, their religion and conservative beliefs are obviously an integral part of their identity, and it doesn’t seem they will be changing that anytime soon.
The Duggar family returns in new episodes of Counting On this summer on TLC.