The Duggar family has portrayed a picture-perfect image to their fans for over a decade, and it has become easy to dismiss them as a big, eccentric family with strict views on marriage and child-rearing.
But what many people don’t know is that the Duggars are followers of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a non-denominational religious organization that many call a cult. Is it possible the famous TV family is a lot less wholesome than their fans believe?
According to In Touch Weekly, the founder of IBLP, Bill Gothard, was involved in a sexual assault and molestation scandal back in 2014, but the Duggars still speak at his yearly conferences. He also counseled Josh Duggar after his own scandal a year later.
Former members say that Gothard’s teachings are downright scary and they leave a lot of women feeling trapped.
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
Some former followers are sharing their stories, and the damage from IBLP has affected their lives in a variety of ways. So much so, that they chose to remain anonymous while discussing how harmful Gothard’s teachings are.
One girl, known as Tiffany, reveals that her childhood was full of strict rules that kept her isolated and she had very few friends. As the oldest of eight children, she had to homeschool her siblings and was expected to run the house when she was only 14.
She said the church expects boys to get jobs within the family business, but daughters are never expected to get an education or a job.
Emily, another former member, says the importance of being perfect to a degree that no one could adhere to was extremely stressful. But, it’s the rule of courting that still haunts her. She says that she signed a contract with her dad at the age of 13 to commit to not courting or marrying a man he didn’t approve of.
She went on to say that women are second-class citizens and they have no access to God, only the men do.
Even Duggar cousin, Amy Duggar, who periodically appeared on 19 Kids & Counting, recently tweeted that she does not support Gothard or the IBLP in any way, adding that she finds his teachings “extremely questionable.”
Duggar went on to say that she is a Christian, and God gives us emotions and personalities, and he wants us to live our best life.
Former members of IBLP hope that the Duggar women will dream bigger because they can still follow Jesus, but in a way that enables freedom.
The Duggar family returns with the new season of Counting On Monday, February 26th on TLC.