Fundamentalist Ministry That 'Treated' Josh Duggar as a Teen Sued Over Sexual Abuse Cover-Up

( [email protected] ) Oct 23, 2015 02:10 PM EDT
A fundamentalist Christian ministry that "treated" Josh Duggar after he confessed to molesting several underage girls has been accused of enabling and covering up the sexual abuse and harassment of those involved in its programs.
Josh and Anna Duggar of the hit TLC show ''19 Kids and Counting.'' Scott Enlow/Discovery

A fundamentalist Christian ministry that "treated" Josh Duggar as a teen after he confessed to molesting several underage girls has been accused of enabling and covering up the sexual abuse and harassment of those involved in its programs.

The Washington Post reports that on Tuesday, five women filed a lawsuit against the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), once a leader in the Christian home-schooling movement, alleging that the board of directors engaged in a conspiracy to conceal systematic sexual abuse.

The lawsuit charges that employees and directors "frequently received reports" of "sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching." These "serious, potentially criminal allegations [were never reported] to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services" as required by state law.

David Gibbs III, the attorney representing the women who filed the lawsuit, told the Washington Post that the victims had initially hoped to discuss the issue with the IBLP board of directors; however, they were forced to litigate after the board "rather stubbornly and in my opinion rather arrogantly basically challenged the girls to bring the case".

"The board is not operating in a spirit of transparency or openness," he said, explaining that it has yet to discuss the allegations with the women.

The Illinois-based organization identifies itself as providing "clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God's principles found in Scripture," and was once admired by the Christian homeschooling and Quiverfull communities for its teaching materials that focus on "Biblical character" development.

The negligence suit comes more than a year after fundamentalist leader Bill Gothard, 80, resigned from his position as head of the organization after more than 30 women alleged that he harassed or molested them, some when they were minors, according to Slate.

Many of the women first attempted to address the charges internally, according to stories shared on Recovering Grace, a website created by former followers of IBLP. However, Gothard routinely denied the allegations and an internal investigation reported "no criminal activity has been discovered," but that "Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner."

A spokesperson from Recovering Grace, John Cornish, said of the latest lawsuit filed against the organization: "Our goal and our hope is the same as it's been all along - that they will be accountable for what's taken place, that Bill [Gothard] and the board would repent, and that the victims will finally be acknowledged and taken care of in the right manner."

The Duggars of "19 Kids and Counting" fame supported the IBLP ministry for many years, although the family has "quieted its support for the ministries as abuse allegations have piled up against them," according to Slate.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar reportedly sent their oldest son, Josh Duggar, to the organization's training center as a teenager after he admitted to sexually abusing five underage girls, including several of his younger sisters.

Writes Slate staff writer Christina Cauterucci, "Josh Duggar is still the perfect case study for how these ultrafundamentalist organizations, which preach that a woman must submit to the desires of men (her father, her husband, her church leader) at all stages of her life, create a patriarchal, victim-blaming culture. Sending a teenage child molester to the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an organization that lets sexual abuse fester in its highest levels of leadership, should constitute a form of abuse all its own."