Lazy Saturday Reads: The Duggar Family and Dangerous Christian Cults
Posted: May 23, 2015 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Arkansas Department of Human Services, Bill Gothard, christian cults, Duggar family, Jim Bob Duggar, Jim Hutchens, Josh Duggar, MIcah Murray, Oprah Winfrey, The Learning Channel
The Duggar family
I decided last night that I was going to write about the Duggar family today, but I’m really resisting getting started. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading about Josh Duggar, the Duggar family, and Bill Gothard, who heads the home schooling/religious cult they follow.
I’m beginning to realize that I should be watching more television. I pretty much broke the TV habit back in 2008 when I wanted to avoid all the Hillary hate, and I’ve never really gotten back to watching regularly. I’ve never watched a reality TV show, and now I think I should have been checking them out selectively so I would know what’s going on in popular culture.
I come from the days of situation comedies like I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Bob Newhart. When did TV become so sick and strange? Does it trace back to those awful talk shows that used to be on–the ones that brought on weird people to be mocked by the audience?
Everyone knows by now that one of the Duggar children, Josh Duggar has been revealed to have molested four of his sisters and another girl 12 years ago. Josh is now married with his own children, who are certainly in danger.
Here are the essentials of the scandal, based on a police report obtained by In Touch magazine, which broke the news a couple of days ago.
Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.
Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.
Children of The Family cult from Australia
Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”
He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.
Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”
So basically, the kid was sent to do some construction work, presumably on assumption that he didn’t have enough to do with his hands? And what about the girls? What help did they receive for their traumatic experiences?
The Duggars told police that Josh “apologized” to the female minors and that they had “forgiven” him.
An alleged victim told police in 2006 that Josh had told “mother and dad what had happened… (and) asked for forgiveness.” The report notes the alleged victim says Josh “sought after God and had turned back to God.
Josh Duggar and growing family
Oh. And then there’s this:
Jim Bob told police in 2006 that when Josh returned home in 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a “very stern talk.” As In Touch magazine reports exclusively in this week’s issue, Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case.
Again, why were these sick people ever on TV? I don’t understand, and I’m realizing I need to become more aware of what’s happening. It’s just unbelievable to me that religious cults are being promoted on what are supposedly publicly-owned airwaves!
From Jezabel: The Duggars Aren’t Just a Family, They’re a Cult, by Tracie Egan Morrissey.
It’s also noteworthy that Josh’s history of sexual assault has been known by plenty of people since at least 2006 when Oprah Winfrey learned about it and reported him to the Arkansas Department of Human Services? Are we to believe that The Learning Channel didn’t find out about this before now? Come on!
The other important fact about the Duggars is that they are active participants in a “christian” cult, which was headed by Bill Gothard until he was forced to resign over accusations of sexual abuse of young girls. From the Washington Post: Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations.
Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress who warned against rock music and debt, has resigned from the ministry he founded after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.
Gothard’s resignation from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, according to a letter sent to families affiliated with the ministry he founded, comes a week after he was put on administrative leave. According to an organizer involved in the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace, 34 women told the website they had been sexually harassed; four women alleged molestation….
Gothard’s ministry had been a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among families within the Quiverfull movement, who eschew birth control and promote big families.
Gothard has also rubbed shoulders with Republican leaders. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences declaring Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”
From an insider:
On Growing Up in Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult, by Micah Murray
We talked about how it was a cult, joking at first. Outsiders could point and accuse and question, but we knew that it wasn’t what it looked like.
Yes, we were often mistaken for Mormon missionaries. Yes, the red neckscarves were reminiscent of Nazi youth. Yes, we knew that sometimes we were simply trotted out as props for political stunts. We knew, and we joked about it. Don’t worry, it’s not what it looks like.
I remember saying, more seriously than joking, “If this is brainwashing, it feels good to be brain clean.”
But as I spiraled closer and closer to to the center, the realization began to sink in. The jokes became real.
“Cult-like”, sure. I’d call it that. Authoritarian, legalistic, overbearing. But not a real cult.
The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can’t see it for what it is. You never think you’re in a cult when you’re in a cult.
Until the day you can’t deny the reality of what you’ve seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while,
“I grew up in a cult.”
And now, perhaps, “I grew up in a cult run by a sexual predator.”
Read more of Murray’s story at his website (link above).
Duggar girls with serial abuser Bill Gothard
After the revelations about Gothard, JM Bishop wrote at The Powder Room: How are the Duggars dealing with the Gothard sex scandal?
If there is anything that the Duggars love more than tater tot casserole and Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray, it is the Institute of Basic Life Principles (which is the umbrella organization that runs, among other things, the Advanced Training Institute, providing homeschoolers with a Bible Based curriculum, including the promotion of ideas around Young Earth Creation), the organization founded by fallen leader, Bill “Grabby Hands” Gothard. And why does he deserve this delightful moniker? Bill has harassed and assaulted many women in his organization. In response, the Duggars’ increasingly glamorous fundamentalist sheen is perhaps being used to distract us from his multitude of sins.
So let’s start with who Bill Gothard is. Bill Gothard is the famously unmarried, 79 year old head of an organization which emphasizes women’s Godly obedience to men within the confines of marriage and separateness from potentially harmful secular influences, like public school, television or the democratic party. Micah J. Murray, who grew up in “Bill Gothard’s homeschool cult,” wrote that Bill Gothard cultivated an atmosphere that was “system of absolute authoritarianism” that built on “the idiosyncratic whims of an old man with way too much money and power.”
Earlier this year, 34 women brought forth allegations that Gothard sexually harassed them and 4 women reported being sexually assaulted. In response, Gothard was forced to step down from his leadership when he was placed on indefinite leave.
Again, go to the link to read about how this relates to the Duggar family and their behavior.
There are hundreds–if not thousands of these christian cults around the world. I don’t understand it, but there’s obviously something about human psychology that makes us susceptible to being drawn in by authoritarian movements like these. What better way to brainwash people than to begin in early childhood?
These people are dangerous, and they have burrowed into our politics, our system of education, and popular culture. It’s frightening.
I’m running out of space and time, but here’s Amanda Marcotte on the phenomenon of right wing christian cults and sexual abuse:
Duggar Revelations Are Just the Latest Sex Abuse Scandal to Rock Far-Right Fundamentalism.
Score one for the tabloid press. Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the creepy super-fundamentalist clan at the center of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, has admitted to charges of molesting multiple underage girls when he was a teenager; he has since stepped down from his position as a sex scold for the Family Research Council. Duggar admitted to molesting five girls—some of them reportedly his sisters—and while the family claims to have addressed the situation, a timeline constructed by Gawker suggests he did not get counseling while managing to dodge any prosecution.
The family’s fame guarantees this story will stay in the public memory for awhile, but it’s far from the first sex abuse scandal in the tight-knit world of far-right fundamentalism. As I wrote last year for Slate, Doug Phillips of the far-right group Vision Forum was forced to step down after admitting to “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.” The woman in question, Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, claims it was more than “inappropriate,” noting that they met when she was 15 and that he “methodically groomed” by moving her into the house as a nanny and becoming “the pastor of her church, her boss, her landlord, and the controller of all aspects of her life” before pushing for sex. The Duggars were tight with Phillips and Vision Forum, which promoted a lot of Duggar-related material.
Marcotte also discusses Gothard, with lots of good links to more information. Check it out.
As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great Memorial Day weekend!