Lazy Saturday Reads: The Duggar Family and Dangerous Christian Cults

The Duggar family

The Duggar family

Good Afternoon!!

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?

cult children

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

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

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 enraging how mainstream media outlets like Today and People treat the Duggars as though they’re just an ordinary family with an extraordinary amount of children — and aren’t they so cute! — when in fact, they are not.

Yes, they’re bigots and anti-choice and weird and they subscribe to the kind of traditional gender roles that most educated people would consider “sexist.” But all of those things, however detestable, are essentially personal opinions. The real problem with the Duggars is that they are a cult.

Think about it. If there are 19 (and counting!) Duggar children, then statistically speaking, two of them are gay. What are the chances that they will be able to live happy, mentally and emotionally healthy lives as out-and-proud homosexuals in a loving relationship with the acceptance of their family members?

Nine of the Duggar children are female. What are the chances that they will get to go away to college and live on a campus and have their own house or car financing it at There’s no impossible nowadays. If some of them can put up their own business or start investing, they can afford things and can help them for their future.

Yes, they are a family, but they meet all the criteria of a mind-control group. The following are the eight factors used to identify a destructive cult, outlined by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton identifies in his seminal book on mind control, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.

Read about the criteria at the link.


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

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!

67 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: The Duggar Family and Dangerous Christian Cults”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s the latest from Jezabel this morning:

    Josh Duggar’s Police Records Have Been Destroyed

    Apparently the records pertaining to the 2006 investigation of Josh Duggar have been destroyed by the Arkansas police. A spokesman told the AP that “Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the 2006 offense report destroyed Thursday.” Zimmerman did not return the AP’s request for comment.

    It’s a good thing the records are all over the internet then.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    A must read from Gawker:

    The Duggar Homeschool Program’s Terrifying Advice on Sexual Assault

    The gist is there are no victims. Girls bring it on themselves.

    • NW Luna says:

      And having to look after your younger siblings by changing their diapers and thus seeing them naked is a temptation and leads the poor tempted older brother to give in to the temptation.
      Sick, sick.

    • Fannie says:

      I don’t know how in the hell they come to see life this way. They are all living in a mental tomb, the more I read the more I want to scream. Damn, I got to go take a clean shower now.

  3. NW Luna says:

    Creepy. We all want a sense of belonging, but this group-think indoctrination produces an ideal feeding ground for abusers. So many powerless children, girls and women who have been trained to not think for themselves.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    There are “Marches against Monsanto” going on all over the country.

    • roofingbird says:

      I didn’t realize how huge this moment/movement has gotten. You know, you do your best, and what you can…grow stuff in your back yard, help the bees, buy local. With Hubby needing special attention these days, I’ve had my head in the furrow.

      • roofingbird says:

        That leads me to the next thing, which is to thank you all for continuing to post and comment, despite the life issues you all have had. I wouldn’t know a thing if you weren’t there.

  5. Beata says:

    Thank you for doing the research for this post, BB.

    Like you, I have never watched any reality shows and knew next to nothing about the Duggars. The picture of the Duggar girls with serial abuser Bill Gothard is deeply disturbing. I hope that Child Protective Services is investigating possible continued sexual abuse by members of the Duggar family and their fellow cultists. The girls in this cult need protection.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I hope so, but I kind of doubt it. Maybe the publicity will trigger something.

    • RalphB says:

      I don’t watch reality show either. I find them all to be creepy in some way. They’re cheap to produce and take the place of actual entertainment IMHO.

  6. Beata says:

    Is it just a strange coincidence that Jim Bob Duggar took his son Josh to see a state trooper ( and personal friend ) who just happened to be a child pornographer? ( I think not. ) Was this state trooper also a member of the Gothard cult?

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t know. I’ll see if I can find out.

    • Fannie says:

      I bet you ten to one, that the family friend, Jim Hutchens, the state trooper doing 56 years for pornography has used these children in his exchange of photos all over this world. I wonder if the police department can look to see if Josh is one of his kids, and that’s how this is how he got his start.

  7. roofingbird says:

    The whole TV thing is ridiculous. Cable was supposed to be ad free because we were paying for the service. If you put on your analyst’s hat and try to understand it BB, it will really depress you. I think what is offered on TV has to be seen in the larger context of “Brave New World”. What people view on TV is what’s offered, not what is really asked for. We have all gone down the rabbit hole of the “feelies” drugs and sick environments. Who controls that?

    • RalphB says:

      Reality shows are really cheap to produce compared to anything else. I think that’s why they are on the air.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I agree. No production, no writers, no script, no set, no costumes, no hair stylist, no makeup, no special effects, no big contracts required. Just follow a bunch of nuts around, film and edit. VOILÀ, Episode 1 Season 1. There are some exceptions like Survivor or the Great Race, there’s a lot of work that go into those shows, but most of us could do the cheap TLC reality shows in our basement.

  8. dakinikat says:

    Glad you wrote about this BB. I think that the family should be checked by social workers frequently to protect the girls. You have to wonder where Josh got the idea and if any one else there has similar inclinations because it’s obvious the children are raising each other.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Absolutely. I was raised catholic and I knew families with 16 & 19 children. The family with 16 children was a clusterfuck of a home, but the home with 19 children was very organized. Still I was friends with kids from both families and I can tell you that the older children raised the younger children. My mother was the 2nd oldest daughter in a family of 11, and she was old enough to be the mother of her youngest 2 siblings. My grandmother was a great mother, but she freely admitted that her older children helped her raise her younger children. No one woman or man can handle that many children. I think the Duggars currently have 21 children.

  9. ANonOMouse says:

    Good post today, BB.

    The cult the Duggars belong to is called, Christianity. Most Christian religions (and all religions) are cults of a sort, but over the centuries have grown so much in participation they’re looked at by society as mainstream. There are degrees of overboard and the cult the Duggars participate in is way overboard. Still, if you look at them all closely they all share common themes. The promise and threat of eternal reward or eternal punishment that can only be safely navigated by allegiance to a church, followed by church membership, participation and donations. The marginalization of women by teaching that women should be subservient, submissive, not owners of their own bodies and expected to carry the lions share of the parenting & care giving responsibilities. The indoctrination of children by controlling their educational and social environment. The stigmatization of human sexuality as something unhealthy and only good if it is blessed by their god. The constant reinforcement of shame, fear, guilt, repentance. An all male or mostly male hierarchy. And far too often abuse by the hierarchy perpetrated against the weakest members of the cult and covered up through and by the power and wealth of the hierarchy. So far this “We’re in control of the gates of Heaven” thing has worked well for a couple of thousand years, but I sense a lessening of it’s hold on society. I pity the Duggar children and all children who grow up in these circumstances.

  10. RalphB says:

    “I would rather be taken to Singapore and caned.”
    — Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), quoted by Politico, when asked if he would become a lobbyist after retiring.

  11. RalphB says:

    Holy shit, the media sucks. This is a good story emphasizing what the everyday Americans thought.

    Buzzfeed: Two Actual Everyday Americans Walk Into A Hillary Clinton Event…

    …and get crushed. The challenges of the “everyday” campaign.

    • NW Luna says:

      Great story.

      The media can go ‘eff themselves.

    • janicen says:

      It’s annoying to read stories which sound almost critical of the kind of events at which Clinton is appearing. Even this story describes the events as small, by invitation only, and attended by only certain Democratic officials. I realize this article isn’t being critical but others are much more critical that she’s not really opening the events up to all people.

      It’s very early days in the campaign. Right now, she’s focusing on motivating her grass roots supporters and volunteers. I have on my twitter feed a photo of my friend and HRC. She got to introduce Hillary at one of those small events in Iowa. Yes, my friend is a paid Democratic organizer, but she’s not a high level official. She’s just a campaign worker and that’s where the campaign is right now, organizing and motivating the workers and volunteers. The time for vast town hall discussion will come. It’s a long time until November 2016.

  12. GAgal says:

    Why in the hell is Bill Clinton in the picture of the Duggars at the InTouch link? What’s their point? Since they’re such big supporters of Huckabee and he has said he stands by them, why didn’t they round up a picture of them together? Jerks.

  13. Fannie says:

    Thank you BB, and for all the links. Your words are sticking in my mind: “these people are dangerous, they have burrowed in our politics, our system of education, and our popular culture.” You nailed it.

    I’ll be sharing a lot of this, and I can’t help but think of other churches, like the Mars Hills Church, that mega church in Seattle, and Tacoma. The pastor was one of the biggest sexist assholes every to surface. When some women complained, they were demoted from the church. And other Christians, were on his side, and everybody saying what a great Church and membership they had. In order words the women who complained were silenced because the church had more power as they were Males, and no females were allowed to lead the church. JUST like the Mormon Church, and the Baptist church. They preach and degrade women. That mega church was finally run to the ground, but I bet you they are still out there, with a big cover up, so you don’t know they are one and the same. Much like the asshole, Bill Gothard, and his home schooling. You know and I know, that it’s just a fucking money maker, it’s not quality education. He acted like he was the one to start home schooling. No, it’s been going on for some time, and right now the home schooling movement is to take away funds from public schools, and nobody questions anyone’s qualifications. It’s all about making money. I use to watch the learning channel (now TLC) that sponsors all kinds of bullshit. Use to watch the history channel, now it’s full of conservative props. I used to watch msnbc, cnn, and now I get direct news from Al Jazeera. I still do switch, to back and forth. This morning I watched the Judge in Cleveland, and before it was over wanted to puke and turned it off. I knew exactly where I had seen that, Fergurson, Mo.

    I had never heard the term quilver movement? I’ll have to read up on that one.

    You really did a wonderful job BB.

  14. janicen says:

    The Duggars have always given me the creeps just as fundamentalism does. “Cult” is the perfect description for this family along with their followers and friends. Even though we know he’s crazy, how can Huckabee or anyone else justify their loyalty to the sick, twisted nature of these people’s behavior? I’ve never watched them. I honestly didn’t know they had a show until recently, but I found it strange that they would be featured on main stream news shows like they were some kind of circus act. So what if some fools have nineteen kids? That makes for good television?

    I’m just catching up on episodes of True Detective. I remember you guys carrying on about it and I thought I couldn’t force myself to suffer through Matthew McConnaughey’s acting, and I find myself blown away by it. Now that’s good television.

  15. Fannie says:

    There’s Huckabee, and the republicans will allow him to get on stage and run for president. I can tell you one thing, he’ll never get a chance to debate Hillary. Never, will he ever be president. He’s one big ass bandit from the Arkansas churches. He is forever talking about women’s private parts. What a nasty freaking nut.

    I’d like to know just how in the hell did they get Bill Clinton in that photo? I don’t know the answer to that.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      ” I can tell you one thing, he’ll never get a chance to debate Hillary.”

      I know, but wouldn’t you love to see her dissect him like the frog he is?

      “Never, will he ever be president.”

      True that Fannie

  16. Fannie says:

    Oh, the judge, Stacy Zimmerman who ordered the records to be removed, she was appointed by Huckabee.

  17. I just woke up and the post is forthcoming…

  18. bostonboomer says:

    Mathematician John Nash, who inspired ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ killed in car crash