Micah J. Murray

Hobby Lobby, the Duggars, and Bill Gothard

July 3, 2014 66 Comments

I often hear Christians dismiss Bill Gothard and his teachings as legalistic, fundamentalist, bizarre, and dangerous. Rightly so, especially in the wake of his alleged sexual misconduct. But many of these same Christians support Hobby Lobby or the Duggars for their “Christian values”, perhaps not realizing how closely they are connected to Bill Gothard.

This week, I’ve heard Christians hailing Hobby Lobby’s Supreme Court win as a victory for religious freedom. It’s a narrative of good Christian business people going up against the bullying of a tyrannical government — and winning.

Throughout this all, I’ve heard one phrase over and over again: “sincerely held religious beliefs”

I’m not going to wade into the issues of constitutional law or religious liberty involved in this case; others have addressed those points better than I ever could. But I do want to talk about those “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Hobby Lobby & Bill Gothard

Following this week’s Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, Mother Jones published a piece detailing the connection between the Green family and Bill Gothard. Though they are not the first to make this connection (Heresy in the Heartland reported on it last year and Sarah Jones wrote about it back in March), I was surprised to see just how deep the connection was:

– Through various trusts and corporations, the Green family / Hobby Lobby donated millions of dollars worth of real estate to the Gothard organization beginning in 2000. This includes the Little Rock Training Center, the Nashville Training Center, the New Zealand Training Center, and the Big Sandy Campus.

– David Green (Founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby) is listed on Amazon as an endorser of Gothard’s 2010 work The Amazing Way.

In 2009, Steve Green (President of Hobby Lobby and son of David Green) shared the stage with Bill Gothard at the Big Sandy Regional Conference. In 2012, he was listed alongside Gothard as a speaker at the Business Leaders Seminar, held at the IBLP Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. Steve Green is also a featured speaker on Gothard’s online Embassy Institute.

In 2009, Bill Gothard was invited by David Green to speak to Hobby Lobby employees and distribute IBLP materials to employees at one of their retail locations.

– According to Bill Gothard, the Greens are “friends” and their support of IBLP “really helps with the bottom line.” (via Mother Jones)

The relationship between the Hobby Lobby owners and Bill Gothard is not limited to a few donations nearly fifteen years ago. By all accounts, it is a reciprocal partnership that has continued until very recently and may well continue today. The Green family are supporters who have tremendously advanced the reach and success of Gothard’s “ministry”, and Gothard’s teachings have influenced the Greens (by their own testimony) at both a personal and business level.

Certainly, there is nothing to indicate that the Greens had any knowledge of Gothard’s alleged sexual misconduct stretching back nearly three decades; to imply that they are somehow guilty by association would be unfair. However, it is not only Gothard’s private actions that are troubling, but his very public teachings and interpretations of the Scripture. It’s these teachings that the Greens appear to gratefully accept and generously support.

These Religious Beliefs

At the heart of the Supreme Court decision is the “sincerely held religious beliefs” of the Green family. As Justice Alito stated:

“We must decide in these cases whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services to demand that three closely held corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners.” 

And what are these sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners? According to a 2012 statement from Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green:

“The Health and Human Services “preventative services” mandate forces businesses to provide the “morning-after” and the “week-after” pills in our health insurance plans. These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families.”

This is the same David Green who, in an endorsement for Bill Gothard’s The Amazing Way (pub. 2010), stated:

“Through the example and teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, we have benefited both as a family and in our business. It is as we take those lessons from God’s Word that Bill clearly articulates that we live the full life that God intends.”

Is it possible, then, that the Green’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” that they went all the way to the Supreme Court to defend were directly influenced by “the example and teachings of Bill Gothard”?

According to Gothard, the Greens became involved in his “ministry” after their family attended one of his seminars. In addition to teachings on finances, relationships, and religious practice, the Gothard seminars include detailed teachings on sexual and reproductive practice. For example, Gothard teaches that Christians must follow the Levitical law regarding uncleanness and abstinence:

iblp01Advanced Seminar Textbook. IBLP. 1986. ]

(If you spend much time at all around Gothard’s teachings, you’ll notice a common theme of teaching that Christians must follow Levitical law while simultaneously dodging all criticisms of legalism.)

Gothard goes on to say that concern about finances is a “selfish reason for not having children” (pg. 197) and that Satan is attacking the “hidden design of marriage fruitfulness” because Satan’s goal is “pleasure without responsibility” (pg. 189).  He also describes “fear of pregnancy” as “unhealthy and unscriptural” (pg. 181) and states that “God assigns a special woe to those who reverse His pronouncements” by using contraception (pg. 181).

Then he says:

“There is no question that many birth control methods and devices simply kill the conceived child. Chief among these is the IUD. It comes as a shock to many couples, however, that taking the pill also results in aborting a conceived child.”

iblp02Advanced Seminar Textbook. IBLP. 1986. ]

(It should be noted that the latest research regarding the function of both “the pill” and the IUD  is significantly at odds with Gothard’s claims, which are based on research from the mid-70’s. His assertion that birth control can cause abortions is also extremely questionable.)

So when the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby cites “the teachings of Bill Gothard” as influential in how they run their business, and when these teachings are notably similar to the “sincerely held religious beliefs” that the Green family took to the Supreme Court, the connection is worth noting. Whether the Green family’s beliefs were shaped by Gothard or whether they chose to support Gothard because their beliefs were already closely aligned, the relationship — and the shared ideas — are troubling.

Let’s Talk About the Duggars

As a high-profile Christian homeschooling family and popular reality TV stars, the Duggars are literally poster children for Bill Gothard.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 1.39.08 PM[ the Embassy Institute ]

Like the supporters of Hobby Lobby, Christians who would never endorse Bill Gothard or his teachings will happily support the Duggars as they live out those same teachings on television. This makes me profoundly uncomfortable.

Gothard engineered a machine to produce families that appear perfect, well-behaved children with pasted-on smiles. The Duggars may be wonderful, kind, sincere people, but the system of which they are a part is toxic. There’s nothing charming about that.

Unsurprisingly, the Duggar’s sincerely held religious beliefs regarding contraceptives are similar to those of both the Green family and Bill Gothard. On their website, they relate the following story behind their decision to have so many children:

“Between her second and third month, Michelle miscarried. When the doctor told us the miscarriage probably happened because she had conceived while still on the pill, we were devastated. To us, it meant that something we had chosen to do—use the pill—had caused the end of the pregnancy. As conservative Christians, we believe every life is sacred, even the life of the unborn. Due to our lack of knowledge, we destroyed the precious life of our unborn child.”

They go on to share “The Hidden Message of the Lost Pearl”, saying that it had a “tremendous impact on us after experiencing our miscarriage“. And this story about the Lost Pearl? It’s from Gothard’s Advanced Seminar Textbook, just a few pages past his teachings on how “guilt comes by discovering that abortions were unknowingly committed”.

iblp03Advanced Seminar Textbook. IBLP. 1986. ]

It is tragic that the Duggars were “tremendously impacted” by Gothard’s shame-based teaching in the vulnerable time after their miscarriage. It seems that this guilt and shame have been the motivation driving them to seek absolution by giving birth to nineteen more kids (and counting).

Why It Matters

Millions of people of faith object to various forms of contraception on religious grounds, so does it matter that the Green family, the Duggar family, and Bill Gothard share some of these objections? I believe it does. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. And Bill Gothard’s ideas have had a demonstrably harmful effect on his followers.

Thirty years ago, the “sincerely held religious beliefs” that Bill Gothard taught in his seminars were being criticized by even conservative Christians. After attending a seminar in the 1980’s, Ronald Allen (Professor of Hebrew Scripture at Western Baptist Seminary) warned:

Given Gothard’s low view of the body and his repressed views of human sexuality, it is not surprising that he neglects entirely the Song of Solomon with its beautiful eroticism and its delight in human sexuality.

If ever there were a reason for a women’s movement in the evangelical church — this is it. This… is a parody of patriarchalism.

Lost is all concept of mutual submission and inter-relatedness of wife and husband which the Bible truly presents; instead there is the basest form of male chauvinism I have ever heard in a Christian context.

Women are stripped of dignity other than that which they have in their husband; children are to be broken; the husband is to be permitted tyranny over the grin-and-bear-it little woman. Gothard has lost the biblical balance of the relationship between women and men as equals in relationship.

His view is basically anti-woman.”

So why does it matter? Because the Duggar family listened to these anti-woman views and have gone on to become the poster family for conservative Christian homeschooling. The Green family attended Gothard’s seminar, which included these anti-woman views, and decided that this was a “ministry” that they would generously support for the next fifteen years. Now they’ve won a Supreme Court case that is also being described as “anti-woman” as well.

Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. Bill Gothard’s repressed view of human sexuality and his oppressive teaching on the role of women are damaging to those who follow them, whether those views are received directly from Gothard himself or diluted and passed along second-hand from his supporters. True Christian values should affirm the worth and freedom and humanity of women, rather than burdening them with sexual shame and narrow, patriarchal gender roles.

Jimmy Carter once wrote:

“The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.”

This is why it matters. Bill Gothard’s “selfish ends” have come to light, and his manipulative, shaming, victim-blaming teachings are being exposed for the evil that they are. But many of those same teachings have a way of seeping into broader Evangelicalism where sincere, well-meaning Christians support them as “Biblical values”.

Of course, none of this should have been taken into account by the Supreme Court in their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case. It’s not up to the State to determine the validity of one’s “sincerely held religious beliefs”; the charitable donations and affiliations of the Green family should have no bearing on the SCOTUS decision.

However, we as Christians are not exempt from this same diligence. When the ideological underpinnings of those “sincerely held religious beliefs” share significant common ground with Bill Gothard’s chauvinistic, patriarchal, anti-woman teachings, we’d do well to consider whether they are truly “Christian values” worthy of our support.

Poison Flows Downstream

I’ve seen the effects of Bill Gothard’s teachings. I drank his poison; I shared it with others.

I’ve seen families destroyed by shame, guilt, manipulation, and every sort of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual. I’ve watched as many from the generation that was supposed to change the world spiraled out of control, into sexual addictions, substance abuse, self harm.

I’ve listened to the stories of the once bright-eyed youth who now speak of crippling shame, fear, and regret decades later. Contrary to everything he promised, the teachings of Bill Gothard did not produce a generation of miraculously godly families and spiritually strong young people. They produced broken families and spiritually crippled adults.

So when these toxic teachings of Bill Gothard are promoted by folks who have become mascots of American Christianity, I am deeply concerned. Where many Christians see “sincerely held religious beliefs”, I see poison. Where many see charming old-timey family values, I see a cult-like system of abusive and authoritarian beliefs.

I’m not suggesting that those who agree with the Hobby Lobby decision are in agreement with Gothard. I don’t believe that those who maintain religious objections to certain contraceptives are anti-woman or abusive (though I do believe they may be misinformed). I’m not writing this to shame the Duggars or the Greens for their values or convictions.

But I’ve seen what Bill Gothard is selling, and it’s not good. I’m tired of seeing Christians buying the same poison wrapped up with a bow and sold in a craft store or on reality TV.

  • This is a fantastic, cautious piece of writing. There’s no doubt that certain evangelical leaders have been extremely influential over the rank and file Christians. I was under enormous pressure to not use birth control when we were first married, and it was all coming from people who were “down stream” from those who listened to Gothard’s teachings. I had to deal with a lot of guilt and difficult questions before I could finally break free from it all.

  • chix0rgirl

    Go, Micah.

  • Emily R

    Thank you for this post, for tracking down all those links, and for addressing an issue that no one is talking about but one that certainly needs to be heard.

  • Brian Dare

    The link between Bill Gothard and Hobby Lobby is strong, which gives me a the heebie jeebies whenever I walk into an HL and you are right to point out the connection. It is troubling to see the friends of this movement gaining so much traction when all signs should be pointing to their demise.

    Many evangelicals share Hobby Lobby’s view on abortifacient contraceptives, as does the Catholic church. So this is hardly a unique and fringe point of view. This covers a very large percentage of our nation. If we are going to discuss the Hobby Lobby case throughly we should also have a conversation around whether or not certain contraceptives do indeed kill the fetus. And whether or not it is ok for government to require a company to fund a practice they consider to be morally reprehensible … especially when their are other very reasonable ways government can provide these same benefits without requiring employers to go against their firmly held moral beliefs.
    So far the Hobby Lobby case has been a direct challenge to religious liberty. Fortunately, the same supreme court who very recently gave a green-light in regards to homosexual marriage, made the right choice in regards to religious liberty here. This is no “right leaning” group of Justices.

    In regards to the IUD, I have been told by a medical professional, before they even knew my point of view on the issues of life, that IUD did indeed kill a successfully fertilized egg. This medical professional was no pro-lifer, they presented this as a positive thing and said the only reason not to use IUD is if we held certain religious or moral beliefs (aka, pro-life, Catholic, Evangelical etc.)

    • Wouldn’t it be up to the woman to decide whether to use an IUD or an “after” pill? Why do we need to bring the SC into it at all? Even if HL or any company, provided these in their medical plans, wouldn’t it be between a woman and God whether it’s right or wrong to utilize them?

      • Brian Dare

        HL doesn’t want to have to fund something they understand to be morally wrong, and they shouldn’t have to. They should be free not to. That is what religious liberty is: for a person to be able to worship freely and follow the dictates of their conscience. That is the crux of the argument here. There are plenty of other means for women to get contraceptives, a business shouldn’t be forced to supply ones that are abortifacient.

        • Vanessa Hall

          I agree, Brian Dare. Hobby Lobby is actually quite liberal in this regard because ordinary oral contraceptives can cause a thinning in the lining of the uterus, thus preventing implantation of a fertilized egg, and they did not say they wouldn’t pay for “the pill”. They only did not want to pay for Plan B, Next Choice, Ella, and IUDs, and in this I support them.

        • graciecooper

          But they don’t mind funding part employees’ 401K plans that invest in the same companies that manufacture these drugs?? Isn’t that just a bit hypocritical?

          • Bill Tressler

            I have seen this argument numerous times, and I must say that those who sell it are either spewing what they’ve heard or they are intellectually corrupt. To hold a company responsible for investments made by fund managers employed by an outside firm is utterly laughable.

    • Deb

      All well and good until one makes the discovering that Hobby Lobby covered the exactly same four contraceptives prior to ObamaCare that they’ve since objected to. Their health care plan provided them when it was their choice to do so, their objection came after it became a law.

      • graciecooper

        Correct. Actually, they were approached by an attorney to join the case and that’s when they stopped providing them.

  • Rebecca Erwin

    Very bravely put.

  • SadForTheDuggars

    I love watching the show, and I have since the beginning. When I learned of the connection, I felt no bad feelings towards them…I just felt really really bad for them. Having come out of a cult-like church myself (not Gothard), I know what it is to years later discover the truth, and the pain that follows. I hope and pray that they do come out of it, and I still love them. Just so hard to see his influence.

    • Jennifer

      I had the same reaction. People think that because I am critical of the Duggars’ belief system that I do not like them as people. I actually like them and feel bad for them. I see their involvement with Gothard as needing a feeling of spiritual security after Michelle’s miscarriage. I hope that they come out of it too.

  • Micah,
    The restraint in this piece is palpable.

    The message of this piece is very, very important – let’s understand who we’re lionizing (and avoid the unintended consequence of perpetuating harm).

    And, IMHO, this is a shining example of expressing challenge and disagreement with an abundance of grace.

    You friggin rock.

  • rhonda

    I think there is a link here between Kirk and Candace Cameron as well as the Pearls. Correct me if I am wrong.

    • Yeah, there is! There are links between Gothard and all sorts of people. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin… don’t get me started!

      • Jennifer

        Please tell! I’m Jewish and politically conservative. I work with evangelicals often who don’t understand why I dislike Huckabee etc. Any info is appreciated!

  • Daniel

    Although Gothard undoubtedly influenced the Greens and Hobby Lobby, in many areas their position on contraceptives is at odds with Gothard’s teachings. Gothard teaches that couples should not even use birth control pills, but Hobby Lobby provides birth control pills free of charge.

  • Daniel

    Although Gothard undoubtedly influenced the Greens and Hobby Lobby in many areas, their position on contraceptives is at odds with Gothard’s teachings. Gothard teaches that couples should not even use birth control pills, but Hobby Lobby provides birth control pills free of charge. [fixed my misplaced comma… you can delete other comment]

  • Nancy Le

    Thank you.

  • dan waits

    I know how much that must have taken out of you to write that.

    Proud of you for writing it.

    Glad you continue to walk toward wholeness

  • Jen Bahr

    Thank you for this. Although I agree with the Supreme Court decision, I feel very strongly that what Gothard is selling is poisonous. I was aware of the Duggar’s, Vision Forum, etc’s connection, but was not aware of Hobby Lobby’s connection.

    • I knew the Hobby Lobby fan had donated the Little Rock training center. I had no idea they were behind the Big Sandy center too, or how deeply they ran together.

  • What’s troubling to me most, in a litany of troubling things, is the shame and guilt that attends Gothard. I’ll confess I have little knowledge of this guy, and I’m thankful. God is not about shame. He’s not about guilt. He’s about live amidst the putrescence and healing for the sick. Well. That and the whole women are property thing. Well said, Micah.

    • Yeah, that’s the worst. And you can see that even in the bit that the Duggars’ have on their website. The whole system is based in shame.

  • Proud of you, Micah. Well said and well reasoned. This is important.

  • TLC

    Bravo! Well done. Excellent work.

    I read the earlier stories about the Gothard connection to Hobby Lobby, and decided at that time that I would never set foot in there again unless as a last resort.

    The next time someone gushes about those “wonderful Duggars,” I’m going to send them here.

    • The Duggars ARE wonderful!

      • TLC

        Did you not read this blog post? Or are you just trolling?

        • I read it, and I also know what the exemplary Duggar family is like. Micah Murray is not the expert on the Duggars. He is a young man who, like most young people these days, thinks he knows it all.

          • Joel Penner

            Micah did not say that the Duggar’s weren’t wonderful. Read the post carefully. Neither does he appear as know-it-all as you obviously do.

          • Kim W

            I would guess he knows a good deal more about living under Gothard’s teachings than you do. What you know of the Duggars is just what is presented in the media. Micah has actually lived under Gothard’s teachings and knows how destructive they are.

  • SJ

    Wow. Great piece. I think you did a topic justice that wasn’t the sensationalist hack of what you think constitutional law ought to be. I also just learned that Jimmy Carter is kinda awesome. I’m really really really surprised that even the Gotherites quote Leviticus on sexual practice too. I’ve always told Atheists that if they’re arguing with a Christian who quotes Leviticus, they’re probably not worth their salt. I’d expect more from a denomination worshiping Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

    • Cassie Chang

      Er, the Bible is not part of the Trinity?

      • sj

        Totally the point.

  • Raewyn Shand

    Thank you for this Micah. We were part of the IBLPNZ movement about 20 years ago for thankfully only 4-5 years. But that was enough to damage my family. From the outside it all looked so darned good, solve all our problems etc. But once we were in I immediately began feeling the vibes and picking up wrong teachings. It was such a relief to be out but it takes a long time to be free of the teachings and the oppression of judgement. I really appreciate your writings and your honesty. You have helped me gain some freedom.

  • MeganInTheRealWorld

    “True Christian values should affirm the worth and freedom and humanity of women, rather than burdening them with sexual shame and narrow, patriarchal gender roles.”

    Beautifully said! And you’re absolutely right, too many have fallen into this trap of fundamentalist, misinformed, legalistic toxicity. Instead of standing tall in Truth, they’ve been weighted down by the burden shame and condemnation.

    It’s terrifying to think those who are actually setting legal precedents might be following the guidance of this man’s “wisdom.”

  • Deb Owen

    Thank you for this Micah. Beautifully written.

  • ajh

    Fantastic…and oh so true.

  • The office where I work is just down the road from the Duggars’ house – less than two miles away. I will occasionally drive by it and look at the big fence that borders their property, remembering the fences that I’ve been trying to tear down since coming out of an upbringing that was eerily similar. It’s almost a tangible juxtaposition of two worlds, where I once was and where I am now. I pray for those kids. May Light shine in.

  • Joel Penner

    Great article, great restraint, and very respectfully written to all parties. This piece has integrity and a lack of sensationalism, even though there is enough evidence to blast some groups and justifiably be sensationalist. Sometimes we need the blasting, and other times we need the softer touch to share with people who would write-off the blasting articles. Well done.

  • Bill Tressler

    I have to admit, I started reading this with a prejudice against simply based on the person who shared the article. There are some very good points brought up. One thing I will say is that Obama sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for over 20 years. He got a pass.

    • joelbrady

      I don’t think he got a pass. I do think, however, that he weathered it rather well. Additionally, you have to look at how the actions of Obama and Wright’s teachings overlap through a fact based prism.

  • pastordt

    Extraordinarily well done, Micah. Thoughtful, careful, honest, real. Thank you, thank you.

  • Rod Wallace

    Micah – some thirty years ago I attended a Gothard “medical” institute for pastors. When I heard him say that genital mutilation of baby boys was a godly thing as the resulting subconscious pain would inhibit masturbation in adolescence (with the associated prooftext use of “the sin of Onan.”). When I realized he was citing John Harvey Kellogg as his source (who recommended the use of carbolic acid on little girls’ genitals) I realized I was listening to a man who was seriously deluded. So, so sad that many Christians follow Gothard’s “principles” to this day.

  • Caleb

    It seems this article misses the point of the Hobby Lobby decision. The whole point of freedom is to allow things I don’t agree with. Every dictatorship allows “good” behavior (as defined by the leader), but a tolerant and free society does and must allow a great deal of “wrong” behavior.

    There is probably no idea more damaging to civilization that the idea that says, “I disagree with your reasoning, therefore I will not allow you to live as you see fit.” God gives us great freedom to be both wrong and right. We should treat others with the same mindset. Unless someone is taking away another’s freedom, we must let them be wrong.

  • Daniel Woodworth

    It should be noted that the manufacturers of the IUDs in question in the Hobby Lobby case, as well as most of the medical profession, believe that the devices can act as abortifacients.


  • Susan’s Saddle Stands

    I worked for HL when it was known as Crafts Etc over 20 years ago. We were treated like dirt, hollered at, accused of costing the store money, told NOT to help the customers, just point them to the stuff, then when they wanted to get rid of you they gave you 3 hour work weeks, which after they let you go, would disqualify you from getting unemployment insurance. They assigned sometimes just a few (2) to run an entire store. We were not allowed to leave the cash register yet we were told we had to stock the shelves before the end of the day (???) I managed because I needed a job. Today HL claims they are closed Sunday to allow their employees a family and worship day, yet many have to work that day to stock shelves.

    Whatever is God’s truth will be true for any time period, climate, location or race of people. Therefore, a black woman in Ethiopia, wondering how to feed her children does not need to have more. As for the Duggars, they must live their lives as they feel led of God, BUT God does not make cookie cutter Christians.
    If a Christian husband and wife only want one kid, that is their business. I chose to have none. I wear pants, own horses, have cats and dogs and worked 27 years as a teacher in a public school. My only sin was not having faith in living the life God gave me but I felt I was sinning because of what our gothardized church taught.
    Under Gothard, unless you follow his non-optional principles, you are going against God.

    • jdglmg

      It sounds like the Hobby Lobby of today is far different from Crafts Etc. I looked this up to see if they do, in fact, have people working on Sundays, and I couldn’t find anything to corroborate that. I found many employees who listed “Sundays off” as a benefit of working there.

  • Mark

    In short I must respond that while I am deeply sorrowful for the pain that the legalism of the Gothard cult has caused many especially you, and while I have been skeptical since highschool days of the Gothard teachings having grown up near his headquarters I must say that you have allowed the deep tragic feelings within you to come up with false premises concerning birth control pills, the Duggar family and anyone else who has been influenced in any way by Gothard teaching. I am far from an advocate of Gothard teaching but have a father in law who is an OBGYN doctor who has verified to the state capital as a state representative of the medical field to the governor in Arkansas that there is an abortive nature with the use of contraceptives. That is not a fallacy of Gothard although much of Gothard teaching is unfounded in the Word of God.
    I can speak for all that the Duggar family believes and how they may have been influenced by the Gothard teachings, but their lifestyle can’t be broadbrushed into the assumption that it is all by influence of Gothard. There are many who live their lives in ways that parallels some or much of Gothards teachings who have never been to a seminar or other resources of Gothard. Yes, his legalism was and is a poison as is that of many but I fear you have placed all in the same category and have made assumptions that may be true to some degree but not completely.
    I am glad that God has revealed His grace to you. My wife and I grew up in legalistic type environments with externals highly lifted up as a sign of spirituality so we have tasted a small bit of what you have experienced. It took deep sin in our lives and extreme brokeness for God to reveal Himself to us and transform our lives. We have 6 children as well and we are grateful for God’s great unnending mercy. Thanks for your testimony of grace despite man’s wickedness. By His grace,…

    • Kim W

      The Duggars are heavily influenced by Gothard. They have gone to the homeschool conferences at Big Sandy for years. They are now regular speakers at all three conferences. Their children are regularly sent to participate in Journey to the Heart and ALERT (both fall under Gothard’s organization). To say they have just been briefly exposed to his teachings is naive.

  • Carl

    This is your typical left wing Christian point of view. This could be and has been written by Jim Wallis, emergent church, feel good but do it in “love” article. The left is advancing an agenda.

  • Christian Smith

    The Greens may have a strong connection with Bill Gothard, but that doesn’t nullify what the Supreme Court has ruled. The underlying issue in this case is the religious convictions of a corporation’s owners, the level of conviction that one person holds has no affect on the legitimacy of another person’s convictions. Even if you don’t think the Green’s argument of freedom of religion has a bona fide foothold, it doesn’t change the principle.

  • Aloha Jim

    I think you made a good conversation on linkages of the three parties, but those linkages are non-sequitor to the SCOTUS “Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.” decision. The justices agreed the question of state-funded post-conception contraception (abortion) was worthy of consideration, and decided the ACA had over-reached constitutionally on that mandate. There are at least 82 other closely held companies including Univ of Notre Dame, Dobson’s “Family Talk”, and Tyndale House that could just as easily have brought the case and probably have no connection to your three subjects. Additionally, Gothard’s enterprise is only one recipient of the Green’s charitable giving over the years — for those of us who give there are occasionally regrettable donations made when some (and even awful) iniquity is discovered later that would have affected that past decision to support. Your essay can stand without the SCOTUS red herring in it, and would benefit from a better perspective of the Greens overall charity during the same time frame as well as the Duggar’s current position on Gothard in light of recent allegations and resignation. This would fill one large gap in the story. As Ravi says, “You never judge a system by its abuse.” A linkage between the Greens or Duggars with Gothard is not a defense or conviction. At the end of the day: “True Christian values should affirm the worth and freedom and humanity of” — LIFE. The Supreme Court got this one right by Heaven and the Constitution.

    • I didn’t mean for this piece to be a response to the SCOTUS decision. It was just timely, as the Greens were in the news because of the SCOTUS decision.

      Secondly, as I pointed out, the Green’s relationship to Gothard was not simply one of a few decisions, and doesn’t even appear to be in the past. Members of the Green family have spoken at Gothard’s conferences and endorsed his book, suggesting a relationship closer than that of a simple “charitable donation”.

      Regarding the Duggars, I know as recently as July 2014, they were featured speakers at the IBLP conferences… several months AFTER Gothard resigned. And as I pointed out, materials from his Advanced Seminar still appear reprinted on their website.

  • alemap

    Hi Micah: I want to tell you how much I appreciate all of the time that must have gone into your research on this topic and also, the restraint you exercised to be fair and unbiased. I actually read the article twice just to make certain I did not miss anything. For quite some time I have been in search of information on the Duggar family and their religious belief system. For the most part, what I have found in the past are opinions from others that swung from either Duggar supporters to Duggar haters. I wanted facts.
    When I came across your blog, it was as if God brought me right to you. For many years, I have tried to watch the Duggars on their show, read articles written about the family and specials featuring the family. One thing that always seemed striking to me is the pasted on smiles on all of their faces. There is nothing wrong with looking happy but
    it just didn’t ring true. Just wanted to share with you how many times I have
    heard someone jump on the bandwagon to support the Duggars. People comment how well behaved the children are, how happy thefamily is, how Godly they are; And, that the world would be so much better if there were more families like the Duggars. When I try to share my view that this is what they want you to see because I’m sure the Duggars have final editing rights to their show, these same individuals start getting very defensive and accuse me of being an ungodly person because I am judging them. It makes no sense how some people are so gullible and refuse to even question that there just may be more to this family and their religious practices then what is being shown. Thank you so much for your well-written and informative article. I look forward to following you.

  • Jennifer

    Micah, I am happy I found your site. I am a politically conservative Jew and thus have many evangelical friends. This information is very helpful when speaking to them.

    I noticed the information about about the “unclean” laws. In Judaism, a person who is mourning is considered spiritually “unclean” (very bad translation). After a period, we consider it to be a mourning time due to the potential loss of life. Jewish women go each month to a mikvah, which is best described as a small pool that you immerse yourself in. It’s also done for new converts (think baptism), when people go to Israel, kosher pots and pans, or just want to have a feeling of spirituality. (Men can go too.) Since Christians don’t have mikvahs, how do they become “clean” again?

  • Jennifer

    Also, if I wanted to get my hands on a copy of the IBLP textbook used in the post, how could I (without joining IBLP)?

    • Jennifer

      Ah, that link under the image goes to Amazon lol! Thanks!

  • Lisa

    Beautiful, well-thought-out, and articulate writing, Micah. While I did not grow up under Gothard, I had a similar experience with Christianity and brainwashing from an early age. It has taken a lifetime to process and break free from. It disturbs me to no end that the maniacal agenda of Bill Gothard is being glorified and romanticized by TLC and the Duggars. At the very least, whether or not people care about the religious issues, we should all be deeply disturbed at the footprint these people are leaving on Mother Earth. I could go on and on. I’m glad to see I am not alone with my feelings. I’m glad to see you have managed to escape and thank you for using your voice to expose the truth.

  • Albert J Wrigglesworth

    When my wife and I first starting watching the Duggars I had mentioned to her that there is something not quite right with this family’s presentation of Biblical beliefs, as I understood as a Bible teacher of 20 years. There seemed to be a patriarchy system that was quite perverted to me in existence. After reading up on what Gothard had been espousing I then saw the whole picture. There is much of “man” in this family doctrinal beliefs which comes from Gothard’s teaching where the wife and children are not showing a personal responsibility or growth in Christ Jesus, but rather what the father of the family allows because he is in charge. What is seen on TV with this family is only a snippet and what is allowed to be seen. I hazard to guess that these last 2 marriages were orchestrated, and the rumor of Jana wanting to go out on her own, if true, will cause an unprecedented upheaval within the confines of this rather ‘closed’ family dynamic. I believe this family is a part of a movement which, in a subtle way and through media, is trying to “Christianize” their country in a guilt filled, Levitical way.

    On the show they may look ‘normal’ in trying to show how they will try things like mountain climbing, sky diving, and the sort still holding on to their “Godly” ways, yet I do not see them truly evangelizing (unless behind the scenes which would therefore be in secret), and their way of showing how great a ‘Godly’ family they are is more cultural than Biblical. I pray for this family.

  • Headly Westerfield

    This article is getting new currency this week.

  • ishkabibble

    And now there’s Josh Duggar to add to the list of sexual predators.

  • disqus_YEJ2gFfsEi

    This is a great article. Difficult to say it’s balanced considering the gulf that exists between what the author holds as true and the Green/Duggar/Gothard stand but there is a definite air of honesty to it. Good job, Micah J. Murray — I consider this a pearl and so will others —- but not the Pearls who “blanket train”.