The Danger and Damage of Gothard’s Principles

24 April 2013, 06:00



1361797_52190285Though I left my family’s home three years ago, Bill Gothard’s twisting of Scripture still haunts me as a young adult today. The way the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) and its secondary programs are set up, they might work in a perfect world, but in the broken reality of this world, they operate with many similarities to a cult. I have had some friends argue that it’s not the program that causes every kind of abuse, but the bad people who use the program. But my family was pretty much normal until Bill Gothard’s influence came into our home. My dad was a pastor of an Independent Baptist Church so life had its normal challenges; but I do remember my early childhood for the most part being happy and contented.

My parents went to one of the first ATI conferences in Australia and came back excited and eager to embrace this new form of home-schooling. That was when things began to change. Life was suddenly filled to the brim with conferences and Wisdom Booklets and other ATI families. Before I knew it, most of the church families at my dad’s church had also adopted the curriculum, and we lived, breathed, and slept Bill Gothard’s belief system.

Under the teachings of ATI my family grew to twelve kids. And with a church to handle, and 12 kids at home, my mum and dad couldn’t handle caring for us all, let alone schooling us. Instead, older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings (kind of like the Duggar’s “Buddy System”). My older brother resented the responsibility of practically having to be a father to his younger siblings, so he began to bully and abuse us. He first sexually assaulted me when I was ten years old while he was being forced to help me with my homework.

My parents found out a year into his regular sexual abuse of me and insisted that I apologize to him. According to Bill Gothard’s “principles” on dealing with sexual abuse, I was as much to blame as my brother for “leading him on,” despite our several year age difference. We were then forced to “forgive” each other, and once again in accordance with ATI teaching, to never bring the matter up again now that it was forgiven. Since nothing was done to stop him from abusing, and he was not held accountable for what he’d done, the abuse continued with increasing severity and regularity for two more years until I hit puberty.

It wasn’t until I left home at the age of 19 with severe depression and other health issues that I found out he’d also abused four of my younger siblings, and that my parents knew about that too. And so I reported the abuse to child services and they initiated an investigation. In the end, they were unable to prove anything since my older brother was away when they came, and because my dad has thoroughly coached all of his kids in drills on how to answer questions from outside sources from the time we were very young. My siblings have been raised to be terrified of government officials, and particularly police and child services. However the investigation is now on record, so if just one of my eleven siblings speaks out with me, child services will be able to step in.

Because my parents are convinced they are following “biblical” principles, to this day they have not acknowledged their fault in how they handled my abuse, nor have they set up any safety measures to protect the underage children still in their home who are still around my older brother.

Anyone who claims that ATI’s teachings are basically good but are taken out of context by bad people clearly do not understand the depth and darkness to the teachings. A solid adherence to the teachings of Bill Gothard cannot help but cause a cult-like following in families and churches, because Gothard presents his biblical principles as the only way to true success in all areas of life. If these principles are strictly followed, it is believed that success will also follow. If you are not experiencing success, you should just apply more principles and try harder. So in an effort to more perfectly follow the principles and see success in their families, fathers often crack down and become abusive and controlling. The result is that older siblings are often saddled with unwanted parental responsibility of caring for younger siblings, and mothers often feel overwhelmed to the point of neglecting the needs of their individual children.

Specifically, Gothard’s principles for dealing with sexual abuse within families only damaged my family further as it heaped shame and guilt on us girls who were abused and minimized the sin of our abuser. These “principles” did not help my parents respond to abuse the way they should have—it only made things worse. Instead of blaming us (finding reasons why the abuse was our fault) and covering it up in the name of “forgiveness,” they should have protected us from the abuse and gotten help for my brother.

It is sad that after all these years, so many abused kids are growing up and speaking out against this cult, but there are still so many families deep in its grip who genuinely believe Bill Gothard to be a good teacher. I can only pray that one day it will all change and their eyes will be opened to exactly how dangerous these teachings really are to families.

After spending over ten years in ATI, Esther left the toxic world of ATI behind and moved away from home three years ago. She’s currently studying psychology at a University, and is receiving medical help for her depression and therapy for her trauma. She lives with her dog in their own little place, and she has an amazing support network of friends now. Esther has never regretted the decision to leave everything behind and start a new life for herself. She is happy and safe, and is full of hope for her future.

If this sexual abuse series brings up any emotions that you would like to process with a professional counselor, please e-mail us at: We would be happy to recommend some professional counselors who are associated with the Recovering Grace ministry and who are familiar with the fundamentalist background of ATI and IBLP.

All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.


  1. David Pigg April 24, 2013 Reply

    "Anyone who claims ATIs teachings are basically good but are taken out of context by bad people clearly do not understand the depth and darkness to the teachings."Thank you so much for saying this!I hope many will respond in comment.Please contrast Christ's teachings of the gospel Luke 2:18 "Proclaim release to the captives,to set free those who are oppressed",as opposition to this.In Revelation2:7, there are the deeds of the Nicolaitans,then in Rev.2:15,there are the teachings of the Nicolaitans.These are two words in the Greek meaning "to conquer the people".Deeds,and teachings.The horrible nature of what happened to you is one thing,but the response is horrible as well.Gothardism is a form of this scourge.Jesus hates these teachings.Gothardism is revealed as people conquering,body,soul,and spirit .Darkness.Disguised as light.

  2. Eliza April 24, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for sharing. Yes, victims were blamed. A lot. Glad you are healing now! I hope your siblings can be protected against abuse very soon.

  3. Heather April 24, 2013 Reply

    This is sick, and I'm certain hundreds of other families have similar stories... Thank you for sharing! It's appalling that an organization that claims to love Jesus, would so ripely encourage hiding these problems, in the name of protecting someone's reputation. Parents and the organization don't deserve a good reputation, because it's a lie at this point.

  4. Hannah Schrum April 24, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story! I am so amazed at your courage for speaking out and for getting help. You are a strong person. I pray that your story will reach other people and help them to see the way out.

  5. tshcd April 24, 2013 Reply

    What part of "Better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea, than that you offend one of these little ones" and "Inasmuch as you do to one of the least of these, you do to me" don't these people get?

  6. LJ April 24, 2013 Reply

    Another example of the brainwashing methods taught in Bill Gothard's teachings--if something goes wrong, it's the fault of those involved--not that the teachings are bad and not in accordance with Scripture. Let's keep speaking up to get the truth out there and hopefully keep others from being drawn into these false teachings. May healing come to so many who have been injured by Bill's teachings.

  7. Joy April 24, 2013 Reply

    Yes, you are very brave to bring to public view what you kept hidden so deeply and damagingly within for so long. There is nothing 'biblical' about your parents' response by neglecting to help their little 10-year-old daughter with her crushed and now scarred life and allowing the criminal to continue to abuse. It makes my blood boil that this was a pastor's family on top of it all. God must just weep, but His judgments will come.

  8. Chris Symonds April 24, 2013 Reply

    "Anyone who claims that ATI’s teachings are basically good but are taken out of context by bad people clearly do not understand the depth and darkness to the teachings. A solid adherence to the teachings of Bill Gothard cannot help but cause a cult-like following in families and churches, because Gothard presents his biblical principles as the only way to true success in all areas of life. If these principles are strictly followed, it is believed that success will also follow. If you are not experiencing success, you should just apply more principles and try harder."

    Sounds very much like the same old dribble of the faith movement if you aren't being healed or getting rich then you need to increase you faith!!

    Kes I am so sorry this happened to you it angers and saddens me that this happened. I think Bill Gothard's whole system is systematically abusive and causes abuse. I pray the Lord will use your present studies to in turn help others through their abuse.

  9. David D. April 25, 2013 Reply

    Bill Gothard not only teaches many false things about Christianity, but he teaches a false Christianity. It is another gospel with another Jesus. Every cult on the planet that claims to be Christian uses Bible verses. Gothardism is no different. Knowing the Truth of Jesus Christ sets us free into a wonderful relationship of grace with God. This terrible legalism of Gothardism puts people under the curse of the law, and renders Christ of no effect to them. Yes, it really is that bad. And the damage and the fruits are everywhere Gothardism has touched. But perhaps the people who are the most deceived are those who have embraced his teachings, have a smile on their face, and don't even realize how blind they are to Christ. Thank God He is faithful to open the eyes of those who are willing to see.

  10. Christy Bell April 25, 2013 Reply

    But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea....Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 18:6 & 10

  11. Joy April 26, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for sharing. God bless you and heal you from this horrible family life. I never knew! In 1985 I married a man who had just immersed himself in IBLP studies. He seemed like such a strong Christian which made me believe we would be equally yoked, and he would be a good role model for my 3 daughters. Within the 6 years of our marriage he had become involved in pornography and sexually molested my 3 daughters in addition to the daughter we had together. What a path of destruction he left! I got out of the marriage, but the effects of his sin were far-reaching. Cult-like and manipulation - red flag warning signs! Thanking God for deliverance from that life for me and my girls. Ever praying the Holy Spirit gives us discernment to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and His Word! Thank you again for sharing!

  12. Tory Kafieri April 26, 2013 Reply

    Forced forgiveness. If forgiveness is "forced" it isn't forgiveness.
    I haven't forgiven, nor have I forgotten what happened to me. I can't. I don't go a day since that night when it isn't brought up in my mind, every detail as fresh as when it happened.
    He walked away scot free, and I'm the one that lives with the humiliation, degredation, and utter terror of it ever happening again. I was 9, but it's like it happened yesterday. I want to forgive him, but I can't.
    How can I forgive his actions? I don't think something like this can ever be truly "forgiven" by the victims, not to mention a "forced forgiveness".
    Please, just tell me that one day I can feel like holding my head up in public again, without being ashamed. Tell me that I will one day be able to look people in the eye without wondering if they know my secret.
    Tell me one day I will be able to feel l can show Christ's love to people, without feeling like a liar.
    Because right now, all I want is to feel like I have worth to someone other than Christ.
    Every day it is covered up is another day victims are denied their healing.
    How can we stop ATI and BG from ruining more lives in this manner?

    • Stéphanie April 29, 2013 Reply

      Tory, I weep for you. There just aren't words...

    • anonymous January 12, 2014 Reply

      Dear Tory, for a long time Forgiveness was "the other F word" to me. I am the mom of 2 child victims by a sunday school teacher. God is not standing in judgement of you for not forgiving this person. My progression toward some form of forgivness came in stages. For me, after I knew I exhausted all avenues to warn others or prosecute and still hit the same brick wall, I had to let it out of my hands or die. So, in many tearful moments with God, I took my hands off of it. He assured me each one of our tears is as a precious jewel. Even in such great sorrow, you still love God. That is amazing. (There may be days where you feel you hate God too, God is big, He can take it, He knows what you are going through). You are very brave. You are strong and your story will save many from despair. In your honesty and transparancy you take off the fake little Christian mask. So many suffocate under that mask. You have taken the mask off and begun to breath. Right now breathing is your act of faith. And even this day you are showing God's love to other little precious ones who need to know they are not alone.

    • Nathalie January 28, 2014 Reply

      Hi Tory, I know I'm writing this a couple of months after your comment, but I hope that somehow you can read it, and hopefully my story can give you a little hope...

      I was not raised in ATI, but I was raised with the idea of purity, and how important it was to 'stay pure' until marriage.
      When I was 14 years old I was sexually abused by a 18 year old guy I saw as my brother over a period of 6-7 months. I didn't dare to tell anyone, I was so ashamed. He told me no one would believe me and that he loved me and that he was not hurting me, I believed him. I would do what he wanted so he could stop sooner, and I kept on feeling like it was my fault this was happening, and that I, as a 14 year old, was 'asking for it'. It was honestly the loneliest time of my life...

      After a few years I finally decided to tell my almost fiance (now husband) what happened. It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. He was shocked but supported me 100% to get healed from all that I went through. But when he found out he told me I had to tell my parents, and when I did, the first thing they did was go to the police. Here I had to tell my story again. They locked the guy up for a couple of days and let him go, because there was no evidence (it was a couple of years later). Word got out that he was locked up, and he started telling people that he was the victim and that I was after him. The sad part was that his ('Christian') family believed him, and started spreading rumors about me, and treated me like I was a horrible person that was worth nothing.

      The point I'm trying to make is, Everyone knew my deepest darkest secret... So many people spoke badly behind my back, and spread lies. I would walk around and hear people whisper. Even though they were wrong. I started to believe that God didn't exist, that I was a failure and as a result I became very depressed.

      This guy also walked free, and let me tell you the truth: you, by yourself cannot forgive him. I tried and tried and I could not.

      What helped me was praying, and just reading God's word. And focus on what He said about me. He said: You are my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased. And I believed it. I stopped listening to what the world was telling me, and really started to listen to what God was telling me. I started telling people my story, and that really helped my healing process.

      Tory, one day you will walk with your head high. It will be a painful process, but worth it in the end. And please remember that Jesus loves you so much he died for you. He died not for himself, but so YOU could be made whole.

      And one thing people were telling me was that God allowed this to happen. This cannot be further from the truth! God does not even understand sin, let alone, let it happen! It is important to understand that the one that abused you was self-centered, and a liar, and the Bible tells us clearly that satan is the father of lies and all things evil. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, all humans, "fell from grace". We all became sinners. And God reconciled us with Him through His son.

      You are so precious that Jesus gave His life for you, and didn't care about Himself. I will pray for you, and hopefully my story will give you a little hope, and encourage you to seek God in this time of your life.
      Because looking back, forgiving the one who abused me was the hardest thing I ever did. But the day I said: I forgive you for abusing and hurting me, in prayer it felt like someone had lifted 1000 pounds of my back.

      It will get easier ;) God bless you ♥

  13. Esther April 26, 2013 Reply

    Dearest Tory, I'm so sorry for what happened to you. Forgiveness truly is not something we can do in our own strength and as such, it cannot be rushed or forced or guilted into. It will happen in your own time. For me, it sometimes is easy to do, other days I can't bear the thought of it.

    Speaking as the writer of this article, day you will be able to hold your head up high. You will be able to look people in the eye because you are a survivor and because you are not to blame for what he did to you. There will always be bad days, but God will use you and your story in ways you cant even begin to imagine just yet. I'm no where near the end of my recovery journey, but God has already given me enormous opportunities to show his love in ways that I never would have thought possible.

    Hang in there, beautiful girl. Things will get easier. I promise they will. Every day we stand up for each other and take on these abusers and speak out, we are coming one day closer to the day when we will stop ATI and BG from ruining more lives.

    I would love to write to you if you ever want someone to talk to. You can e-mail RG for my address. Check out my (still-in-development) website too. I make bracelets for people who need the encouragement to Stay Strong in issues like Eating Disorders, Depression, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, Self Harm, etc. Again, feel free to contact me anytime. I love meeting new sisters to share this difficult journey out from the darkness with. <3 xoxo

    • BIll April 30, 2013 Reply

      Esther, what is your website?

      • Esther April 30, 2013 Reply

  14. esbee April 29, 2013 Reply

    One of Mr. Bill's principles concerns not mingling with the world, keeping away from the evils of our American culture, i.e, choosing to home school for safety and dissemination of truth and godliness vs. "ungodly" public schools where the teachers want to teach kids not to believe in any God....

    Well, Mr. Bill, if you are reading this--- I teach at a school where a lot of the teachers are Christian. At the beginning of the school year, a young teacher suffered a rare heart attack, more like a stroke, where she lost ability to walk, talk and short term memory. Nearly every day a praise report is sent over the school email about the miracles of God in her recovery and funny thing, no one is stopping them or even complaining. Yesterday, she came home for the first time in months and everybody met her at the parking lot of a local Christian school to wish her well.

    I know that in some public schools, the words God and certainly Jesus and Christmas are not allowed, but here in Texas, these folks will not tolerate such stupidity.

    Also, a prayer chain has been established where teachers and others were each given a name of one of the high school kids to pray over as led by the Holy Spirit, even though they had not met the kids.

    So yes, Mr. Bill, God can and does exist outside gothardism.

  15. Lonnie May 2, 2013 Reply

    I am a Father who has been to numerous ATI conventions. I am so sorry for what you have been through...unfortunately, abuse happens in every walk of life, race, color, denomination, etc. Bill's principles are God-honoring and Biblical....people abuse them or do not follow them. It is a sin issue, not an ATI issue. Your parents are responsible for decisions they make in raising their children. What happened to you was not the system's fault but the choice of individuals to not honor God's ways and principles....God never designed something that doesn't work but if I choose to not honor God's ways I am responsible for the outcome. Bill Gotthard would be the 1st to admit that the #1 problem ATI Fathers struggle with is anger. I have heard him say it. He is doing all he can to address the problem and how men can overcome this problem, learn how to love the way God designed. He cares so much about the problem that he designed a seminar titled "The Anger Resolution" I bless you for sharing your story and hope you can continue to walk in God's grace, restoration, and forgiveness. I am truly sorry for the journey you have had to walk through. God bless you!

    • grateful May 2, 2013 Reply

      Sorry, IMHO the Anger Resolution Seminar was nothing more than rehashed Basic stuff with lots more "godly" goodies needed to buy and study and apply and then get angry because the formula didn't work...

    • Chris Symonds May 2, 2013 Reply

      Lonnie Bill's principles are man honoring and man centered, they diminish both the grace and finished work of Christ. simply compare Bill's 7 non optional principles to Galatians 5:1-5. Ephesian's 2:1-13 and Romans 2:17-29. It speaks for itself that if you add anything to Christ, you no longer have Christ.

    • humbled January 19, 2014 Reply

      Very well stated, Lonnie. Thank you for your wisdom and humility.

    • 'Megan' January 19, 2014 Reply

      I take great offense to this notion that, 'ATI works, you're just doing it wrong!' I, (and so many others), was a Saul, if you will, I was dedicated and faithful, and ATI failed me. I did exactly what the principles said, followed everything as Bill said to do, and it failed me in the end. Your statement about, 'God never designed something that doesn't work', is good and well (Until you remember that something called 'The Fall' ruined alot of stuff), but that doesn't mean that Bill's principles = God's ways.

      Bill has created an entire religious order, and passed it off as God's principles. This isn't the first time a religious leader has done so, to the damage of the flock, and it won't be the last, but you will never see it unless you are willing to see it. His principles are man made. What, by applying character qualities, and the 7 steps for this, 12 steps for that, you can make yourself right with God, and invoke His blessing on your life? (Not to mention Bill doesn't actually understand the ancient Hebrew concept of blessing to begin with, but I digress)...

      For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8,9

      Gothards principles at their very core go against Scripture, because you do all of this yourself. Oh, he might give some lip service to, 'all things through Christ', and similar verses, but the very nature of his principles do not reflect a 'growth through Christ.' You are the one who builds your own character, you are the one who even 'convicts' yourself of sin, (is that even really possible?) when really you're just abiding by another man's religious opinions, and NOT relying on Someone called the Holy Spirit.

      The reason so many fathers struggled with anger is the awful trap Bill created with some horribly flawed theology. The one about the umbrella of protection? He weaved a lie saying that if the father stumbles (even a little) it is to the detriment to his whole family, and basically created an awful life for the fathers, who lived in great dread of every tiny mis-step, believing that Satan had his family all because of this or that. (All backed up by unprovable, untraceable anecdotes, of course). I can't even begin to imagine the burden this must be..

      Then, to top it all, the principles just.don' They might seem to work for a little while, but they don't last, and now the guilt has been heaped up and overflowing, and it's all LIES to begin with! There is SOME truth weaved into most of Bill's teachings, and it's so subtle you almost can't tell it's there unless you really look for it! But it sure looks and sounds good and holy! And that is what makes Bill's teachings so dangerous.

      The devil doesn't have to spin a tall tale to deceive you, in fact, that would be too obvious. I'm sure he's quite content with Christians veering away from God's truth just slightly, because he can do so much more damage now. They don't even know, and that's the whole point of deception. You don't know when you're deceived unless you let God.

  16. Esther May 2, 2013 Reply

    I would have to emphatically disagree, Lonnie. Bill Gothard's principles are neither God-honouring or Biblical. If you look at them carefully, many of them take quite a bit of Bible twisting just to get a verse to support them and some of them don't have any Biblical support at all. A lot of them take one obscure verse from the Old Testament out of context to support Bill's own opinion. They are not God-honouring because they foster abuse in a way that few cults can even claim and they do extraordinary damage and hurt to the children trapped under them. Bill Gothard will have a lot to answer for when He sees Jesus. The problem in my family is not that my family abused Gothard's principles, but that they followed them all too well. God didn't design ATI. That might in fact be the very reason why ATI is so broken and does not work.

    • Ashley May 3, 2013 Reply

      Amen... I didn't know this website was here... I have a lot to wrap my head around right now... I feel the need to comment but wow... No words are gonna come out right now.

      • David Pigg May 4, 2013 Reply

        Ashley... you've got to comment in the name of Jesus Christ get it out

  17. Sad May 5, 2013 Reply

    First and foremost, Esther, thank you so very much for sharing your story. It mirrors an experience I had with an ATI family many years ago, one that cost me an enormous emotional cost when I tried to get help for the victim.

    Lonnie, I think you need to get your head out of the sand. ATI has materials that blame the victims of sexual abuse, and they are commented upon on this very site. This is simply inconceivable in a rational world. There also is a pervasive attitude of keeping everyone involved silent. Silence is preferred, even in light of a situation where criminal charges are appropriate and needed. Trust me, I have seen it first hand and am not making this up. Please, wake up. This girl is not alone in her experience. There are many like her. And with so many such victims, (I can scarcely guess at how many keep silent like the one I know personally) one MUST examine the organization involved, and their rules.

  18. Hannah Mcwertz May 10, 2013 Reply

    Does anyone remember the story in the Advanced Seminar Textbooks about the individual who "took up an offense" over their dad walking in and smacking their teenage sibling? Years later (according to the story) the sibling assured them that it was totally deserved.
    (The point of the story was that the child was wrong for being upset about the incident and should've just minded his/her own business.
    Does anyone else remember this story?
    Can you imagine THIS teaching being lived out?
    -An abusive dad who is allowed to do anything that the kid "deserves"...
    -Siblings divided because it is "wrong" to stand up for justice when the situation doesn't involve you...

    • MatthewS May 10, 2013 Reply

      That story was revered like gospel truth in our home.

      That is not Scriptural. Several verses to the contrary:

      Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
      for the rights of all who are destitute.
      Speak up and judge fairly;
      defend the rights of the poor and needy.

      Learn to do right; seek justice.
      Defend the oppressed.
      Take up the cause of the fatherless;
      plead the case of the widow.

      “Does it make you a king
      to have more and more cedar?
      Did not your father have food and drink?
      He did what was right and just,
      so all went well with him.
      He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
      and so all went well.
      Is that not what it means to know me?”
      declares the Lord.
      “But your eyes and your heart
      are set only on dishonest gain,
      on shedding innocent blood
      and on oppression and extortion.”;%20isa%201:17;%20jer%2022:15-17&version=NIV

      Jer 22:3 is a "thus saith the Lord" verse: Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

      It is not enough to simply not oppress. It is very unfortunate when a teacher of God's word leads people astray to think that they are supposed to turn a blind eye, deaf ear, and mute mouth to oppression.

  19. Adrianne May 18, 2013 Reply

    Hannah, I remember that story. It was a girl. She saw her father smack her brother, and it made her hate her father. Then it made her hate men. Then years later it made her hate her husband. They divorced. Even when her dad got sick and was dying, she had a hard time grieving. Finally, she mentioned it to her brother, and he said he had be back talking before she came into the kitchen and he completely deserved it.

    I was 13 when I heard that story. I thought, "Seriously? One incident like that will ruin a woman's life?"

    Thankfully, that "principle" hasn't imbedded itself into my life too deeply. And now that I'm an adult, I look back on that story (And countless others) and think, "Hogwash! There are so many things wrong with that!"

    • Heather May 19, 2013 Reply

      I don't remember if I gave that much credence to that story, but IF this story is even true, I feel that there had to have been alot more to the story. Women do not turn 'feminist' or active men haters, for no reason.

  20. Nanci Schwartz May 22, 2013 Reply

    What am I missing?? We took our 3 sons to the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts seminar, and I remember nothing about he recommending Home Schools. The teachings we received were good, basic, and I learned from them. Did questionable teachings happen in other seminars? The literature we received was good. I never felt anything was questionable, except his strong opinions on Christian Rock music. I gained from his teachings so many years ago.

    • MatthewS May 22, 2013 Reply

      Nanci, I'm guessing your overall experience that you refer to here was all many years ago? The name Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts was changed to Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) in 1989. The homeschool program Advanced Training Institute of America (ATIA), which was later shortened to Advanced Training Institute, was started in 1984.

      If you don't mind my asking, why did you disagree with his opinions about Christian Rock music?

      I also disagree with him, so I'm not questioning you, I'm genuinely curious. He has not backed down any on that, btw. You can see a letter from him about RG and other former students here: (and a response to that letter here: He claims that the music opens a door to unclean spirits, and he's blaming a lot of issues on that. Many former students would claim that the music was not to blame at all, but rather the problems are genuine issues that resulted from attempting to do the Gothard program in good faith - many (including me) feel that the program failed them. Some have decided to leave all religion behind entirely, some have had an entirely new experience with grace and a new understanding of how God really works with us, leading to a different relationship with him, far from the mechanistic approach they were raised up in using the ATI homeschool program.

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  23. Mary Bray August 14, 2013 Reply

    Hi there,

    I will always be grateful for Mr. Gothard's ministry. My life was a shambles until I attended the IBLP seminars. I was so angry before then.

    I first attended the Basic and Advanced Seminars in 1998 and they were life-changing for me. I've attended them many times over the years, along with the Anger Resolution Seminars. I don't agree with, or follow, some of Mr. Gothard's teachings, but, on the whole, it's been a very uplifting and rewarding experience. I'm a committed, practicing Christian, thanks to the Biblical guidelines and suggestions, and my husbamd and I read the Bible together every night now.

    My daughter and her husband went to the Basic and Advanced Seminars in 1999 and joined ATI. They have six children together plus her two and his one from before. They embraced the ATI program until 2008 when my daughter said the pastor of the church they were attending told them it was a cult. I don't understand that part, but respected their decision to terminate their association with ATI. The kids are now in a small town public school with a Christian principal and seem to like it a lot. My husband and I still go to a IBLP/ATI regional conference every year and enjoy it very much. It isn't just about Mr. Gothard. We appreciate the structure,consistency and character training as well as the music and speakers. There are many talented, intelligent, knowledgeable, Godly men and women who speak at the conferences.

    I don't understand a lot of the criticism toward Mr. Gothard or ATI. He's doing the best he can and is humble and approachable at the seminars and conferences. He's given his life for Christ since he was 15 and the IBLP/ATI ministry since he was 30 and he is almost 80 years old now.

    I just know the teachings and resources have been so helpful to me. Abuse happens everywhere and I don't understand why the IBLP/ATI program is being blamed for something has occurred since families began. It is one of the sad parts of being human, I guess. Anyway, I pray for the full recovery of all those who have been hurt by abuse. I understand that part.


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  28. MM March 6, 2014 Reply

    Gothards material says, "failing to report it leaves others to be abused" down the track.
    Not sure how you can say he say to report it.

    Not sure how you can blame yourself for your brothers sexual abuse, the reference to this in conference is dressing immodestly. We assumed she was the kind walking in that hot miniskirt as we could see her underwear, etc.

    Use your brains for goodness, if you live under bondage you will be under bondage.
    Just because Gothard relates a nice story well someone did A they got B and C happened. Therefore apply this principal in your life and you will always get C.

    Gothard funneled everything back to himself, how much was open how much for question, how much for misinterpretation...........

    If someone has seriously walked away saying the material causes this you really have to use your head get out of something you lift up as a cult, and follow everything word for word as if it were Scripture....

    I once built a periscope when I was a teenager so I could spy on my sister naked, evidently 20 years later she today doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with me it seems.
    Every other male friend whom I have asked have all tried to spy on there sisters and or other girls naked at some point.
    I am not trying to rationalise my behavior it was wrong and I have earnestly seeked her forgiveness in the past over this.
    But if today my sister did one thing and that was not harbour bitterness/unforgivness and clean slate etc (which the above testimony suggests isn't the preferred option but to not forgive her brother, of course I am sure that is more scriptural, etc), perhaps she we would still be fine and still be happy brother and sister, etc. Consequences for sin are always separate to this, the topic is in reference to things that happened in the past not ongoing in the present.

    No decent normal IBLP parent or any parent normally would in a real world situation simply let her brother go on to sexually assault there younger sister, there should have been disciplinary action the same as if my parents would have done if they had found out what I did at the time.

    Perhaps Bill left that out because he didn't want to be implicated as he was working in the present, and all those that followed him by the letter fell in the same boat.............


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