The GOTHARD Files: Failure to Reconcile 1981–ATI, part two

8 March 2014, 06:00

Moderator

108

Editor’s Note: Previously, we explored events surrounding the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC) scandal that culminated in 1980 with Bill Gothard’s resignation and quick reinstatement as president of that organization, which would later be renamed the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). You can read the Introduction herePart One herePart Two here, and a chronology of the scandal here.

In our research for these articles, we have worked with a group of former IBYC staffers, volunteers, and associates who witnessed these events firsthand. In addition to the group’s first-person accounts of the scandal and surrounding events, they have shared with us a large volume of related documentation. Their memories, notes, and records have allowed us to write about these difficult events with evidence and accuracy.

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s article.

Accountability
LA-Committee-Jan-19-1981

LA Committee letter, Jan. 19, 1981
click to view

The LA Committee was launching its own massive last-ditch effort to hold Bill accountable. Using their personal funds, the committee drafted a unified letter dated January 19, 1981, with a list of 28 questions they wanted answered, stating that in spite of their removal from seminar operations, they would continue to meet monthly to pray for the ministry, and would continue to be available, asserting with obvious emotion, “We feel we cannot just walk away from this ministry. We still love Bill; and, after years of devoted service, we cannot fail him or the Institute in this regard by walking away when there is such an obvious need for purification.”

The LA Committee concluded their January 19 letter with a prophetic warning: “We are concerned that without complete healing, the seminar ministry will continue to lose effectiveness and, in the end, give the world a cause to mock God through the failure of Christian lives.” The letter contained twenty-four individual signatures, the result of their painstaking commitment to unity and the ethical and moral standards they sought to preserve.

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Hodel's resignation letter,
click to view

Bob and Muriel Hodel, restaurateurs and longtime alumni and committee for California’s Bakersfield Seminar, followed the LA Committee’s letter with one of their own on January 24, 1981. The Hodels had decided to disassociate completely from the ministry. They stated, “We have come to the conclusion that the basic intent of Bill and the board is to move ahead without properly dealing with the past. To do this makes the message of the seminar open to many dangers in the future. The seminar is no longer a living demonstration of its message.” The problems within the Institute had overtaken their lives for eight months, and their commitment to Bill’s reconciliation had resulted in nothing more than utter exhaustion, frustration, and disillusionment. To this day, their children look back and remember how the 1980s scandal overshadowed every aspect of their lives, and the family remains determined to having nothing to do with IBLP.

Options

Bill’s former staff had not yet seen things resolved to their satisfaction either, and they were still in many ways personally unsettled, as there had been no real closure following the intense summer of firings in 1980. Some former staff members discussed what could be done, if anything, to force Bill Gothard and IBYC to become accountable and to address the core issues of the problems. Bill’s tactics were so heavy-handed and devoid of accountability that there seemed to be nobody he would listen to. They decided to take an “Al Capone” style approach to the problem. Al Capone was a Prohibition Era mob boss in Chicago in the 1930s. His approach to resolving conflict was decidedly more criminal in nature than Bill Gothard’s, as most of his opposition ended up dead. The FBI could never seem to catch Capone in any of his criminal activities, so they decided to nail him on tax evasion. It worked. Perhaps a similar approach might force Bill into an honest reconciliation with those he had so grievously harmed throughout the scandal. A few former staffers agreed that the IRS might be a reasonable avenue to force the issue, but a preliminary contact revealed that the IRS was elbows-deep in a similar, but bigger, non-profit church investigation, and it wasn’t ready to add IBYC’s issues to their docket. Another idea was a class-action federal lawsuit. This would force the Institute to provide documentation pertinent to accusations of payroll fraud and other unethical practices. It would also force Bill to be deposed under oath.

Several of the former staff members got together sometime in 1981 for the first of many reunions that have continued to this day. This first reunion was to discuss what might be done about Bill.  Bill’s former chief pilot’s brother happened to be an attorney and had done some research for the group. The former director remembers, “A major portion of the meeting was taken up with how you translate what took place and how it violated Federal Law.  The concept of sexual harassment was not even in the dictionary at that time, let alone defined in the law.  Most of the issues got transferred into Wage and Hour Employment law, and transferring women across state lines, for immoral acts (Illinois to Michigan).” The attorney made it clear that none of their options would result in a financial windfall. In their minds, however, a lawsuit was not ultimately about the money. It was simply the only option left that they could see might properly address the issues Bill had steadfastly refused to address.

The attorney made one more thing clear to the former staff: a lawsuit that forced Bill to tell the truth would be equally invasive into their own personal lives. The former director clearly remembers what the attorney told them,

“Basically their life would be turned upside down, and every aspect would be scrutinized.  [The attorney] made it clear that this person should be from the normal rank and file of employees, the one that could best represent the “class”. After he had made it clear what to expect no one stepped forward.  Keep in mind that none of the girls that were involved with the serious sexual aspects were in attendance at this meeting.  Only one girl was there that had a lesser encounter with Steve.  Everyone was still trying to rebuild their lives, support their families and move on with their lives.  I was surprised that [the aide] did not sign on, though he had personal reasons not to step up on the lawsuit even though it was his initial idea. I was concerned that if we did not move forward with the suit Bill would just get away with it again as he had done in the past.  During the meeting, I asked if I would qualify as the petitioner.  [The attorney] made it clear that to some degree I would, but that there was also a chance that it would be dismissed due to my somewhat “executive” position at IBYC.  [The attorney] questioned me on my responsibilities and questioned me on my ability to hire and fire any one.  Of course I did not; no one had that other than Bill, his dad or Steve.  The final conclusion would be that I could be the petitioner; however, a weak one, being that no one else volunteered.”

Secretary-to-Bill-Gothard

Former IBYC secretary to Gothard,
click to view

The problem now was, how would the class action lawsuit be financed? The former staff had no money, and a lawsuit was going to be expensive. This issue was resolved by the aide’s uncle, who was also a Wheaton College graduate and a long-time acquaintance of Dr. Gus Hemwall. The uncle corresponded with Bill over his willingness to involve himself in the lawsuit as a last resort, if Bill continued to refuse to address the problems. After some initial correspondence between the two men in an effort to build a bridge of reconciliation between the dismissed staff and Bill, the aide’s uncle found himself reeling in astonishment from a 19-page letter Bill had personally sent to him, describing the aide as many as sixty-nine times in the letter as an “agent of satan.” Bill had based the letter on his authority teachings, describing in great detail the ways he felt the aide had not conducted his (requested and sanctioned) investigation of the scandal in a manner that demonstrated that he was under authority. Bill had printed and distributed the letter to the aide’s home church, several of his unsuspecting family members, and many pastors and Christian leaders nationwide, which resulted in the aide being blacklisted from ministry for many years to follow. It was a salacious piece of tripe that many of the former staff and alumni who knew the aide well became highly indignant over. On the right is a letter from a former IBYC secretary, one of many of the staff who had left in June of 1980. This is the same secretary whose papers were ripped from her typewriter as she was preparing for a board meeting just a few months earlier. Those who had chosen to continue supporting Bill—and to accept his assurance that the ministry was moving forward wiser and with lessons learned—were in approval of the “agent of satan” letter, in spite of the fact that Bill was actively spreading a bad report.

Wiebe-second-letter

Second letter from Wiebe to Gothard,
click to view

Wiebe-to-Gothard

Wiebe's response to Gothard's 19-page letter,
click to view

 

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Christian Legal Society to Gothard and McClario
Nov. 2, Nov. 4, Nov. 16 1980, click to view

With the financing for the lawsuits covered and a viable name to attach to them, two suits were filed (Click Here to view first suit, Click Here view second suit). Before the suits were filed, the Christian Legal society had contacted Bill and offered to help resolve his issues with his former staff in accordance with Matthew 18:15–18 and I Corinthians 6:1–11. John McLario was no longer running IBYC after his seventeen-day stint as its president, though he was still retained as a legal consultant for the ministry. He had informed the Christian Legal Society that IBYC preferred not to use their services. The board had other ideas. The former director explained to us what took place: “We found out that some time in the past the IBYC board had purchased Board liability insurance to protect themselves from this type of situation.  With that money they hired the second largest law firm in the country (at that time), Sidley and Austin.  This was from the outset a Goliath vs. David situation.  They had a national law firm; we had a nice guy from Topeka.”

Lawsuits

According to the former director, Sidley and Austin had plenty of money and could afford to be brutal.

 “Their first step was to ask to have [the first lawsuit] dismissed based on my position and I believe the judge did dismiss it.  We appealed it and won, and it was reinstated.  To say they were vicious would be an understatement.  They accused my wife of stealing from the kitchen; they wanted all my phone records, tax returns, and everything about my life was now open.  [The attorney] had warned us of this back in Denver.  I guess that was why no one else volunteered.

 “Our only goal was to get Bill to be deposed.  Since I was the one who brought the suit I had to fly to Chicago on two different occasions to be deposed on two five day sessions.  I think the deposition ran almost 900 pages from what I saw.  [The attorney] and I sat at one end of the table and around 6 or 8 of their attorneys sat at the other end of the table.  There is no need to go into the details, but their only goal was to prove that I was not a qualified class representative.

“Needless to say, we were not successful in getting Bill deposed.  They fought with everything they had to prevent that from happening.”

The former aide remembers his own separate deposition well, also.

“[W]hen deposed for 40 hours by [Gothard’s] law firm 
in downtown Chicago, the group of attorneys were very good at grinding, testing, cornering and playing chess with details 
in preparation for later days when they hoped to catch you in some inconsistency. They asked me about every key word I had ever written, all my notes [I had taken], down to every jot and tittle. Their chief antagonist was expert in the Greek and Hebrew languages. 
He took many Scripture references I had used in my notes and comments to [Bill Gothard] and asked me if I knew what tense and
 what mood each word was in the Greek language.”

This chief attorney commended the aide privately on his responses, saying, “You are doing very well.” This was, after all, the man who had documented the scandal painstakingly over a period of many months.

The aide was not named in the lawsuit, nor was he party to the class action. It is the former director’s opinion that the deposition was used as a form of punishment for the aide’s role in exposing the scandal or to find out what information he actually possessed. In the end, Steve’s former assistant, who had still not been dismissed for his role in the scandal, but was now working under Bob Bulmer, was pulled in to testify to the former director’s role. “He was very clever to elevate what I was playing down as my ultimate responsibilities.  I did have a great deal of responsibility, but no title that outlined that responsibility.   I do not believe that my salary was any greater or less than anyone else’s.  By this time, it was early 1983 and IBYC went back to court armed with [the assistant’s] statements regarding my responsibility seeking to have the suit dismissed, Summary Judgment.  They were successful and it was dismissed for a second time.”

The former staff regrouped to discuss their options. Their financial backing had been depleted, and the team had already spent quite a bit of their own money responding to the demands of the larger law firm. The firm was seeking money from the former director named in the dismissed lawsuit. He remembers, “So, if I could just write them a check for a half million everything would be okay.  Since that exceeded my petty cash fund I offered them the opportunity to proceed on the alumni lawsuit.  They did not get excited about that.  Option two, [I suggested that] if they would not make my life a living hell trying to get a half million out of me, I would drop the second lawsuit.  I guess they did not know we (the team) were broke and they agreed.” The exhausted former staff believed that they had done all that they could, and although it hadn’t been enough to hold Bill accountable, it is enough to know today that they did put forth the enormous effort and personal sacrifice to do their part for the victims of the scandal.

The former director told us, “Years later, Bill accused me of spending a half million dollars of the Lord’s money.  Our cost was less than $20,000 on this lawsuit, David versus Goliath.  I countered back that an honest man would not have to spend a penny to walk into court and put his hand on the Bible and tell the truth. He did not respond.”

New Approach

Right about the time the class action lawsuit was being dismissed, Bill was gearing up to launch his latest big venture: the Advanced Training Institute of America. ATIA would serve as a replacement for his squashed plans to start a school for alumni children on his Oak Brook campus. Instead, he would start an “apprenticeship program” that would allow him to bring young people onto the IBYC campus for the purpose of ministry. This idea resolved his staffing crisis following the 1980 Scandal, and it provided free labor to many of the businessmen’s retreats and counseling seminars that Bill was starting to offer at the Northwoods and around the country. Many other articles have been written to describe the emotional and spiritual aftermath of the ATIA (later ATII, then simply ATI) ministry, and we will not go into that here. Many students who have fond memories of those days interacting with like-minded young people look back with the realization that in the process of building friendships and learning basic skills, they were also being exploited.

boys on scaffoldingThe few members of Bill’s former staff who had tried to step back into the picture and help rehabilitate Bill found themselves increasingly disturbed by what they saw. Bill’s former pilot, who was now married to Bill’s former executive secretary, recalling an experience in the mid-’80s, said “it became obvious to us that Bill was taking financial advantage of the ATI students, and this made our resolve even stronger that Bill had not changed and was one of the issues that caused us to break our relationship with him. Let me explain. We had an all-expense paid vacation to this medical seminar [in the Northwoods] with our daughter; the doctors had this wonderful getaway with their wives and paid very little for the required continuing medical education training that all medical professionals have to take. It was not just doctors and their wives there, but ATI students. I remember Bill saying that the ATI students were all encouraged and given time to attend the sessions and that he was working on an ATI type medical school similar to the legal one. It sounded wonderful, these bright young kids (that all looked and dressed the same) could sit shoulder to shoulder with doctors and learn how God really wanted medicine to be. But that was not the whole story. Each ATI student had to pay their own way to Chicago, then the Institute drove them to the Northwoods in a bus; again, they were charged for that privilege. I don’t remember if they had to pay for room and board but they were there to work. The girls cleaned the rooms and facility. The boys were waiters and worked in the kitchen and did the ‘heavy lifting.’ I remember the kids were tired and during any free time they just wanted to hang out and not hear a seminar on ‘Vasectomy Reversals.’ Some rode bikes and could get away in mixed company and circumvent the attempt to segregate them. Ruth and I walked away thinking that the only difference between us and them (ATI students) was that we were paid staff (not much) and the kids were paying to be staff under the guise of “apprenticeships.” The whole thing in our mind was a sham and, as I think [the former director] said, a new revenue stream.”

Looking Forward

Their experience has certainly jaded the “old guard” against any action Bill may appear to take today in making things right with those he has harmed. They would strongly encourage today’s staff and leadership to prayerfully consider their actions going forward. We have been asked by several from the 1980 Scandal to be clear that it would not be enough to hire a figurehead to replace Bill. Such an action would simply give IBLP enough credibility to continue the ministry in a manner that will not disrupt the current cash flow, but it would not necessarily change anything in the basic operations of the ministry. They believe that Bill would likely choose someone “who will be generally accepted by the staff, and who hasn’t been actively raising the alarm against Bill.”

We believe that God doesn’t need the efforts of man to protect His message of grace and forgiveness. Conversely, we believe that He doesn’t need Christians to cover up sin to “protect the cause of Christ.” God can take care of Himself and protect His message. But our concern is for the victims—past, present, and future. Following the 1980 Scandal, four men wrote and signed a document detailing their reasons for pursuing the issues regarding Bill’s life and character. We, the children of IBYC and its ATI affiliate, can relate, at least in part, to their words:

“Four years ago, [in 1976, we four men] tried to approach Bill about the need in his life to examine his own character. He had admitted to pride, wrong priorities, and personal inconsistencies as being the causes for his rejection of the three men who approached him. He admitted he failed them when they tried to warn him, and he rejected their reproofs. He also said, ‘I deeply regret that it has taken this tragedy as well as the leaving of additional staff to bring me to comprehend the full significance of the problem.’ He has, in essence, admitted that those men were more aware of his needs than he was. [Today, in 1980,] Bill has again rejected us before the task could be completed. He has not yet fully comprehended the significance of the problem.

“[We] who saw something four years ago that he did not see agree now that he still does not see it. The methods used in handling the recent turmoil are further indications that he not only does not fully comprehend the significance of the problem, but he has also become worse.

“We realize it can be difficult for those who do not know Bill as well as we do to comprehend the need in Bill’s life. We have great fears concerning the next four years if again the situation is not dealt with. [We] failed Bill four years ago when we did not cling to him for his own good. We do not want to fail him again. Love does not fail.”

 

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge,
it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child. When I became a man,
I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

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.

108 Comments

  1. Jeff Gill March 8, 2014 Reply

    The 19 page letter BG wrote against his former aide – does it still exist somewhere? Will it be published online? It seems to me that it could be useful for the public to see direct evidence of the kind of bile-filled crazy he is capable of. The more hard evidence about him there is in the public domain, the better.

    • Lisa Joy March 8, 2014 Reply

      I would also love to see a copy of this letter if it still exists, if the aide would give permission for it to be shared. I understand that he might not want to, since it was apparently very critical of him. I do think that in the context of everything else, it would help show Mr. Gothard's true character!

      • Laurie LaRowe March 9, 2014 Reply

        with the untruths and lieing insinuations highlighted.

    • Bob March 9, 2014 Reply

      Anybody know how many staff members are bailing now, or how many apprenticeship students have been pulled home?

    • Mary Ruth Kent March 9, 2014 Reply

      I was wondering the same thing.

  2. Bev March 8, 2014 Reply

    No. Words. To think that the former staff gave up everything to stop Gothard from harming more staff and young women, and in the end, he kept right on going. Charlotte's and Meg's stories were, what... less than ten years later?!

    As far as feeling taken advantage of, while I have some happy memories of my time in Training Centers as an apprenticeship student, I can attest to being worked so hard, in both sickness and health, in order to get my full usefulness out of me. We worked long and hard hours, often just doing janitorial work when our parents had been promised we would be learning counseling, teaching, or other useful skills. When I fell sick with the flu, I was told I might get sent home if I wasn't strong enough to make it on the battlefield (ie. Bill's ministry).

    How appropriately worded, now that I think back on it. It WAS a battlefield. One that used us up, beat us up, and spit us back out again... many of us under 18 years old. Is it a wonder that many students have grown up to hate the Jesus whose name was used to verbally beat us up? I often marvel that any students coming out of ATI ever remained believers. In my mind, it is purely the grace of God that kept them from walking away.

    I know that is the case in my own story. In my darkest hour of doubt, I found the REAL Jesus---the one who invites me to sit and rest, not prod me in my sickness to squeeze the most work out of me for His Kingdom. The one who encourages me to tell Him all my thoughts and feelings, no matter how damning, instead of only telling me to "give a good report" so as not to slander His reputation.

    It has taken me years to undo the damaging teachings that I learned about Jesus, but the journey has been worth it. I see now how Bill has always been about building HIS own Kingdom, not the Kingdom of Jesus. It's strange in looking back, I began realizing I never heard Bill talk about God's Kingdom outside Bill's own ministry. It's as if no other ministry ever existed, and there was no other way to serve the Lord. I also look back and see how the true Gospel was never really talked about. It was kind of assumed that you would know it. And then there was the matter of removing any talk of the Gospel from the Character Booklets, so they could be used for public schools. Suddenly, the Gospel made NO difference, because character could be achieved apart from it.

    In the end, I think it's always been about money and Bill building his OWN kingdom in the name of Jesus. He has much he will have to answer for when he sees Jesus one day.

    So the question of the hour remains: WILL it be worth it all when he sees Jesus??

    • Lisa Joy March 8, 2014 Reply

      Re: "We worked long and hard hours, often just doing janitorial work when our parents had been promised we would be learning counseling, teaching, or other useful skills."

      When I went to Russia in the mid-1990's, I was under the impression that I'd be either teaching English in the Moscow public schools, or working with Russian orphans at the center.

      Instead, I was assigned to work in the office. I was thrilled with that assignment, as a good number of the girls who arrived when I did were assigned to the kitchen or the cleaning crew. I struggled to reconcile the concept of our parents PAYING $100 a week for us to cook or clean or type, when we thought we were there to teach. Even with a "cushy" job in the office, it took some mental gymnastics to justify my time there as worthwhile when I wasn't actually *ministering* to anyone. I, as much as the cooks and janitors, was merely a cog to keep the Moscow Training Center running while the *real* workers taught in the schools or worked with orphans.

      With the hindsight of adulthood, I can see that Mr. Gothard was using us as PAYING labor. Not FREE labor, but PAYING to be there! He should have hired Russian workers for the cooking and cleaning (although I admit the food cooked by the American gals was more edible to me than the traditional Russian cooking would have been!) and then we could have "ministered" to them and witnessed to them in the process, as well as providing a very good wage. If the retired teachers being given a monetary gifts at Christmas at the "Pensioners' Banquets" was so helpful, wouldn't a steady job at a good wage have been a HUGE help to some struggling Russian families?

      I know this was an issue at other Training Centers as well, but the expense of travel to Moscow, plus the "mission trip" explanations that we gave to our churches, puts Moscow in a slightly different category. For a family to spend literally THOUSANDS of dollars for airfare & the weekly fees, so that their daughter could clean the floor or their son could paint bedrooms, just seems wrong! ($100 per week for 4 months, plus airfare, cost my parents almost $6000, so that I could type documents in an office.)

      • Sarah March 9, 2014 Reply

        That is where that helpful teaching comes in: "if you find yourself scrubbing floors you should be grateful that you were counted worthy to serve in God's kingdom." So convenient.

    • Brumby March 8, 2014 Reply

      @Bev: Me, too. My parents sent me to Okie for Life Experience Training, and I dare say my experience there was a far cry from what I expected. I'll also say that I preferred the long hours of physical labor as opposed to forced spiritual enrichments, meditations, and the like. At any rate, I can identify with the "janitorial" duties that you mention! I also fell terribly ill while working there, and no one checked on me for 3 days. I was 15.

      • Becky March 9, 2014 Reply

        When I was at Headquarters I had a head injury with a terrible concussion and whiplash. Undoubtedly my own judgment was skewed but no one made me go see a doctor. One adult looked me over and then I went back to my room under the care of two girls under 20. The next day I was back at work, in terrible pain. Finally I went to a chiropractor, but still kept working for several more days while barely able to straighten my neck. Eventually the pain went away. There was so much pressure to keep working. I tried to hint to my supervisors that I was in bad shape but they were very young and under pressure too.

        Another time I walked to the grocery store a couple of miles away. Even in the dead of winter we had very little access to cars, and were responsible to get our own food. So I walked in sub-zero temperatures with a skirt on. By the time I was near my dorm, the shivering had stopped and I was standing in a warm haze, thinking about lying down in the snow. Thankfully a policeman spotted me standing with my broken bags and groceries lying on the ground around me and realized I was in danger. After going home I warmed up too quickly and was sick for several days.

        Another time my friend and I went out walking and entered a parking lot just as it began filling with dozens of scary looking men on motorcycles. We had no guidance about which areas might be unsafe to walk in, so near the big city of Chicago. We also had no way of getting out to exercise with males accompanying us for safety, because we really weren't supposed to go out and exercise at all.
        There was an appalling lack of adult intervention at ATI facilities. After my time at Headquarters I went to a Bible college and saw that even though 18 year olds are technically adults, when they are living in dorms away from home they are given some tips for living and supervision rather than just thrown out in a strange city, in a strange environment and expected to cope on their own with other naive kids to guide them.

        • Stéphanie March 10, 2014

          I am so sorry for your experience, Becky. That's quite frankly horrific, that you had to walk miles to the store in such weather. I was one of the lucky ones who had a license and wish I could have taken you.

          So yeah, I could rent a car anytime but on Sunday mornings, meaning I had to go to an "Institute-approved church." (I think they invented that policy because of me. I took an Institute car to an unapproved church one Sunday.)

          That same "Institute-approved church" that I was uncomfortable in and wanted to leave? Well, years later my sister and I watched an exposé on IFB churches that had covered up sexual abuse by staff members against minors. Cases in three churches were examined in three different states. Guess what? Two of the three churches were churches my sister and I had been required to attend by IBLP, AT THE TIME THE ABUSES HAD BEEN GOING ON.

          I turned to my sister and said, "What's wrong with you when you watch a TV program exposing sexual abuse cover-up and discover you attended 2 out of the 3 churches highlighted--for years!?!"

          Okay, so I find it was WRONG that girls like you, Becky, had to walk miles in the snow because you weren't an approved driver, or couldn't coordinate a ride with one. And I also find it WRONG that cars sat unused on Sunday morning (in spite of the excuse that "they are all being used") while others were required to go to churches where we were not fed spiritually--and that later turned out to be churches as sick as Bill himself!

    • Vera March 11, 2014 Reply

      Bev,
      One thing that this group has inadvertently picked up through some of the teaching we received is the idea that if we go through something difficult or happen to be around something worldly, we have an excuse for sinning. When we declare those things we make the promises of God and faith to receive grace empty and unattainable.
      Vera

  3. SusannaG March 8, 2014 Reply

    Looking back now I realize that there was such a mechanistic approach to personhood in ATI. Parents were given the impression that if they just followed the program then godly young people would be the result. Like we were a "product" produced on an assembly line. And despite what we were told about the purpose of wearing blue and white (or khaki and white) there was the definite impression that individuality was to be subjugated to "the ministry." At Knoxville we were a sea of blue and white - thousands of us - all there to make BG's feel successful, that he had indeed produced a super-spiritual "race" of young people. We were but cogs in BG's machine.

    • Lisa Joy March 8, 2014 Reply

      Wow. Yes!

      "One, I am one of a kind!"

      Now dress exactly like everyone else. Act exactly like we tell you to act. Talk exactly the way we teach you to talk.

    • Tina March 10, 2014 Reply

      I have never been involved with ATI, but have been following the RG blog because there are some parallels with mt experiences as a member of an abusive church.

      What was the stated purpose of wearing navy and white, or khaki and white?

      • MatthewS March 10, 2014 Reply

        As a male, the emphasis on navy blue and white was having a uniform look to impress people and also having a professional look that supposedly spoke well of you as a person and encouraged others to respond to you positively. You'd hear guys making "commitments" that they would always wear a suit when going to the mall and other extensions of that. Success stories were in the air during the weeks I visited HQ, guys talking about how they were given better customer service or a better bargain due to wearing a suit.

        I remember one energetic discussion where some guys were saying that some well-known figure at HQ was now so conservative that he would only wear striped or dotted ties, no other kind of pattern. Many years later, after I was "out," I read about the futility of "touch not, taste not, handle not" in Colossians and that discussion about ties immediately sprang to mind.

        • Brumby March 10, 2014

          At our first ATI conference in Knoxville in '95, I believe it was BG that told a story about an ATI student dressed in navy and white that rode on a commercial airliner somewhere. The point was that the student had been asked by another passenger, a businessman, what he did for a living or something, because the student was dressed so well. Well, that was the end of slouchwear for us when in flight. Every time I flew from then until I left ATI, I had to be dressed to the nines (in ATI style) in case I caught someone's eye and an opportunity to witness (about ATI and BG's teachings) presented itself. Good grief.

        • Larne Gabriel March 11, 2014

          We did Disneyland during one LA Basic Seminar and had to wear blue suits and seminar dresses. it was about 90 degrees. Did we get the "looks" and I felt like a clown. Billy boy was in seventh heaven with his troop of clones. Even Bill's father wore a suit and he and I did Space Mountain together.

      • Brumby March 10, 2014 Reply

        Ooooooh! I love your profile pic!!!!!! :)

      • Brumby March 10, 2014 Reply

        @Tina: (regarding the profile pic comment I made! Haha!)

        • Tina March 13, 2014

          I am a Snoopy fan!

        • Brumby March 13, 2014

          @Tina: Me, too!!! :) Incidentally, I was unfamiliar with "Peanuts" until after ATI when I started dating my husband, who is a Peanuts fan. As a true Peanuts fan, I'm sure you can imagine his horror when he realized that I had lived 23 years without Snoopy and Charlie Brown. When I left ATI, I was veritably emerging straight from of a time capsule.

  4. phyllis March 8, 2014 Reply

    "We were cogs in Bill's machine." How incredibly sad. May the God of justice himself deal with this so called brother. He might as well have been name Bill Hitler.

  5. Michelle March 8, 2014 Reply

    So, considering the original plan for a school, the reality is that Bill Gothard never believed that parents had a Biblical responsibility to teach their children at home as we were all lead to believe. His intent all along was to get children away from their parents. He just found a creative way to do that while convincing the families that he was really doing the opposite. He really is a brilliant man. He pulled the biggest "Tom Sawyer getting people to pay him to paint his fence" of all time.

    It would do well for us to remember that he always pointed to a book about salesmanship as one of the most influential books of his life. "How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling" I guess this should have been a warning sign. Why didn't we ask ourselves what he was trying to sell and why would truth need to be marketed?

    • Ann March 8, 2014 Reply

      Wow, Michelle. I was curious about the book you mentioned and read the Amazon pitch on it. I couldn't help but notice this:

      "• The power of enthusiasm
      • How to conquer fear
      • The key word for turning a skeptical client into an enthusiastic buyer
      • The quickest way to win confidence
      • Seven golden rules for closing a sale"

      This is eerily reminiscent of IBLP materials.

      And this from a reviewer:

      "Part 3 is all about confidence. You need to be confident in yourself and nothing is more important to that than your personal integrity and honesty. You also need the confidence of your clients, and Bettger shows you how to earn that by being honest, using testimonials, a professional appearance, and a courteous demeanor.

      "Part 4 discusses the importance of getting people to WANT to do business with you. He advises you to identify young people with talent and to encourage and help them in their career. You are going to be in business for a long time and helping develop these young people will help connect them to you as they rise. He wants you to smile, remember names (and tells you how), warns you against talking your way out of a sale, and how to approach what he calls "big men" - what we might call C-level executives..."

      It appears that a $5 book helped him build an empire, on the backs of vulnerable young people and unsuspecting parents.

    • Nicole March 8, 2014 Reply

      Michelle, what a profound observation. His goal was to make money and be a celebrated leader; not to educate children at home. Astonishing.

    • Jeff Gill March 8, 2014 Reply

      I bought 'How I Raised Myself…' when I was was at a counselling seminar at ITC. It's mostly a really good book about being an effective salesperson with integrity. Definitely worth a read if you have things/ideas to sell. The problems with the ideas in the book when applied to this context are that 1) BG doesn't seem to have much in the way of integrity, and 2) Western Christianity, especially the evangelical flavour, has completely embraced the idea that Christianity is a product to be sold.

      • Nancy2 March 8, 2014 Reply

        And here in lies the problem. Instead of depending on the movement of the Holy Spirit convicting hearts in His time man looks for ways to market and sell. This is a trust issue.

        • Kay March 8, 2014

          And that gets back to Gothard's admiration of Charles Finney. The Second Great Awakening is still wrecking havoc on American Evangelicalism partially through Gothard's seminars. If you use the correct "measures" results will be achieved during "revival" services. A wonderful, insightful book on this subject is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

        • Nancy2 March 8, 2014

          It just makes me cringe thinking of the number of ministers that think God is a commodity field sale.

          Two other good books that touch on marketing within the church is "No God But God" and "Fit Bodies Fat Minds".

      • Michelle March 9, 2014 Reply

        (This is the Michelle that commented above, not the one that commented farther down :) I was a student not a parent.)

        I agree that it is a good book for teaching you to be an effective sales person. I don’t have anything against the book. I remember one chapter that talked about finding out what it is your client wants and then showing them how your product will meet that desire. There are so many asking how did we all fall for this and I just think it is a good time to point out that we didn’t so much “fall” for anything as much as we “bought” into something. Bill Gothard is a master salesman who studied his trade. I do have issues with the Christian community trying to sell Jesus but Gothard wasn’t really selling Jesus. The main product he was selling was how to live a successful life and he was very good at tailoring his product to meet the specific needs of his buyers. Struggling with juvenile offenders? We have a program for that. Need help with your orphans? We have a program for that. If our programs don’t fit your need then we will design one that will. There were always the new and improved products sold to us by way of “new insights”. That is how marketing works, isn’t it? Keep the customer coming back. If the seven basic principles really were the key to success, then why did we keep needing new seminars, books, supplements, etc.? The product had to keep “improving” in order to keep having repeat sales. When the product didn’t produce the result we wanted, perfect children for instance, then there had to be a new product to fill in what was missing from the first. We kept buying into hope that the next new insight would be the one that would set our family on the road to peace and happiness.
        Looking at it through this context, it isn’t surprising that Bill doesn’t live by what he teaches. He never believed it in the first place. He was just a salesman. I do think he got swept up in his own visions of what these products could do but the fact that he wanted to start a school shows that he didn’t believe what he taught. If a school couldn’t happen then he would just find a better marketing package in the form of homeschooling and convince us all that that was the only godly form of education instead of being one option out of many.

        • Jeff Gill March 10, 2014

          That is a really really good insight, Michelle.

    • David March 8, 2014 Reply

      Here is what it says, as we speak, on the first page of IBLP's website: "The Institute in Basic Life Principles is dedicated to giving clear training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture." Is this Christianity? Add to that the fact that IBLP teaches ERROR.

    • kevin March 8, 2014 Reply

      " He pulled the biggest "Tom Sawyer getting people to pay him to paint his fence" of all time. "

      Indeed he did. In keeping with the traditions of the Tom Sawyer era, it is time for Gothard to be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. The 1870s version of "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

  6. Don March 8, 2014 Reply

    I heard this morning that Dave Gibbs wants to depose all the young ladies who have shared their stories. I pray that such never happens! Just reading this story of David vs. Goliath convinces me that nothing has changed in BG's heart. Sounds like they are just getting prepared to open up with the heavy artillery. The hypocrisy and deception continues unabated!

    • Beth March 8, 2014 Reply

      Oh my word! I hope no one plays along with that. No one is asking those girls or anyone else to subject themselves to that again. What a horrible way to deal with the matter! Just the fact that the board is using someone with their organizations best interest in mind rather than protecting and helping victims shows what spirit they're going forward with at the moment.

    • David March 8, 2014 Reply

      Of course he does. If anyone thought that Gothard's resignation was anything but damage control, and a pathway to vicious attacks, they were mistaken. I continue to predict that the ugliest part of all of this is yet to come. They will either pronounce Bill innocent because the women won't come forward, or sue RG. Either way, there is absolutely NO history of this organization doing the Godly thing in these matters. David Gibbs wasn't hired because Bill Gothard has confessed sin and is repenting. He was hired because Bill is claiming innocence and ignorance.

      • Mark March 8, 2014 Reply

        Suing RG would be a huge mistake. The burden of proof would be on them to prove that the stories were false.

        • kevin March 8, 2014

          And they would have the right to depose Gothard. No way does BG want to be deposed- huge exposure and liability. The case would get national headlines and the perception in the public of the abuser trying to play the part of the bully- no, I just don't see that happening at all.

        • dennis June 18, 2014

          Re: Suing RG
          RG has little worry of lawsuits here. Bill Gothard is a public figure. Under Sullivan v. NY Times they'd have to prove "knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth".
          Not going to happen. The investigation appears to have been done to report and shed light on the truth.
          I still hold out hope for Bill. While pointing out David v. Goliath, it's important to remember that David was a man of God who looked the other way when his family sinned. God eventually used him again.
          Gothard believed that he was doing God's work (in many ways he was). He won't be the first minister that has confused his desires with His desires.
          Additionally, part of Gothard's "I'm right and anyone who believes otherwise is of the devil" is generational. (Not that that's right.) I've seen a few ministers(and generals)who took similar positions. (Think Patton, McCarthy.)

          The devil is a very good at attacking our sins. Bill's sins apparently include inappropriate interest in young females, a failure to live under authority, a failure to reconcile and really repent. Bill rationalized that he never touched the girls sexually. He probably thought the training centers were designed to do God's work, too.

          I've stumbled myself. Bill's paying the price. His ministry will never be what it was. Perhaps, like Eli and David, he can still have a viable ministry down the road(without control of people or money), after he spends time with God and truly addresses his own sin.

        • Don Rubottom June 19, 2014

          David was denied the opportunity to build the temple. His "ministry" was limited to political leadership and that was presiding over a collapse of his own respect and authority. He did not end his life as a spiritual "leader" but an old man with a virgin in his bed. He brought great shame on God's purposes and the kingdom was torn asunder as a direct result of his sins and Solomon's. By their fruit you will know them.
          Why don't we concern ourselves with the glory of Jesus instead of promoting falsifying the reputations of men?

    • Leslie March 8, 2014 Reply

      If this is true, it is time for the people of God to rise up with even more with outrage. And also with any type of support that is necessary for these young women

    • kevin March 8, 2014 Reply

      They would have to agree to go along with that, and I would be surprised if any of them do.
      Please keep the pressure on the Board to hire an independent investigator. They are fools if they think that anyone, other than the totally naive, will accept David Gibbs as an objective 3rd party.

    • Mark March 8, 2014 Reply

      As I said I'm the other post, those who wrote the stories should refuse to talk unless a true third party investigator is brought in. Recovering Grace could have a huge part in controlling the trajectory. If Gibbs tries to contact any of the authors, it should be front and center on the website. It's obvious that someone who is paid by IBLP to speak at their seminars is not impartial and not qualified to conduct this investigation.

      • Sad March 9, 2014 Reply

        Agreed, from this point forward NONE of these victims should talk to anyone other than law enforcement, their own attorney, or a THIRD PARTY investigator who is a TRUE outsider.

    • LynnCD March 9, 2014 Reply

      Yeah, right, depose them. OK - AFTER Gary Smalley goes first and testifies as to what he saw on that one occasion in the Northwoods.

      Seriously now, I have a question. Does IBLP have formal teaching on whether believers should sue other believers?

      I told this once on the Gothard discussion list - a long time ago I ordered a calendar from IBLP, in response to some mailing they sent out which advertized the calendar. In that mailing, there was a report of a court victory where the ruling was favorable to IBLP. In my request for the calendar, I asked what this ruling pertained to, as I was very interested in religious liberty issues.

      The calendar came, along with a letter admonishing me that I should never be suit minded, that was not appropriate for believers to sue, and the letter said not merely other believers, but ANYbody. There was then an anecdote presented to me how a woman had a husband who left her, but she didn't sue him, yet she wound up receiving several hundred thousand dollars (by some means, which I have forgotten). You've heard of the "complex question." That letter was what I call a "complex answer" because it assumed I was suit minded. I was confused at the time, because they totally got that one wrong. If that letter had pointed out my real flaws, I would have bowed down and worshipped, but as it was, I merely felt unease. At this late date I feel sorry for those in such bondage that they could think they could discern my spiritual condition based on one question.

      But it did dispose me to think that IBLP has formal teaching on whether believers should sue one another or not. Does anybody have any information on this? Perhaps I could do a search in the archives of the GDL.

      • "Hannah" March 9, 2014 Reply

        Yes, Gothard does teach against Christians suing other Christians. Apparently another area in which he is above his own rules.

        • LynnCD March 9, 2014

          I indicated I wasn't serious in mentioning Smalley's name, but I sort of was. RG may not have mentioned him by name as a witness of Bill's behavior in the Northwoods, but Midwest Christian Outreach did, and presumably for good reason, at this time. For IBLP to think they can depose these women, presumably in order to discredit them, or else have them refuse, and declare Bill is innocent, when someone this well known said otherwise about Bill's behavior long ago, and in that same time frame Bill admitted to "moral failure," is imo to basically be making a noose with which to hang themselves.

          I know that was a run-on sentence, but as the moderator of the GDL used to say, "track records speak volumes." Gary Smalley's character record appears to be above reproach, he claimed he witnessed Gothard doing things that were similar to what these women are now claiming, and back then, Gothard *admitted* to moral failures. I just don't see how, with what came out in the 80s, with a well known, respected witness, with Gothard's own confession, how IBLP is going to depose these women and fight this off. Their stories corroborate to the "t" with Gary's testimony and Gothard's confession. "Track records speak volumes."

      • Larne Gabriel March 9, 2014 Reply

        Well I know of one lawsuit regarding an Eminent Domain dispute with the state regarding some seminar property on Ogden Ave and SR 83 and they won a large settlement. If I recall Bill shared with that with Ruth and I and was very proud of the outcome.

    • Christopher Jones March 9, 2014 Reply

      He can want to depose them all he wants, but he can't do so until there is a lawsuit filed.

      • 'Megan' June 18, 2014 Reply

        Raises hand at my homeschooler ignorance, but what, in this case, does the threat of 'deposition' hold for the women involved? I looked it up but don't understand what action Gibbs is threatening here.

  7. Michelle March 8, 2014 Reply

    Our journey with IBLP began in 1979. I attended my first seminar in Hershey,PA, My husband and I attended the following year. This first basic seminar was the stake in the ground for my husband's salvation. He became deeply loyal to BG and the red notebook, it went nearly everywhere with him. For nearly 25 years we attended the Basic, Advanced, ATIA Training Seminars at Bloomington and Knoxville. Our son went to Moscow in1991. We were elated when the invitation came and of course said yes and off he went, spending his 16th birthday in Russia. He was there less than a month when we received a call from headquarters informing us that he had been sent home and would be arriving in Oak Brook later that day. We were to learn that he made a comment to a Russian girl that someone felt was inappropriate and was immediately put on a plane with Russian hockey players and was on his way to back to the US and we knew nothing until the call notifying us that he was soon to arrive in Oak Brook. The damage to his self image has been immeasurable, for many years he has had no church involvement . Our daughter gave a year to the Indianapolis Training Center. This year was the beginning of the end of our involvement with BG ministries. My husband went to ITC to bring our daughter home at the end of her year there, arriving a few days early to spend some time at the center. His eyes were opened during that time to see the ministry for what it was. Our daughter was the cleaning, laundry, and dishwasher girl. Yes, we paid weekly to have her there to perform free hotel maintenance service. A pretty blond, 19 years old but wore glasses and wasn't quite as glamorous as some that qualified for special duty with BG or at least something other than working as a hotel maid. My husband quickly saw how unchallenged our daughter was, how controlled the environment was even to where she was allowed to attend church, how a lack of opportunity for physical exercise and fresh air had affected her health and yet others had special privileges and weren't required to ever do the grunt work. He was more than glad to pack her up and leave ITC at the end of that week. We began to withdraw ourselves from the ministry but continued homeschooling outside of ATIA and pretty much left BG in the history of our lives. Then our daughter started reading Recovering Grace and sharied with us what she had read. Finally my husband and I read Recovering Grace. Unbelievable what is being revealed by those under this ministry's influence. BG, if you are reading what we are all saying, please fully repent that we might be able to forgive and be healed by our loving God.

    • Larne Gabriel March 8, 2014 Reply

      Michelle,

      Thank your for sharing your families' story. It's heartbreaking! I will pray that God will guide your family, heal your hurts and show his Grace to you. There is a whole new world out there free from the legalism of Gothard's theology.

      Larne Gabriel
      author Ruth's Story

    • kevin March 8, 2014 Reply

      Michelle,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. May God heal your family.

    • Jon Owens March 9, 2014 Reply

      Michelle,
      Thank you for sharing. I attended countless seminars in Hershey, PA starting as an early teenager. I remember the disappointment that I was not old enough to attend because my birthday came a few weeks after the seminar so I had to wait a whole year till I could go. I often wondered how many others that attended all those Hershey seminars are reading RG.

  8. *** March 8, 2014 Reply

    Kay--comment above. Thanks for the note. One really has to understand the Second Great Awakening and Charles Finney's heretical theology to see where all of this came from. Bill is a product of modern American evangelicalism which began its demise around this time. Just as Finney and other revivalist thought they could conjure up revival but getting the Spirit to move through some magical and emotionally driven formula, so Bill Gothard created his basic principles and formulaic approach to a successful life. There is also a story to be told about Bill's connection with D.L. Moody. No coincidence that Bill is from Chicago. Moody's emphasis on transformation of the drunkard and getting him cleaned up and sober almost made that synonomous with regeneration. And the crowds--another common denominator between these revivalist and Bill. This would make for a very interesting thesis.

  9. David March 8, 2014 Reply

    I hope that RG and everyone else realizes that this so-called investigation and the hiring of Gibbs is proof positive that Bill Gothard has confessed to nothing, and is not repenting. If he were, in any sense, convicted of sin and repenting, this course would not be taken. You don't confess sin and then investigate as to whether your victims are telling the truth. His resignation was simply part of a designed plan. They are not making this up as they go along. Expect the ugliest of reactions. On a positive note, perhaps this will open the eyes of even more Gothard fans as to the true character of this organization and it's founder.

    • Mark March 10, 2014 Reply

      I have hope and concerns about how this will unfold. Let's say that Gibbs starts interviewing Bill's personal secretaries, starting from the most recent (those who would fall under the statute of limitations). It could take two paths - first, he could essentially convince them that they "misunderstood Bill" - the company line and get them to sign documents saying that they will keep it secret. Second, the line of questioning could backfire and suddenly you have a girl within the statute of limitations who realizes she's been sexually harassed by Gothard.

      That is why RG is so important to this whole process. The more coverage this gets in the national media and the more stories come out on this site, the more chance the recent girls (and/or their parents) will wake up to what's been happening. Evidence shows that BG will push the girls as far as they will go, and push them aside when they start backing away.

      • David March 10, 2014 Reply

        IMO, there is no reason for the girls, or for RG, to cooperate with any investigation whatsoever. RG has provided all of the information from the victims at this site. The fact that there is an investigation to supposedly find out whether these accounts are true tells me that Gothard has NOT confessed that they are true, and doesn't intend to do so. Gothard knows these accounts are true, and thus, already has enough to confess and repent. And if those defending Gothard demand that he has the right to face his accusers, then why doesn't he visit this site and join in the conversation and defend himself? I would like to ask him some direct questions, not only about his conduct, but about his teaching. If he is simply misunderstood, and his teachings are the truth, I don't see the problem.

  10. Ryan Sapp March 8, 2014 Reply

    Google Bill Gothard. IBLP doesn't come up until the seventh item now. It used to be first. You can't pay 6k to change that! The only reason I hope someone other than one of Bills speakers (Gibbs) is hired is that the girls deserve justice and validation. The Board is so inept that they have already lost.

    When you are cash poor and land rich you can't afford to lose you income stream. They were hemorrhaging cash before and it's only getting worse because of the boards lack of decisive leadership. IBLP will be gone in 12-24 months people.

    The weirdest thing happened tonight. While the board was in biblical prayerful considerations tonight a hand appeared on my wall in my house and wrote something. I don't know what it means. Maybe someone out there does. It said:

    Bill Gothard
    mene, mene, tekel, parsin

    • Nancy2 March 8, 2014 Reply

      Daniel 5

    • Sarah March 9, 2014 Reply

      Nicely played

  11. Christopher Jones March 9, 2014 Reply

    This article about the origins of the ATI program also I think highlights the need to reexamine Gothard's preposterous and damaging teaching on higher education and the pursuit of knowledge. Gothard could not have built the the empire that was ATI without scaring parents into believing that college (even Christian colleges) were evil by exaggerating the spiritual "dangers" of higher education. Gothard's teaching on the "dangers" of higher education was the key to convincing parents to send their kids to work for his ministry rather than to college.

    Gothard strongly criticized higher education and discouraged ATI students from attending college. He told countless anecdotes of students who had gone to college only to lose their faith and warned parents that their kids might have the same fate. (He conveniently never talked about the many students who become Christians in college as well or use their time in school as a ministry or to strengthen their faith.) He set college and "godless" professors as straw men, and claimed that attending college would lead to rebellion from God and that pursuing knowledge would lead to pride (because knowledge "puffeth one up"). He gave word-for-word instructions on how students approaching the end of high school should address questions from family and friends about how their future would not involve college.

    He taught that the college years should be devoted to "ministry" instead (ie: his ministry). He promised parents that providing labor to his IBLP (the "apprenticeship program") was a new and Godly alternative to higher education that would provide students with job skills and character that would attract future employers. He taught that ATI young people didn't need college or credentials, they only needed character and creativity to succeed. Yet the empty reality was that for most ATI students, the apprenticeship programs differed greatly from the soaring rhetoric and images presented to parents at conferences and didn't provide much valuable mentorship or training.

    His rhetoric influenced not only damaged ATI students who completed high school, but also damaged the academic progress of kids who were still in high school or younger. Because a huge number of ATI parents accepted Gothard's fallacies on higher education, many parents did not believe college should be a goal for their children. Because this was not a noble goal, there was little need to be academically prepared for to begin college. Because there was no need to be academically prepared for college, academics because a much lower priority than they should have been. However, since ATI students did need to be prepared to provide Godly ministry, many parents allowed their high-school age children to spend months working menial jobs at IBLP training centers and facilities rather than studying. Gothard encouraged and allowed these kids to work for him rather than encouraging parents to prepare their children for adulthood by concentrating on academics.

    This teaching was critical for Gothard to continue to generate revenue from student workers, staff his organization with a free, cheap, and young labor force. It also allowed him to continue to have a steady and fresh supply of young beautiful women for his company, and to surround himself with people who would be much less likely to question his decisions.

    Gothard's musings on college and the alternatives he sold were incredibly selfish and self-serving. Gothard was able to use ATI students build an empire, but most ATI students got very little for their efforts in return. Most students didn't get the promised "apprenticeship" mentorships and training in marketable skills and nearly everyone left without any valid credentials that anyone outside of ATI would recognize. For students who did attend later attend college, it was often a struggle because they were not fully prepared academically or because had a family, or they were now years behind their peers.

    Gothard taught that a Christian should put "people over projects." Yet in reality he elevated his own projects and principles over the well-being and long-term good for countless ATI students. Gothard's teaching on higher education and the pursuit of knowledge may be one of the most widespread, damaging, and long-lasting consequences of his legacy because it retarded the ability of thousands of adult ATI students to successfully build stable careers that require higher education or credentials.

    • Beverly March 9, 2014 Reply

      Wow... Just wow. You did such a great job of laying out the issues and how Gothard used the name of God to rob students of educational opportunities while using them to serve himself and his own lusts. I always joke that my only "rebellion" was choosing to diss the Institute's teachings and attend a Christian college at the age of 21. I have no regrets about that decision. Best "rebellious" decision EVER! ;-)

    • Kevin March 9, 2014 Reply

      Christopher you really nailed it. I completely agree with your assessment of how he used people. I hope RG does a full article on what was essentially slave labor. The. parents thought their kids were serving God, all the while they were serving a narcissistic man, helping him fulfill his dream and gratify his lusts.

      • Lori March 9, 2014 Reply

        "I hope RG does a full article on what was essentially slave labor." Great idea, Kevin.

    • MHM March 9, 2014 Reply

      Although the harassment charges have been challenged as unverifiable due to lack of eye witnesses, the use of young apprenticeship students as maids and lawn crews was "the new approach to life" for thousands of "witnesses."

      My daughter was hand picked (an honor) and served 3 months in the early days of the ITC when she was 14 - still compulsory school age by law in our state. She taught several juvenile offenders in the mornings from Wisdom Booklets, but most of her time was spent working in the kitchen. We began under the impression this time counted as her "school" since she was still under compulsory attendance age, and we gave her assignments from home to keep up with our own family's Wisdom Booklets. The reality was that she just worked too much to add homework to the mix. We brought her home after three months, feeling a bit of personal failure that we couldn't do it all justice.

      Of course that is not the end of our family's story, but it is a chapter that I now question. I never dreamed we were breaking compulsory attendance laws then, but now in hindsight it looks like we did by letting her go work. We made the time up, and she finished all Texas "high school" courses by the time she was 17, in time to go work in OK City. That, and studying all the Scriptures behind the Life Principles through Telos convinced us that the foundation of IBLP and ATIA is gritty with sand. Follow up: after 20 years, that daughter married and pushed through an Associates Degree while working and nurturing two children, just because she really wanted to accomplish that level of life preparation. Her husband understood her need. It was hard earned, and I'm proud of her (for MANY reasons).

      • "Hannah" March 9, 2014 Reply

        The harrassment charges unverifiable? Or do you mean the molestation charges? From where I am sitting, the harrassment charges appear to be undeniable!

      • "Hannah" March 9, 2014 Reply

        Also, you were wise to bring your daughter home when you did. You are right, it was free slave labor under the guise of "apprenticeship opportunities".

        • MHM March 9, 2014

          You are right, Hannah. My point is that although some say the sexually oriented accusations are a matter of interpretation, the hard work of school-aged minors is not. That is not open to any dispute, period. And working school aged minors, not allowing time for their own education, is a legal issue, too.

    • greg r March 9, 2014 Reply

      Well thought out Christopher, may the LORD bring healing to HIS church today through HIS blood.

    • horse March 9, 2014 Reply

      All this, and the fact that college is now so expensive have both reinforced this idea that college is a bad idea.

    • Lori March 9, 2014 Reply

      This is a very sharp analysis. What cunning. The phrase "evil genius" comes to mind.

      • Melody June 18, 2014 Reply

        You hit the nail on the head! BillGothard was an EVIL GENIUS!!!

    • Stephanie March 9, 2014 Reply

      Thank you Christopher for this succinct analysis. It helps me explain the situation to my non-ATI husband (who has a doctoral degree). Despite of my father having a PhD from Berkley, he seemed surprisingly willing to let me go without college--although he would have allowed me to go if I wished (I was the youngest, and only child at home). My father's take was that (at least undergraduate) college did very little to prepare one for the workforce, and tended to churn out good test-takers. I cannot help but think how welcome this "no college" teaching was to families who were already struggling to make ends meet--that they would not have to put their 10 children through college. They were able to instead keep many at home to help care for the family, teach the younger children, or work outside of the home and add to the family pot. Certainly not all were exploited, but the appeal is obvious. The teaching about the "sin" of debt would also have precluded most from entertaining the idea of college at all.

      • Stephanie March 9, 2014 Reply

        *Despite (or "in spite of")

    • Ann March 9, 2014 Reply

      Thank you for this analysis, Christopher. Although we left Gothardism some years ago, our family still suffers the effects. Your post reminds me of just how long a process "leaving" can be. Our oldest son received the brunt of Gothardism. I thank God that he had some healthy defiance that somehow had not been pummeled out of him. He graduated from high school (ATIA was new on the scene then) and wanted to go to Bible school to possibly pursue being a youth pastor. I did not support him in this choice because I had 75% bought into Gothard's teaching about apprenticeships and the dangers of college. So he worked for several months until he saved up enough money to pay his tuition himself, although we could have afforded to pay it for him.

      As a parent I have a lot of grief about the damage I inflicted on my children as I tried to cram our family into the Gothard mold year after year. It is a long hard journey, and we have been somewhat isolated in the recovery process. As heartbreaking as it is, reading on this website is the best opportunity I and other family members have had to make some sense out of what happened to us.

  12. kevin March 9, 2014 Reply

    The news is breaking all over. Now ABC and the SF Chronicle are running stories on it:

    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=9459342

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Evangelist-Gothard-resigns-after-harassment-claims-5299761.php

    • Donna March 9, 2014 Reply

      I do hope that someone is able to communicate to the news outlets that "Seth Kraus, of the law firm Gibbs and Associates in Cincinnati" has a conflict of interest in this case and can not be considered an "independent" investigator.

  13. Sad March 9, 2014 Reply

    "...I countered back that an honest man would not have to spend a penny to walk into court and put his hand on the Bible and tell the truth. He did not respond.”"

    This really sticks out for me. When you see BG's absolute refusal to be deposed for the lawsuit, added to his teachings against reporting sexual crimes to the authorities, equals something is amiss with this man. What is he hiding?

    Romans 13:4b "But if you do wrong, be afraid..." (NIV)

  14. nmgirl March 9, 2014 Reply

    I have a few questions about the anti college stuff:

    1. Was BG scared that more educated people would not buy his bs?
    2. Did he know and exploit the fact that fewer college educated people self identify as fundamentalist Christians?
    3. Someone said he preferred that men and women work from home rather out in 'the real world'. Was this because he knew that corporate managers would understand his gross violations of labor laws and no longer let their children be exploited?
    4. In fact, what is the demographic makeup of the Gothardites?

    My suggestion to RG is that those who were slave laborers contact the Department of Labor. Violations of Wage and Earnings laws are probably easier to substantiate and the abuse of child labor even more so. Let the taxpayers go after this POS.

    • Mark March 9, 2014 Reply

      There is a general anti-intellectual view among fundamentalists. Not each and every one, mind you, but a lot of the response to the growing anti-Christian flavor among scientists which has existed since the Enlightenment is to simply discount science and higher education altogether.

      This has been an effective marketing strategy for Christian colleges (we're safe, don't send your impressionable youth to those godless universities) for decades. Of course, when those colleges abuse students in the name of Christ, which is more damaging?

    • Lori March 9, 2014 Reply

      mmgirl, I think it was a way for BG to get and keep a lot of people under his control.

    • Jonathan March 10, 2014 Reply

      As diabolical as it could be, it could also just be pandering to his crowd. A lot of Gothardites were reclusive and isolationist well before they encountered IBLP teachings. Gothard just made it worse and used that already present trait to his advantage.

      Like was said before, Fundamentalism likes to be anti-intellectual. Gothard just played on that. Much like a lot of parents who preached courtship despite having dated quite successfully, I know a great number of very educated people who denied their children higher education due to Gothard's teachings. It played into their current fears and the "dream" they had been fed of perfect kids kept away from the world.

  15. kevin March 9, 2014 Reply

    There are many who are now sharing experiences which reflect gross labor law violations within the organization. This sounds like borderline slave labor of children, hiding under the title of apprenticeships or internships.
    Anyone who has experienced or observed these practices, or if you have not been paid overtime for hours you worked, or were exposed to workplace safety hazards while working for IBLP, please file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor. It appears that there are numerous child labor law violations, overtime violations and work safety violations:

    http://www.illinois.gov/idol/Pages/contact.aspx

    Child Labor Law 312-793-2804
    Minimum Wage/Overtime 312-793-2804

    Hotlines:

    Child Labor Law 800-645-5784
    Minimum Wage/Overtime 800-478-3998

    • kevin March 9, 2014 Reply

      Also, I would strongly encourage you to contact a Chicago area law firm that specializes in labor laws- specifically employee rights. Here are a couple:

      Caffarelli & Siegel Ltd.
      CHICAGO OFFICE
      180 N. Stetson Ave., Ste. 3150
      Chicago, IL 60601
      Phone: (312) 540-1230

      http://www.cslaw.com/


      Outten & Golden LLP
      Chicago Office 312-924-4888
      http://www.outtengolden.com/

      I found this case interesting:
      http://www.outtengolden.com/mlb-all-star-weekend-volunteers

  16. Roxanne March 9, 2014 Reply

    Amazing to come across this site. I didn’t know there were so many other casualties. My life is a perfect example of an ATIA shipwreck.

    I am a mother of 12 natural-born children. I was an “ATIA mom” back in the day—I think it might have been the 2nd year of ATIA when we applied and were accepted into the program. I know it was one of the very first years. Anyway, we were ATIA zealots all the way. The pastor of our church preached most of his sermons right out of the IBYC/IBLP materials. When we started in ATIA, our eldest child was only a first-grader. Our family grew quickly, and so did the problems. I used to worry that Social Services would come and take all my children away if they ever found out what kind of things were going on in our home. There had been some physical and sexual abuse, and my husband had issues with pornography. I don’t mean to minimize those things, of course, but most of the time it was more like my husband locking me in a room while no one supervised the children. I couldn’t get out of the room until he let me out. I learned that the more I begged and pleaded, the more time I spent locked in the room. I had to totally submit to being locked in that room (pretend like I didn’t care) and that was the quickest way to get him to let me out. There was a lot of stuff like that which went on. He made our son say things like, “I am wicked.” If he wouldn’t say it he got a spanking, and the spankings went on and on until he would “submit.”

    I went to our pastor and asked for family counseling. He told me the one who asks for the counseling is usually the one who is the cause of the problem. After listening to my story and talking to my husband, the pastor informed me that I was, indeed, the one who was causing all the problems. It was my own rebellion. He said if I had been a “better wife” my husband would not have been tempted with pornography. Also, he said the reason our firstborn son was rebellious against my husband’s authority is because I was rebellious. For a long time I honestly believed that my rebellion must be the problem, and I tried very hard to become a more submissive, obedient wife. As bad as it was when things got really out of control, I think it was the steady life of guilt, day in and day out, that really caused my eventual collapse. I felt like such a failure. I felt like a hypocrite. I eventually had a nervous breakdown. I don’t think there are words to describe what kind of mental, emotional, spiritual trauma I was living under for all those years; although, on the surface, we looked good. People praised us all the time. They thought we were a role-model family. I always believed it was my wifely duty to make sure our family looked good, so I was hiding a lot of secrets. I talked as if my husband was a hero because I didn’t want people to think I was a rebel. After over 25 years of marriage, when most of my 12 children were grown or close to it (some of them were already married with children of their own), I filed for divorce.

    I didn’t really want a divorce at first. Actually, I just wanted someone to believe we needed help—that our problems were really that serious. When I told him about the divorce papers, my husband said that God revealed to him the only thing to do about my rebellion was deliver me over to Satan. After that first horrible experience with pastoral counseling, I was not interested in any more counseling. I just hoped and prayed that someone would hold my husband accountable. However, all my church friends and most of my family turned against me because I was the one who left him. My children disowned me (all but the eldest who had always been the one who would never submit) because they believed it was God’s will for them to remain under their father’s authority—even though they all admitted they knew their dad had some serious anger issues. Through their eyes, if I was the one asking for divorce, then obviously I was the one who was mostly in the wrong. Filing for divorce was my cry for help, but when everybody threatened to disown me—it just didn’t seem like there was any way back for me. When I left him, I turned him into even more of a hero in the eyes of all our homeschool friends. He was the loyal lover, and I was the rebel.

    I have since remarried. (Can you imagine how lonely I felt when I found myself all alone and rejected?) I am so thankful for my present husband. He’s not perfect (and neither am I), but he is kind and good to me. He isn’t on an authority trip, but he does accept responsibility. He is a true leader, and he loves the Lord. My children believe my second marriage means I am in a state of continual adultery in the sight of God; therefore, they cannot associate with me. I am not allowed to visit their homes or see my grandchildren. Some of the younger ones are willing to go out to lunch with me occasionally if I don’t say anything negative about their father, but none of them will set foot in my home or acknowledge my second marriage as valid in God’s eyes. They tell me I am “living in sin,” and I know they are afraid terrible things are going to happen to me.

    I would appreciate prayer for healing. I love my children and miss them so much! They think I abandoned them, but they do not understand what a nervous breakdown is like. If they would accept me back into their life I would be so happy, but I want them to know a difference. I pray all the time that the Lord will open their eyes and set them free so they will not go on living in spiritual oppression.

    • P.L. March 9, 2014 Reply

      @Roxanne, praying for you and all your family this evening. Blessings to you.

    • AnneMarie March 9, 2014 Reply

      Roxanne, thank you for sharing your heart. As a mother of many I grieve with you. Moms are amazing for what they do. Thankfully God knows the truth about the situation and what you have been through. I pray that your children will see the truth someday as well and for your healing.

    • Ann March 10, 2014 Reply

      Roxanne,

      I believe you. What you describe is layer upon layer of abuse. I believe your story, and I pray for healing and comfort for you and your family.

      Ann

    • Allen March 10, 2014 Reply

      Well, if Bill Gothard teaches the Truth, then I guess your pastor was right -- YOU were the problem for not submitting. Not only did you need to submit to your husband, but you needed to submit to your pastor. That would have fixed everything because God could have worked in your husband? You had no way out and were expected to endure. And for those Gothard fans who would say that these people abused Gothard's wonderful authority teaching, I would ask whether this woman was supposed to submit to that abuse, or whether she was free to disobey her husband and pastor? Which is it? You cannot have it both ways. She made her appeal. It availed nothing. Was she supposed to submit to this abuse? Was God in charge of her authority, and working through that authority, or was He not? The fact is, if she was free to disobey -- as she did do -- then the authority teaching is error, isn't it? This woman had to decide for herself before God what to do -- everyone deserted her. Gothard fans, please explain why she should have continued to submit to this abuse, and why this would have glorified God.

      • Mark March 10, 2014 Reply

        Read "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" (RG recommended).

        There's a story of a woman whose husband is physically abusing her. She fears that her husband will kill her, so she goes to her pastor for counsel on what to do. The pastor tells her to go back and submit to the abuse. Her submission to abuse will be a witness against him, and if she is murdered, her death will be a testimony for Christian wives.

        I think that's the answer you'd get from Gothardites.

        • Stéphanie March 10, 2014

          Sorry, but her death would be a testimony to WHAT? To the stupidity of the teaching of unconditional submission???

    • Brumby March 10, 2014 Reply

      @Roxanne: Your story is absolutely heartwrenching, and I am so sorry for the grief you've been bearing for so long. I trust you have the strength to continue and express your love to your children every chance that do get, and that in time they will realize their need for healing as well. The abuse from ATI that I experienced also occurred in my home. I cannot really describe the feelings of loss and fear that I had growing up. Experiencing abuse in your own home at the hand of your closest family members is so harsh. I know. Healing is a long road but please stay on it. Don't give up. :)

    • Mark March 10, 2014 Reply

      Roxanne, thanks for sharing. One thing that changed my mind about divorce was a section in (I think) "Boundaries" which is an RG recommended read.

      The authors ask the obvious question. Do we really think that God is happy with a broken marriage? We know that God hates divorce, but is God somehow fooled when we stay in a loveless, abusive marriage because we don't want to admit that it is failing? They say divorce is a last resort, but don't act as if your marriage is fine when it is broken.

      Praying that you can heal and that your children can escape from the snares of legalism.

      • AnneMarie March 10, 2014 Reply

        Are you talking about "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend? I wish I could give everyone one on the planet a copy of this book. I have had Bible studies using this book and it was a revelation for all the women attending. It was transformational for me as well. If you have never read this book PLEASE get your hands on a copy of it.

        • Brumby March 10, 2014

          I second that, Annemarie.

      • Mark March 10, 2014 Reply

        Yes, Cloud and Townsend. I passed a copy of "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" to my pastor about six months ago. He's busy and says he's only been able to read a little, but was convicted by it. I would love to pass him the other two books that have been foundational to me in the last two years, one of which is "Boundaries" and the other is "Families Where Grace is in Place" - which was recommended by a couple in our church after being given a copy by their Christian adoption agency.

      • skl March 10, 2014 Reply

        This. Absolutly this.

    • Donna March 10, 2014 Reply

      Roxanne,
      I am weeping for you as I write. The pain you have suffered and continue to suffer is unimaginable to me. I have 6 grown children and 2 granddaughters, all of whom are precious and provide so much love and enjoyment. I can't imagine the pain of being rejected by them. I pray that God will mercifully care for you and I hope that He will work the miracles that are necessary for your relationships to be restored. I have written your name on my prayer list, and I will lift you and your family before the throne of grace each day.

    • Stéphanie March 10, 2014 Reply

      Roxanne,

      My heart breaks for you. Yes, what you experienced was not just wrong, it was evil. The twisting of Scripture to enslave you to abuse and the wrenching away of your better judgment with the word "submit" is revolting in the extreme. I'm sorry to admit I used to look down on those who divorced and those who remarry. Now I realize how much courage that can take, and how necessary it sometimes is.

      I pray God continues leading you tenderly in your journey of healing. Lord willing, He WILL open your children's eyes--though it may take years--and they will start to see what they've missed all these years. Many ATI students wonder if their parents will ever understand what they've been through and if those relationships will ever be healed. It's good for us to remember and pray for the ATI parents who wonder how the relationship with their children can be healed.

      Thankfully, we know the One who left all, quit all, suffered all, and gave all to bring about healing and reconciliation when we are powerless. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion, dear Roxanne. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not put out. Courage to you, sister!

    • Allen March 10, 2014 Reply

      I am glad you had the wisdom to divorce that man. God permits legal divorce where a divorce has already taken place in reality. Adultery, desertion, abuse -- these things break the marriage.

      • Roxanne March 12, 2014 Reply

        Thanks to everyone who replied. I have been reading a lot of the information on this web site, and I am so relieved to see that some of Mr. Gothard's former followers are finally waking up and seeing the corruption for what it is. I cringe when I think that these people who have the courage to say "he has hurt me" might end up facing interviewers from the internal investigators on the IBLP side. I know how this works! I have lived it in my church and in my family for more than 25 years, and in a sense I am still living it today because the damage is ongoing. I do not believe that Mr. Gothard is interested in listening to his accusers (even though that's what he said). I believe he wants to discredit his accusers. I used to call these conversations "interrogations" because when you tell these false teachers (ravening wolves--literally) how much they have hurt you, they always seem to start with a question. It doesn't matter what answer you give to that question it will be shot down. They have an uncanny ability of knowing how to keep you on the defensive, and they always seem to hone in on the exact accusation that will humiliate you and leave you quivering like a lump of yellow jello. Sometimes I think I can almost see a snake coiled up on his shoulder whispering in his ear the next thing that he should say. It's that creepy!

    • Grace March 21, 2014 Reply

      Hi Roxanne, it is 11 days after your initial post, so don't know if you will check back to read this, but I wanted to say thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your story. Your husband was absolutely being abusive, and how tragic when those closest to you can't recognize it. I too was in an abusive relationship, and have to say, that apparently, when it comes to physical abuse/violence, BG speaks clearly against it. I actually counseled with him regarding my failed/abusive marriage, and he told me to stay away from my husband and have nothing to do with him. He also was the first to bring to light that there was "moral failure" on the part of my husband, which I hadn't realized, so his counsel actually tremendously helped me get help for myself, my girls, and the whole family, who were being abused in ways I didn't know of. I also purchased a book from IBLP "7 Lies in marriage" (or something like that -- sorry, I can get the exact title if you life), and this book also helped me realize I needed to get help and not stay with my husband.

      I see the problem of Christian men who become abusive to their wives as a broader problem in the Church because of the type of thing that happened to you -- pastors blaming the wife under the guise of "submission" teaching, etc. This "submission" teaching was what kept me in an abusive marriage for many years, while I can't blame IBLP, since BG actually directly helped me get out of the abusive situation. However, my family was never as fully involved in ATI as yours; and my husband was never involved, so I always maintained my own personal convictions and faith without sole or strict adherence to IBLP/ATI teachings.

      I do thank you, Roxanne, again, for sharing and for your courage. I do pray for you and for your children to be reconciled to you. I have seen miracles in my own family after years of abuse and broken trust, etc. Never stop believing that God can heal, restore, and bring you through to a better place.

  17. DAVID PIGG March 9, 2014 Reply

    Behind the manipulations,the scheeming,and bullying,lies a man going down a spiral into an abyss.If I'm not shocked that there is no fear of God,after reading these comments,I'm not sure at how I can describe calculated evil.Far beyond anything I could have anticipated.I want my comments to count for something,but know that too many voices were squelched by tactics from a man without a conscience.Therefore while the darkness still abides if there is any good in my soul, then I must shudder at the wickedness,and even with any slight faith command this defiance of righteousness to bow before the sovereignty of God lest I be overcome,and thought to be counted for nothing.I see it as simply the eloquence of your existence to fight this evil.

  18. Mark March 10, 2014 Reply

    This looks like a really good resource. There are two links from the Facebook page. The second is explaining to abuse victims the role that David Gibbs is playing (i.e. trying to get IBLP and Bill Gothard off the hook) and why they should refuse any communication from him or Christian Law Association, which is apparently, the first call of any church under investigation for abuse.

    The Bob Jones case seems somewhat similar.
    https://www.facebook.com/DoRightBJU/posts/270240206412489

  19. L. Shackelford March 13, 2014 Reply

    '“For from the least to the greatest of them,
    everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
    and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.
    They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
    saying, ‘Peace, peace,’when there is no peace.

    Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
    No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.
    Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
    at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown.”
    says the Lord.' Jer. 6:13-15

  20. Pingback : The GOTHARD Files: Failure to Reconcile 1981-ATI | Recovering Grace

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