Plaintiffs Amend Lawsuit Against IBLP, Also Sue Bill Gothard
Dear Recovering Grace Reader,
There has been a rather large development in the legal proceedings surrounding Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). This past Wednesday, January 6, 2016, Attorney David Gibbs III filed an amended complaint on behalf of ten women who allege Bill Gothard sexually abused and/or harassed them, along with a conspiracy by Mr. Gothard and the IBLP organization to cover up the behavior.
This amended complaint is altered both in approach and content to the one filed back in October. The original suit alleged negligence by the IBLP corporation and the IBLP board, naming each member of the board as a defendant.
Most notably, the complaint now names Bill Gothard himself as a defendant, which is a change many of our readers speculated about following the first filing. The complaint drops the allegations against the individual members of the board, while the lawsuit against the IBLP corporation remains. The primary allegations in this new complaint now focus primarily on infliction of emotional distress caused by IBLP’s and Gothard’s 2014 public statements that denied anything of an illegal or criminal nature.
Another notable change is the addition of five new plaintiffs (and we are told that even more women will be joining). This new filing adds a detailed description of what the women experienced. In fact, the amended complaint provides much more information detailing what is being alleged.
Blogger Libby Anne has done a thorough job summarizing the allegations here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2016/01/a-summary-of-allegations-against-bill-gothard-and-iblp.html. Of particular note is that two of the plaintiffs (Melody Fedoriw and Jane Doe III) allege sexual abuse and harassment as recently as within the past five years, and another plaintiff (Jane Doe II) alleges that Bill Gothard went so far as to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her.
Two other articles that provide in-depth overviews of the amended suit can be found at the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/01/06/new-charges-allege-religious-leader-who-has-ties-to-the-duggars-sexually-abused-women/) and The Investigative Fund (http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/blog/2196/new_charges_allege_rape_by_prominent_religious_leader/)
As our team has individually processed the events of this week, we have found ourselves experiencing a wide range of emotions. First, and perhaps foremost, we are saddened that things have come to this. Several of the allegations made public this week have been known by us for quite some time. In fact, we made the decision in 2014 to publish the articles that led to the resignation of Bill Gothard from IBLP because of the stories several of these women told us. Not all of them chose to publish at that time, but the sheer volume and sameness of their experiences, along with their individual timelines, informed us that the behavior was ongoing. We agreed as a team that, if we were in a position to influence a change, we wanted to help. We had hoped that these women would never have to be so publicly vulnerable as they were this week. This is why time and time again we pleaded with Bill Gothard and the IBLP board to handle things in a straightforward and appropriate manner.
In the midst of all of this, we feel proud of these women and are in awe of their courage. We know that, for these women, this suit is not about any potential financial gain, even though the financial and emotional costs of this kind of recovery can be great. Several of them have stated to us multiple times that they simply want to make sure that the truth is told so that these crimes can’t happen to anyone else. They understand that there will be friends, strangers, and even family members who don’t understand their motives and who will attempt to discount their efforts. We know that they have not entered into this lawsuit lightly. These women are well aware that Bill Gothard is trying to return to IBLP (as Bill himself stated in a signed affidavit that is included in the lawsuit), and that is something they do not believe should ever happen. The effect of this publicity forces these brave women to relive painful moments from their past, while those same moments are evaluated and dissected by individuals whose reactions may very well cause fresh pain. But to them, the cost is worth it, and we applaud their bravery.
Finally, we are disappointed — even angered — at the board of IBLP for their failure to stand up publicly and be counted as men of God at this pivotal time. These men could have shown even the slightest interest in uncovering the truth. They could have responded to our many requests to meet with them to share what we know. They could have hired a real internal investigator who wasn’t also on the speaking schedule for their next homeschool conference. Those who have followed Bill Gothard and his IBLP ministry over the past 40 years have waited without satisfaction for the board to step forward and publicly decry the behavior of its founder, as well as many of its damaging teachings. Those left at the helm of Gothard’s diminished ministry have uttered scarcely a word to their alumni, to Recovering Grace, to the mainstream media, or even on their own website, that would indicate that they grieve for those who have been damaged, much less that they consider it their role or responsibility to see those wrongs made right.
Our outrage at the lack of action by the IBLP board is tempered by the knowledge that Bill Gothard has always carefully selected his board members. The IBLP board has traditionally been made up of prominent spiritual leaders, public motivational speakers, and successful businessmen, all men who have been respected in their fields of work or ministry, who support Gothard or his goals, regardless of their ability to govern a corporate entity and provide an avenue of accountability to its leader. They were chosen for their ability to influence and for their devotion to Bill Gothard.
We have seen over the years that once a quorum of the board rises up against Bill’s behavior or direction, it then dissipates. Time and again, once the members realized they had no real authority to steer the ministry, they had to decide whether they could morally remain on board. And if they didn’t quickly resign on their own, Bill found a way to encourage them to leave. The board turnover at IBLP from its heyday in the ’70s to the present is remarkable. This dismal reality, however, does not absolve the current board of their legal responsibility as fiduciaries or of their higher responsibility to their sisters in Christ whom their organization has damaged physically, spiritually, and emotionally. There may be no other physical entity that could have a greater effect in healing, yet the board has remained mostly silent.
At least four board members resigned in the past year, and while we can only speculate as to their motives, it continues a pattern observed in IBLP board governance over the decades. It appears, from the investigation and the current board resignations, that the focus has been on protecting the organization as well as the personal interests of those still running it. The damage suffered by these brave women and their families remains the responsibility of the current and former IBLP board members for turning a blind eye to behavior that they knew was inappropriate. Yet not one of these leaders has stepped forward publicly to advocate for those who were wronged and to be held accountable. These women should never have had to put their names and families in the public spotlight, with the details of their stories fully available for the tabloids to use in selling their publications.
We hope that you will join with us in petitioning our Father in Heaven for the truth to prevail. Recovering Grace is not a party to the lawsuit, but we do love these women as our dear friends and as our sisters in Christ, and we feel fiercely protective of their personal stories. When we first started publishing their accounts, some of our readers (and our critics) assumed that if we knew more or if we had “worse” to tell, we would have done so. The fact is that we published the stories that the women who shared them were ready to tell. And we withheld the stories they wanted us to know but were not ready to share with the world. Our intention always has been to facilitate healing, and to stop the abuse from happening again, if we could. Each woman who has shared her experience with us is at a different place in her personal recovery, and we respect those who have chosen to litigate, as well as those who are remaining silent. We want these women to be healthy on their own terms, and we support their process. We do not know how this will all end, but our prayer is simply for the truth to be made known, for justice to prevail, and for God to be glorified.
The RG Leadership Team