Last week, five former followers of the Institute of Basic Life Principles filed a lawsuit alleging that officials covered up multiple reports of sexual abuse and harassment. Bringing Up Bates‘ Gil Bates, a director with the fundamentalist Christian organization, is among the defendants named in the IBLP lawsuit, as the plaintiffs claim he knowingly participated in the cover-up.
Accusations against the IBLP, and, specifically, founder Bill Gothard (pictured below in the 1970s), have been rampant for years. In most cases, the victims claimed Gothard would take interest in them when they were working at the IBLP headquarters as teenagers. The girls were then “subjected to awkward emotional advances” from Gothard, including “holding hands in an intimate way, stroking hair, gazing into their eyes, prolonged frontal hugs, whispers in the ear and playing footsie.” At least four women claimed the interaction progressed to the level of molestation. One woman recalled her experience with Gothard in a 2014 post for Recovering Grace…
He gave me cash and told me to buy bras that pushed me up more; he wanted me to always wear them when I was around him. He never wanted me to show him, though. He just liked to touch over the clothing. He would drive me home so I wouldn’t walk alone to my house in the dark. He would hold my hand and rub my leg and tell me not to tell anyone about what we did in his car.
Amidst increasing pressure, Gothard resigned as leader of the IBLP in 2014. After that, an internal investigation into the accusations was conducted, but it determined “no criminal activity” was committed by Gothard. However, the plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit the IBLP investigation “was pre-ordained and nothing more than a cover-up of the allegations of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate/unauthorized touching that occurred at the Defendant IBLP.” Furthermore, the plaintiffs said the people on the board of directors were complicit in the abuse because they never reported the “serious, potentially criminal allegations to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services,” despite “frequently” receiving reports of Gothard’s “sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching.”
The five plaintiffs are each seeking $50,000 in damages and trying to prevent the headquarters from moving to Texas from Illinois, where courts are more aggressive in sex abuse cases. Both the plaintiffs’ lawyer and a spokesperson for Recovering Grace said the women did not want to take legal action, but felt it was necessary because the IBLP board of directors refused to address their accusations appropriately. Recovering Grace spokesperson John Cornish said, “For an organization that has always prided itself on doing the right thing, it’s a bit of a shame that it’s taken legal action for them to even have a discussion with the victims about this.”
Even after the majority of the accusations surfaced and Gothard resigned, both the Bringing Up Bates stars and the Duggars remained involved in the organization. Although Jim Bob Duggar isn’t on the board of directors like friend Gil Bates, he and Michelle frequently speak at IBLP conferences and send their children to ALERT Academy (for the boys) and Journey to the Heart missions (for the girls).