When I was in Chicago visiting my daughter in the fall, I met with Jake Youngman who had contacted me weeks earlier about the cult of Bill Gothard, Institutes in Basic Life Principles and ATI. He wanted to interview me based on my knowledge of cults and the culture of this group, why I viewed it as a cult, and why it caused/causes harm especially to girls and women.
My background: I remember hearing about Gothard’s program in the 70s which was then called Basic Youth Conflicts. Many Christians and their families from various denominations attended their seminars. My family went through the Basic and Advanced seminars in the 90s, when it was called Institutes in Basic Life Principles. Our children went to the Children’s Institute. Others continued further with the program and joined the ATI (Advanced Training Institute) homeschool program, and even sent their kids to some of the “training” facilities throughout the country and the world.
Bill Gothard’s training was sold as a program to help Christian families to be successful if we just followed his formula. He had answers to all of life’s problems.
The reality is that he didn’t. Not only do his teachings harm women/girls, they also harm men/boys because they teach that men are to rule over women, that women cause men to stumble sexually, etc. That is only one of many problems, but one that I know about most because of listening to the stories of victims who were harmed by Gothard.
When reading over his teaching materials on sex abuse, it occurred to me that Gothard’s teachings is essentially grooming material for young men/men to sexually abuse girls and get away with it, blaming girls instead: for dressing immodestly, for having unconfessed sin in their life, etc. The blame is consistently shifted to the victim, with no responsibility placed on the perpetrator. (The Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting used this curricula and is it any wonder Josh Duggar got into so much sexual trouble?)
A couple of years ago, I contacted Bill Gothard himself and asked him pointed questions. He danced around the questions I asked regarding repentance and asking forgiveness from his victims. Instead, he tried to shift the conversation to his latest program, just like a used cars salesman. The man is evil. He should have no place in ministry.
Here is the documentary that was made by Jake Youngman about cult leader, Bill Gothard.