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Bill Gothard Cleared of 'Criminal Activity' But Chastised for 'Lack of Discretion' After Sexual Harassment Claims

Critics Blast Nonprofit's 'Outside' Review Process, Failure to Acknowledge and Apologize to Alleged Victims

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By Nicola Menzie , Christian Post Reporter
June 19, 2014|2:34 pm
Bill Gothard, founder of the conservative Christian nonprofit Institute for Basic Life Principles, resigned from leadership after allegations of rampant sexual harassment (Facebook/Bill Gothard)

Bill Gothard, founder of the conservative Christian nonprofit Institute for Basic Life Principles, resigned from leadership after allegations of rampant sexual harassment.

The conservative Christian organization from which founder Bill Gothard resigned four months ago amid allegations of sexual harassment revealed in a contested statement that it has found no criminal activity but will maintain its ban against Gothard's participation in the nonprofit. Gothard, meanwhile, insists his "intent was never to harass" alleged victims.

A statement written by the board of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an education-oriented nonprofit that promotes "God's principles found in Scripture," reveals: 

"In response to allegations against Bill Gothard, the board sought the facts through a confidential and thorough review process conducted by outside legal counsel. Many people were interviewed, including former board members, current and past staff members, current and past administrators, parents, and family members.

"At this point, based upon those willing to be interviewed, no criminal activity has been discovered. If it had been, it would have been reported to the proper authorities immediately, as it will be in the future if any such activity is revealed."

However, Gothard was found to have "acted in an inappropriate manner" and shown "lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ's example of being blameless and above reproach."

"At this time the board unanimously agrees that Mr. Gothard is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or board role within the IBLP ministry," adds the statement, apparently leaving open the possibility of his return to the organization.

Gothard, who incorporated IBLP in 1961, resigned from the homeschooling and family values organization on March 5, according to a letter sent to supporters via email by the Advanced Training Institute, the offspring of Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles.

The letter, made public by Homeschoolers Anonymous, states that Gothard referenced a "desire to follow Matthew 5:23-24 and listen to those who have 'ought [any grievance] against' him." Gothard said at the time he planned to "give his full attention to this objective," and emphasized this week his commitment to that objective.

Homeschoolers Anonymous, "a narrative-sharing platform run by former homeschoolers" about "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of the home education system, has been tracking ongoing developments regarding IBLP and its handling of Gothard's case.

The Web-based group denounced the IBLP board's June 17 statement, calling it "a disgrace" in its response to the review of Gothard's alleged sexual harassment of dozens of teen girls and young women over decades.

Homeschoolers Anonymous took issue with the board's comment regarding the "thorough review process" conducted via "outside legal counsel," specifically citing the IBLP's relationship with attorney David C. Gibbs Jr.

It was reported by the Chicago-Sun Times in March that the Gibbs & Associates Law Firm in Ohio would be conducting the review concerning the allegations made against Gothard. The review reportedly was made "at the request of its client, the Christian Law Association, which was asked by the institute's board to do an outside review."

Both the Gibbs & Associates Law Firm and the Christian Law Association were founded by David C. Gibbs Jr., a regular speaker at IBLP's annual Family Conferences where the attorney "has fast become a conference favorite," according to the nonprofit's website.

Recovering Grace, a Christian group critical of Gothard's teachings, also rebuked the IBLP board "for failing to mention the harassment allegations and provide any expression of concern for the women who made them" in its statement, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The publication also spoke with Gothard, who said, "I respect and honor the board, and my number one goal right now ... is to go back to the ones that I have offended and ask their forgiveness."

Regarding the allegations of sexual harassment made against him, most notably on Recovering Grace's website, the 79-year-old Gothard stated: "Sexual harassment is to a large extent intent, and my intent was never to harass them." He admitted in March to holding hands, and touching the feet or hair of young ladies, but not "immorally or with sexual intent."

The Christian Post spoke off the record with a representative of IBLP on Wednesday, and was informed that Interim President Tim Levendusky, identified as the sole individual authorized to discuss the case, was currently unavailable to answer questions on how IBLP's affiliation with David C. Gibbs Jr. might have affected the review of Gothard, whether IBLP's current board members held their positions at the time sexual harassment claims began to emerge, and whether the board has any intention of one day welcoming Gothard's re-involvement in IBLP or its affiliated ministries and organizations.

IBLP was embroiled in controversy in the '80s when Gothard's brother, Steve Gothard, resigned when it was revealed that he had been having sexual affairs with multiple members of the nonprofit's staff. Bill Gothard was accused of failing to act while being knowledgeable of his brother's affairs, and resigned from his position, only to return weeks later to continue helming the organization.

IBLP, whose stated purpose is to introduce people to Jesus Christ, "is dedicated to giving individuals, families, churches, schools, communities, governments, and businesses clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God's principles found in Scripture."

The Oak Brook, Illinois, nonprofit advocates for values based on Gothard's interpretation of the Bible, while his Advanced Training Institute develops homeschooling curriculum. The IBLP reported on 2012 tax forms that it received nearly $5.5 million in public support and held more than $81.7 million in assets.

Millions of families, including reality television stars the Duggar family, have been exposed to IBLP's teachings and seminars. Gothard, unmarried and childless, has been noted for his influence in conservative Christian circles. He explains on his website how his "biblical principles of life will result in harmonious relationships in all areas of life."

IBLP's listed current Board of Directors include Stephen Paine, pastor David York, Anthony Burrus, Gil Bates, and John Stancil.

Read the IBLP board's full statement below:

A Time of Transition

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We are grateful for your prayers and patience as we have all walked through these difficult months. As board members, each of us has been positively impacted by the relationships, teachings, and opportunities available through the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It is because of our appreciation for this ministry that we agreed to serve on the Board of Directors. We also recognize our duty as board members, and we bring this statement with great heaviness of heart.

In response to allegations against Bill Gothard, the board sought the facts through a confidential and thorough review process conducted by outside legal counsel. Many people were interviewed, including former board members, current and past staff members, current and past administrators, parents, and family members.

At this point, based upon those willing to be interviewed, no criminal activity has been discovered. If it had been, it would have been reported to the proper authorities immediately, as it will be in the future if any such activity is revealed.

However, the review showed that Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner, and the Board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ's example of being blameless and above reproach. As a Christian leader, he is to avoid the appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22), and he must have a good reputation, even with those outside the Church (I Timothy 3:7).

We believe God still desires to use Bill Gothard for His work in the Kingdom of God, but we also believe it is important that he be held to the high standards clearly taught in the Scriptures and upheld by this ministry. At this time the board unanimously agrees that Mr. Gothard is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or board role within the IBLP ministry.

We also know that the Word of God teaches that believers should have a good conscience toward God and men (Acts 24:16). We want to encourage reconciliation within families and are very supportive of efforts toward reconciliation with Mr. Gothard or with IBLP. The board is asking that Mr. Gothard submit to and cooperate with a team of Christian leaders who will direct his reconciliation process.

The board does not believe that Mr. Gothard's shortcomings discredit the truths of God's Word that were taught through him. All of us are reminded of our need to look to Jesus and to His Word "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16). We are committed to evaluating each part of the ministry on the basis of God's Word, and we encourage everyone to search the Scriptures to determine what is true, as did the Bereans (see Acts 17).

We look forward to doing all we can to advance the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local Church. We dedicate ourselves to help build up families and individuals in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are seeking and praying for a new permanent president for the IBLP ministries. Please pray with us to this end.

Sincerely in Christ,

Board of Directors
Institute in Basic Life Principles

 

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