Sunday, June 22, 2014

A *Real* Investigation into IBLP


  Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected

--Bill Gothard

Bill Gothard's buddy David Gibbs, Jr. has now completed his "investigation" into allegations made against Gothard by former IBLP staff members. According to the IBLP board earlier this week,
"...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."

But according to the team at Recovering Grace,
"...not one of the women who have shared their stories on our site were personally contacted by Gibbs Jr. or his investigative team, including Charlotte, who alleged molestation."

Perhaps Gibbs Jr. needs to brush up on his Character Qualities.

It would seem that Gibbs' investigation focused narrowly on certain allegations of sexual impropriety (some of which Gothard has admitted to, resulting in his resignation). However, this is but the sensational tip of the iceberg and ignores the broad scope of hurtful, unethical, and even illegal activities that have damaged numerous lives associated with the Institute in Basic Life Principles.

Gothard promoted his organization as "Giving the world a new approach to life" and following God's "non-optional principles". A ministry that prides itself on being "under authority" should have nothing to fear from the truth. And yet, the testimonies of some former students and staff members paint a disturbing picture. Some of these stories of life under the auspices of the Institute have been published on Recovering Grace. Others have been shared more privately. Some victims are willing to have their names attached to their experiences while others prefer anonymity, or pseudonyms.

Each of the incidents outlined below could likely be explained away on its own. But taken together they suggest a pattern that I believe is worthy of deeper examination. The Board of IBLP can write, "We dedicate ourselves to help build up families and individuals," but if these situations actually took place, the Institute's so-called "ministry" is a farce, with or without Gothard, and IBLP should be shut down to prevent further abuse of power.

A real investigation of IBLP might look into allegations of the following:

OSHA and other code violations at all locations: Indianapolis and South Campus, IN; Oak Brook, IL; Oklahoma City and Eagle Springs (Skiatook), OK; Northwoods (Watersmeet) and Flint, MI; Big Sandy, TX;  Little Rock, Elms Plantation (Pine Bluff), and Eagle Mountain (Berryville), AR; Nashville (Madison) TN; and others
For example
  • Lack of permits: illegal remodeling, dredging a lake without a permit, improper electrical wiring
  • Poor fire safety: hiding fire extinguishers and fire pulls behind paintings or d├ęcor items; silencing a monitored fire alarm to avoid disrupting conferences, not reporting fires to fire department
  • Improper supervision: letting teens work on upper-story building exterior or fire escapes without safety harness
  • Injuries: electrical shocks from unsafe practices, minors injured while operating power tools, carbon monoxide poisoning of kitchen volunteers
  • Faulty elevators
  • Violations of residential occupancy limits

Prayer rooms (especially at 2820 N. Meridian, Indianapolis): 
  • locking minors in solitary confinement without notifying parents
  • locking minors in solitary without access to a restroom
  • withholding food or medication
  • spanking minors without parental consent

Failure to protect children by reporting abuse:
  • failure to report sex acts with or molestation or attempted sexual molestation of minors in IBLP's care at the ITC (Rodger Gergeni)
  • failure to report sexual abuse of minors in ATI families (Bill Gothard)
  • pressure on homeschooled victims not to report physically abusive parents
  • shaming victims of sexual assault and neglecting to counsel them to contact police
  • pressuring ATI moms not to divorce abusive husbands who posed a danger to the children

Educational neglect
  • failure to educate "homeschooled" minors who were sent to IBLP centers by their parents
  • using A.C.E. curriculum for children sent by the courts
  • violation of child labor laws
  • children (9-10 years old) working in the kitchen or cleaning bathrooms, sometimes rising as early as 4 or 5 a.m. to work
  • unpaid teenagers working 12-18 hour days in the hotels (cooking, industrial laundry, cleaning hotel rooms and public restrooms)
  • selling teens unaccredited degrees ( without adequate explanation of their value

Forced fasting
  • on weekends, designated prayer days, and other times when meal preparation was inconvenient
  • though some children were sent there by the state and other students paid for room and board, only two meals were served on Saturday and only supper on Sunday
  • sometimes only two meals a day were served for weeks in a row
  • requiring students to turn in care packages
  • also mandatory weight checks (Weigh Down) for staff women, involuntary diets, forced exercise
  • failure to recognize eating disorders such as anorexia (even when girls were passing out)

Medical neglect
  • withholding or confiscating prescription medication (including antidepressants, an asthma inhaler, post-surgery pain medication)
  • refusal to get prompt medical treatment for severe burns, broken bones, concussions, pneumonia, collapsed lung, high fevers, torn ligaments, acute food poisoning--many former students trace chronic health problems to untreated conditions that arose at training centers
  • treating injuries with alternative remedies such as sugar water injections (Dr. Hemwall)
  • letting doctors or dentists with revoked licenses treat students at training centers

Campaign ethics
  • sending youth to campaign for Indianapolis judicial and mayoral candidates
  • providing private services to a public official (Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin) in Oklahoma

Employer issues
  • pressuring employees not to record overtime on time sheets
  • advising employees that submitted overtime hours would not be paid
  • mandatory unpaid evening work teams for employees (washing dishes, cleaning carpets, scrubbing bathrooms)
  • paying less than minimum wage, paying minimum wage minus "rent"
  • firing employees without due process or notice
  • refusal to pay workers’ compensation
  • instructing employee to lie to hospital staff to protect the "ministry"
  • praising employees who gave up their paycheck to become volunteers
  • allowing children under 16 to work more than twenty hours a week
  • sexual harassment of junior staff or students by adult staff

  • physical abuse, medical neglect, solitary confinement, unsafe equipment, psychological abuse
  • refusal to contact parents regarding medical emergencies
  • keeping four teens tied together by the feet for an entire day, resulting in injury
  • a unit of under-dressed teen boys standing outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures at night until one confessed to a minor infraction
  • disregard for basic safety precautions

Mistreating Russian orphans in Moscow and at Indianapolis South Campus:
  • foster families spanking children and even teens
  • children spanked for minor misdeeds
  • English-speaker spanking Russian child without an interpreter present
  • withholding meals from children for disciplinary purposes or feeding them only dry rolled oats and water
  • child labor (reports of children required to clean toilets at 5 a.m.)
  • using orphans to "encourage" financial donors

Restricted communication from training centers: 
  • limited access to public phones, email, fax, or internet
  • reading students' outgoing or incoming mail, confiscating mail or making students open mail in presence of a leader
  • censoring outgoing email
  • telling students what to tell (or not tell) their parents about situations at the training center
  • limiting who a student or employee was allowed to correspond with outside
  • restricting conversation or interaction between fellow students 

Psychological abuse
  • lengthy, repetitive, or middle-of-the-night “counseling” sessions (berating and brainwashing)
  • restricting sleep
  • piping loud music into bedrooms
  • assigning staff to night duties on consecutive nights (along with their day jobs)
  • requiring student to wash clothing by hand until she had earned "privilege" of using the laundry facilities; requiring staff to recite extensive Bible passages before breaking a fast
  • confiscating clocks
  • hours of forced labor intended to "break will" or "conquer rebellion"

Violations of privacy
  • not permitting students to take bathroom breaks or use the restroom alone, or with the door closed
  • confiscating personal items such as clothing, music, photographs, medication, and cell phones

  • sending unreported cash through customs on staff member's person
  • exaggerating or misrepresenting facts in newsletters
  • promotional video about ALERT describing a pilot “rescue” omitted the fact that it was ALERT’s own plane that crashed while taking aerial photos of the property)
  • personal gifts of cash or clothing from Gothard to his favorites
  • discrimination against males who appeared "too effeminate" and females who were overweight or not "feminine" enough
  • photoshopping hair, clothing, and landscaping for newsletter photos
  • selling overpriced plant kits to ATI families under fraudulent advertising
  • serving old (long-expired) donated food or insect-infested grain
  • transferring minors across state lines between "training opportunities" without parental permission or notification
  • insisting that Character First was not affiliated with Gothard

With former ATI students and IBLP staff reporting incidents like these, is it any surprise that so few choose to use Gothard's materials with their own children?

IBLP has also had operations in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Romania, Mongolia, and Mexico.


  1. 100% agree. I will rest easier when the institute goes out of business.

  2. "allowing children under 16 to work more than twenty hours a week" is an extreme understatement. From 13 to 15 years of age, I was periodically sent out among other minors to do grueling work at various training centers. We might pull 20 hours a DAY, and that's not a joke. Everything from laundry and cleaning, to kitchen work, to serving for huge banquets, to just about anything else you can think of. On top of this, we were expected to complete assignments as much as possible upon returning to our rooms, and often punished if we did not complete them according to normal schedule. We were lucky to sleep, and lucky to eat. Many of us became sick, suffered injuries or became faint with exhaustion, sleep deprivation and so on, but we were expected to trudge on. Reports were then sent back to my poor mother essentially saying that I was lazy; if you didn't smile enough, or if you looked too sickly, or any other minor thing, you were likely to be either punished or harshly criticized. Just thought I'd mention that...

    1. stories such as yours should be recorded by whatever legal and proper way it is done and presented to the board in such a way that they cannot deny that laws were broken.

  3. I was at ITC with my parents for about 6 months in 1994. While my Dad and I worked remodeling the floor hallways and the auditorium, my Mom worked tirelessly in the kitchen. If you needed a break or r slowed down you were labeled as "slothful". I can remember working doing landscaping with another guy while he was puking his guts out with the flu, because we had to get a number of trees planted before BG came down and visited from Oakbrook. Everything they did there was to put on a show when in actuality, the conditions were terrible. We came to the ITC without a car, and the only way to get a car to go shopping or get food of your own was either to check one out from transportation, or to wait for a group going in a van to Meijer or walmart. The guys in transportation not only routinely denied the families there the ability to leave, especially on Sundays, but they were routinely eves dropping on conversations and reporting people to the training center directors. If anyone has any doubt that this organization is a cult, spend five minutes at a training center. They have all the earmark qualities of a cult: isolationism, information control, mind control through brainwashing, conformity to a uniform, physical, mental, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse of every kind. This is not a ministry, it is hell.

  4. Thank you. The 'training centers'/HQ give the truest picture of Gothard's "New Way of Life," and it's not at all pretty.

    It's about time someone drew up a comprehensive list of the abuses/infractions that we were witness to. It boggles my mind that people would be willing to disregard the testimony of thousands of former ATI students so as to defend Gothard.

    The bad outweighs the good a hundred to one, and it's well past time this 'ministry' was shut down. Thank you for being a voice for truth and justice, Jeri.

  5. Hopped over here from RG - fabulous compilation. Thanks for taking the time to consolidate thoughts and information. I can personally agree with many of these allegations from personal experience/observation, and can see the remaining allegations as completely believable, based on everything else that I know about this group. Godspeed.

  6. It's pretty incredible [in a negative sense, of course] to see it all listed out like this.

  7. Excellent compilation, Jeri. Thank you.

  8. Although I wasn't an ATI student (back in 1986 I attended a basic seminar, and went to part of another one in 1989), I went to a Christian school where the IBYC (as it was known in those days) material was incorporated into our Bible class. The church that sponsored the school was very heavily into the IBYC teaching as well. Around the tine I graduated from the school, an associate pastor was hired who had previously worked for IBYC. When I was first exposed to these teachings, I really didn't think too much about it. I looked up to the people who were teaching it. As a 15 / 16 year old kid, who was I to question any of this? My parents knew nothing of Bill Gothard or IBYC. They had never heard of him until I told them about it (i.e. what IBYC meant, or the essence of Gothard's it was being presented to me and as I was understanding it at the time).
    At first, it seemed (believe me, I stress the 'seemed' part here) good and beneficial. As time went on, something didn't quite sit well with me. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was exactly. The thing that bothered me was what I saw this teaching (the fruit of it if you will) was doing to some of my friends who had to really endure it. For example, there were a number of families associated with the church and Christian school who pulled their kids out of the Christian school (some were pulled out of public schools) in order to be taught at home using the IBYC / ATI 'Wisdom Booklets.' There was one person in particular whose parents seemed to turn their home into a prison. This person began to tell me about abuse suffered at the hands of their parents as well as from a grandfather. I didn't want to believe any of this. But the more this person began to tell me, I realized that they were not fabricating any of this or 'pulling it out of a hat.'
    Years later, I would learn that this person was denied medical treatment for a very serious health condition, as well as being completely shunned / ostracized from their family. The fact that this person was adopted made it even worse. It was around this time that I learned what the IBLP teaching was concerning adopted children. Creepy stuff to say the least!
    When I first encountered this teaching, I knew nothing of Christian Reconstructionism or R.J. Rushdoony.
    Although Gothard started his ministry back in the 1960's, Rushdoony's 1973 'The Institutes of Biblical Law' was a pervasive influence on Gothard. I don't want to get into Christian Reconstructionism here (feel free to look that up on your own), but the teachings are very legalistic and tend toward heavily following Old Testament law. There is no room for grace in any of this teaching. Gothard defines grace as 'the ability to do God's will, not as God's unmerited favor. For many years after I left high school, I didn't continue on with any IBYC (or IBLP as it is now known) seminars or the like. In many ways this teaching negatively impacted me as well. I never felt like I was 'getting it right' as many seemed to do once they started following Gothard's principles. Even though I didn't stay in 'Gothardism'(as some people now call it). It lingered in my life for a very long time. Some 30 + years on, I do not adhere to, or endorse ANY of this teaching. I would not recommend it to anyone. Now that websites like 'Recovering Grace' are giving people a forum to speak out about the heresy, abuse and corruption, people will begin to understand the evils of Gothardism. Hopefully, people will see this as a system to be avoided, not advocated! Sadly, with the work that IBLP is doing in Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Big Sandy, Texas; Gothardism is far from coming to the end it so richly deserves.