The Washington Post reports that Bill Gotthard, leader of a conservative Christian institute, had been placed on administrative leave after allegations of sexual harassment of women in the ministry and failure to report child abuse. Gotthard has had a number of Arkansas connections over the years.
The Post wrote:
Gotthard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among devotees of the Quiverfull movement, who promote large families and eschew birth control.
He’s also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together;
There’s more reporting here about Gotthard’s many connections with the Duggar clan.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are featured on the IBLP website, which credits one of the seminars as providing “direction for them as a couple:”
The news requires an update on Gotthard’s Little Rock connections. He runs a faith-based program for ex-convicts in the former VA hospital on Roosevelt Road, a building given to him by the conservative Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain. Tax records show his institute still owns the building and its website indicates the center is still active. Gotthard was a friend of former Mayor Jim Dailey, and the city worked out a deal to take space in the facility for police use.
Gotthard has been criticized in the past for a character education program he sold, a program scrubbed of overt religious references to make it appear secular. It’s known as the Character Training Institute. His work was at the root of a faith-based program installed in state prisons, which we wrote about here.
Gotthard’s program also popped up recently an an investigative article in Slate about Responsive Education Solutions, the Texas-based charter school management company that has recently won approval to operate a fourth charter school in Arkansas — the Quest middle school in western Little Rock. The company won approval despite misleading the state Board of Education on where it was planning to open the school. It defended a site in Chenal Valley while it was privately working out a different deal seven miles east. Slate faulted Responsive Ed for teaching creationism in science courses and also pointed out a number of questionable passages in its history material, along with the religious-oriented background of Responsive Ed’s leaders. The teaching reflects Gotthard’s disapproval of feminism. Slate wrote of the character education:
These lessons were lifted directly from a company called Character First Education, which was founded by an Oklahoma businessman named Tom Hill. He is a follower of Bill Gothard, a minister who runs the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a Christian organization that teaches its members to incorporate biblical principles into daily life. IBLP is considered a cult by some of its former followers. Gothard developed character qualities associated with a list of “49 General Commands of Christ” that Hill adopted for his character curriculum. Hill then removed Gothard’s references to God and Bible verses and started marketing the curriculum to public schools and other public institutions.
The values taught by Responsive Ed can often be found word for word on Gothard’s website.