Five More Women Sue Bill Gothard and Institute In Basic Life Principles Over Sexual Abuse and Harassment

Bill Gothard
Amended lawsuit increases severity of allegations. IBLP welcomes the court process.

Five more women have added their complaints to a lawsuit accusing Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) founder Bill Gothard, now 81, of sexual abuse and harassment.

They join five women who filed suit in October against IBLP, saying the institute ignored and mismanaged their complaints of Gothard’s and other staff’s behavior. IBLP asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of supporting facts. Attorneys for the women asked for permission to refile the suit.

They did, this time with twice as many plaintiffs, including one who brings the first accusation of rape against Gothard. His name was also added as a defendant, according to legal documents reviewed by CT.

Lawsuits only tell one side of a story, and Gothard denied the charges. “Oh no. Never never. Oh! That’s horrible,” he told The Washington Post, which broke the story. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.”

In a “further confession and request” attached to the amended lawsuit, Gothard states he “was very wrong in holding hands, giving hugs, and touching [the] hair and feet” of the “young ladies” whom he selected as his personal assistants (or for other roles at IBLP headquarters). He adds: “I was also wrong in making statements that caused emotional turmoil and confusion.”

Gothard asks for the “opportunity to confess my sins” to each woman and ask their forgiveness. He concludes: “I pray sincerely that God will bring healing to each individual that I have so greviously damaged.”

In an affidavit attached to the amended lawsuit, Gothard states that he has attempted to contact all the women “in accordance with Matthew 18:15–17,” and that he is ready to return to active ministry because he has “fulfilled as far as possible [the] instruction” of Matthew 5:23–24, which guided his earlier resignation. He also states:

The IBLP board has responded to this lawsuit unwisely and not even contacted me for information or assistance. The board is handling the case unwisely as I have the information they need. This is a shameful waste of donors [sic] money.

All of the women were IBLP participants, and eight either volunteered or were employed by the institute. Much of their alleged abuse happened when they were minors, and some while they were supposed to be receiving counseling for abuse, according to the lawsuit.

“The unsupervised counseling received by young women … by patriarchal figures (who were agents and employees of IBLP) was a standard part of IBLP programs and activities,” states the lawsuit.

It claims the institute “frequently received reports of the sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate/unauthorized touching occurring to certain interns, employees, and participants of its programs,” but failed to investigate or report any of it until February 2014.

That investigation led to Gothard’s resignation; however, the IBLP board of directors later found that Gothard had acted inappropriately but not criminally, and it critiquedthe women’s attorney for “us[ing] the media to propagate false and misleading statements” against current IBLP leaders. (According to World, the lead attorney for the women is the son of the attorney that led IBLP’s investigation of Gothard.)

During the investigation, the never-married Gothard offered an apology for his behavior.

“My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong,” wrote Gothard. “They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra