Understanding the Duggar “Cult”

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The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Understanding the Duggar "Cult"

Why would the wife of a sexual abuser and accused pedophile like Josh Duggar stay in the marriage? And what kind of culture—or cult—produces families like the Duggars?

In this episode of The Roys Report—Julie explores what some have referred to as the Duggar “cult.”

The Duggars are immersed in a religious system created by Bill Gothard, a strong proponent of homeschooling and the creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).

According to my guest on this podcast, Emily Elizabeth Anderson, Gothard’s IBLP is a legalistic, patriarchal cult. Emily says Gothard and his followers shame women into remaining silent about abuse. She says they also keep women like Anna Duggar living in fear, and unable to leave abusive husbands like Josh.

Emily grew up in Gothard’s hyper-fundamentalist “cult.” But about six years ago, she joined 18 other women who brought sexual abuse and harassment charges against Gothard.

In this podcast, Emily shares her own experience of being brainwashed and abused. She also explains the lies that kept her, and others like her, in bondage—and how she finally saw the light and broke free.

We also discuss why Anna Duggar likely will never leave her husband, and why she deserves our compassion—not our condemnation.  

This Weeks Guests

Emily Elizabeth Anderson

Emily Elizabeth Anderson is a Christian blogger and trauma recovery advocate for people who have experienced abuse within a Christian environment. 

After growing up in a fundamentalist cult for 23 years and experiencing childhood domestic violence, Emily began her journey to recovery in 2015 and eventually found Jesus to be her ultimate healer. She soon turned her passion for writing into a blog and her story has since been featured on several media outlets including NPR. 

She married her best friend, Joshua, in 2020 and together they are passionate about educating on the realities of trauma survival and recovery, as well as supporting survivors they meet through their online community. 

To read more of Emily’s story please visit her Facebook community, Thriving Forward, or visit her website www.thrivingforwardblog.com



Why would the wife of a sexual abuser and accused pedophile like Josh Duggar stay in the marriage? And what kind of culture or cult produces families like the Duggars? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be exploring what some of referred to as the Duggar cult. It’s a religious system created by Bill Gothard, a strong proponent of homeschooling, and the creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles and the Advanced Training Institute. This is the religious system that the entire Duggar family is immersed in. And according to my guest today, it’s a legalistic, patriarchal cult. It shames women into remaining silent about abuse. It also keeps women like Anna Duggar living in fear and unable to leave abusive husbands like Josh Duggar. My guest today is Emily Elizabeth Anderson, someone who grew up in Bill Gothard’s organization. She’s also one of 19 women who brought sexual abuse and harassment charges against Gothard and that prompted him to resign from the Institute in Basic Life Principles. Emily also wrote a post on Facebook that went viral, explaining more about why Anna Duggar won’t ever leave Josh Duggar. It provides a shocking yet insightful window into the cultic environment in which the Duggars live. And I think you’re going to find this podcast extremely eye opening. But before I talk to Emily, I want to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. I love Judson University. In fact, I was just there this past week for a prayer breakfast, and it was one of the best prayer breakfasts I’ve ever been to. It was so real and so God honoring. So, if you’re looking for a caring Christian university where you can get an excellent education, I highly recommend Judson University. Judson offers more than 60 majors as well as great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. For more information just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to buyacar123.com. Joining me today is Emily Elizabeth Anderson. And as I’ve mentioned, Emily is a survivor of Goddard’s Advanced Training Institute or ATI. Something that she describes as a cult. She’s also the author of a blog called Thriving Forward, which explores issues like sexual abuse in the church. And she’s someone who’s in the process of dealing with her own abuse, in both her family and in ATI. So, Emily, thank you so much for joining me and for being willing to talk about something that I know must be a painful topic for you. So, thank you.

Oh, thank you, Julie. It is an honor to be speaking with you. And I’m looking forward to this.

Yeah, well, me too, even though looking forward in a way that I know we’re going to touch on some stuff that’s not pleasant to talk about. But I appreciate your willingness to do that. And we’re going to be talking about the Duggar family and also Anna Duggar and addressing the question that I think a lot of people are asking, which is, Why hasn’t she left Josh yet? And you did a Facebook post that went viral about eight reasons why she doesn’t leave him and really helping people understand what this fundamentalist patriarchy is like, and what it’s like to be in it. And we’re gonna get into all that and explore it. But first of all, I just like to know a little bit more about your childhood and your experience growing up, because I know, a lot of that informs what we’re going to be talking about today. So, tell me about your childhood. I know you experienced some abuse yourself. And also, the ATI experience was very difficult. So would you tell me about that.

So, I was raised in a pretty strict Christian home and we went to very fundamentalist churches growing up. I actually went to a private Christian school from first through fourth grade, and it was a very fundamentalist patriarchal school. Then hopped from the frying pan into the fire in fifth grade, and we joined ATI. And it was interesting, because my mother later told me, she said, Well, I joined ATI to get away from some of the legalism of the private school that you’re in.

Oh, wow!

It ended up doing the opposite. But Bill Gothard, who started the Institute in Basic Life Principles in the 60s, he had seminars where he would just pack stadiums and teach these basic life principles. And in I believe it was ’83 he decided to start a homeschooling part of IBLP, and he called it the Advanced Training Institute. So, when I refer to ATI, that’s what I’m speaking about. In about 2005-2006, my family went ahead and joined ATI. We were unusual because most ATI families have extremely large families. It was just me and my mom going through the ATI materials, cuz my mom had fertility issues. And so, we didn’t have a large family. So, from the get-go, we kind of felt a little odd. And we go to these conferences, and it was like, just me and my mom. I loved my homeschooling experience. I honestly did. And I loved being in ATI at the time, because looking back now I understand that ATI is a cult. And when you’re in a cult, it doesn’t feel like it. And it feels like paradise. And so, I actually enjoyed my experience at the time, because I thought that this was how Christians should live. And I thought, I’m so glad that we have Bill Gothard to teach us what the Bible really means. And when we would go to the conferences every year, I would be around all these other ATI families. And it just it was the highlight of my year because I felt really safe in that environment, because compared to the rest of the year, where I was surrounded by non-ATI families that I was, you know, afraid of their bad influence, here at the at ATI conferences. It was like, everybody’s like me. Which is the hallmark of a cult, of course. But all that to say, I did have a lot of abusive experiences growing up from my father. He was a workaholic. He wasn’t like a typical ATI Dad, where he was leading the family in Bible study every morning.

I was gonna say, I mean, this is a patriarchal thing you would think you’d have to be involved. Right? Right. He actually wasn’t. He never went to a single ATI conference. He never studied any of the ATI materials with my mother and me. So, we really did have some oddities within our family. We didn’t do the program the way that a lot of other families did. But my father was very emotionally abusive. He was physically abusive at times. And starting at the age of about 11, he was sexually abusive toward me. And that sexual abuse continued on and off until I was in my early 20s. Because of the sexual abuse in particular, and just the incredible amount of stress and tension within the home. And this tension between my father appearing to not be a strong Christian leader. And yet my mother and I were in a program where we were taught the fathers were supposed to be a strong Christian leader, there was so much tension, and my little body could not handle it. And I ended up developing Crohn’s disease right around the time at 11. I wasn’t diagnosed till I was 13. And when I was diagnosed, the doctor said, I had the worst case he had ever seen. Still every doctor I ever see. I mean, they’re like, you just don’t respond the way other Crohn’s patients do. And I know it’s just from living in trauma for so many years. By the time I was 18, I actually went to Bill Gothard’s headquarters in Chicago. I was there for 10 days along with my mother. We were there just to have some counseling, because Bill was aware of my father’s abusive behavior. And he said that if I came to headquarters, he would counsel me, he would call my dad on the phone and counsel my dad. And when we got there, everything he had promised us, he had stipulations for. And he said, You know, I’m not going to counsel you unless your mother goes back home. And he wanted me to make a long-term commitment to live at the headquarters. And we weren’t okay with that. Above all else. I had a chronic illness, and my mother was my full-time caretaker, and I was on medication, I had to see physicians regularly. And I was terrified thinking if I stay at headquarters, I could die without proper medical attention. So, we just refused to agree to his bullying. And after 10 days of just nonstop arguments between the three of us, my mother and I finally decided this isn’t gonna work, and we decided to go back home. A couple years later, I came across a website called Recoveringgrace.org. I read some stories on there of some women that were describing their personal interactions with Bill and explaining how this fit the legal definition of sexual harassment, and sometimes sexual abuse or assault. In certain cases. And reading those articles, I understood that the tension that I had between me and Bill Gothard was not just a difference in opinion on whether he should counsel me or not. I realized that I had actually been groomed. And that grooming started when I was about 13 with Bill. He groomed me for about six years. And then by the time I actually got to headquarters, he continued with that grooming behavior. And I went public with my story received a lot of flak from Bill. He contacted me, he berated me told me I was a liar. He got me to shut up for a couple of years out of fear. But then eventually, in 2015, I joined the lawsuit with 18 other victims, and we fought from 2015 to 2020 in that lawsuit. Wow! So much there, I’m trying to wrap my head around what it must be like to be living in what feels like utopia in this cultic type of environment. But yet utopia in some ways, a lot of belonging, a lot of sensing what felt like love. And yet your dad in the midst of that is abusing you, both verbally, physically and then sexually. Growing up as a Christian kid and experiencing something that’s so in congruence with what you’re being taught. How do you deal with that? Well, obviously, I didn’t deal with it terribly well, because I ended up with Crohn’s disease. So, I think the stress just completely tore my body apart from the inside out. But I would say it was difficult, because I kept the abuse secret for quite a while, as far as I didn’t tell my outside community. And so, I would have to show up to church every Sunday with a smile on my face. And my dad was loved within the church. He is a very, very respected man, because he just had a completely different persona to other people, then he really acted at home. And I would have people within the church come up to me and say, Oh, you have no idea how lucky you are to have him as a father. He’s such a great guy. And I just had to smile and swallow and just pretend it was okay. But it really wasn’t. So, I kept it secret for a while. But as I got into my later teens, I did start to speak out I started to speak out within my own church. And my church was very small. At the time when I was a teenager, and we were almost exclusively made up of ATI families, there were just like about 10 or 12 families. And I started to speak up about the abuse. I did not receive very much support. In fact, I was accused of lying, and that I was just a bitter, rebellious daughter, who was out to get my father and ruin his reputation. My mother started to speak out over the abuse she was experiencing, she was told she was just not being submissive. So, when I did speak out, it wasn’t handled properly at all. And my mother and I were turned into the villains. And she eventually separated from your dad. Correct?

My dad eventually left and then he later filed for divorce. Yes.

Okay. And you were how old at that point? When he left, I was in my early 20s. Okay. I’ve been learning I’ve been on a journey, understanding sexual abuse and grooming and how it happens. And one of the things I’ve noticed and here, again, it’s in your story is that you have somebody that has abuse in their past, and then you have sexual predators, like it sounds Bill Gothard was, and they seem to almost sense it, and know how to manipulate and use people that have had some sort of wounding. I mean, did you sense that he sensed that and kind of exploited that in you? Oh, 100%. First of all, Bill had a type. And it was kind of used as a joke. I mean, they would call them Gothard girls or Gothard’s harem. And I have no idea how people saw that is okay. But they did. He had a type, generally what he liked as far as physical appearance. But then also most of the women that he groomed, not all but most of them did have some kind of abuse happening within the home or some kind of broken family or trouble passed or something like that. He completely used that. Bill was exceptionally good at finding what your weakest points were and what your greatest fears were and using them against you. Bill knew my greatest fear my kryptonite is being falsely accused. And he used that a lot against me to get me to comply. He knew I had some fear of abandonment. So again, he used that against me. I would be at these conferences next to Bill as his little buddy and then I would see him single out other girls and start to groom other girls. I remember watching this interaction one time where he spotted a girl. He’s always drawn to the physical appearance first, I believe, and he goes to a girl and instantly he will start asking her the most private questions to try to find something to get her to cry, to get her to experience some kind of strong emotion. And then he’ll immediately use that against her. So, for instance, with me, he was asking about, you know, what my home life was like and what my father was like. And I very soon told him that my father was being abusive, and it’s like, oh, well, you need to get away. That abuse is causing your Crohn’s. You need to get away from home. So, you need to come up to headquarters and live with me. He was saying this when I was 13 years old, he wanted me to move out of the house and come live up at headquarters as a 13-year-old. Yeah. That’s shocking, absolutely shocking. And think of what might have happened or how severe the abuse might have been had you actually done that. So, kudos to your mom for putting her foot down and recognizing it then, when she didn’t allow it when you were when you’re older. Somehow, you recognized you were in a cult. That light bulb going on is absolutely huge. And so many people never get there. Was it just like an epiphany at one point, or was it sort of slowly over time, you saw some red flags, and that did it for you? It was extremely slow. I mean, there was a certain point when I first read the stories on the Recovering Grace website, and I was very surprised. So that was, I would say, like the very first time where I considered that maybe something could be wrong here. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I ended up joining the lawsuit. And when I joined the lawsuit, I still didn’t think it was a cult. I still believed in the teaching. I was suing Bill, but I still believed in all of the fundamentalist patriarchal teaching, and still follow it. I still had my hair down to the back of my knees, I still wore skirts, I still did all of it. I signed the lawsuit papers in November of 2015. And I thought, you know, I should probably get some counseling, if I’m going to do this. I didn’t even have a driver’s license at the time. I was 24-25 years old. So, I got my driver’s license, I scheduled an appointment with a counselor. And my first appointment was December 15. That is what I call my freedom day. Because that was the day that I chose to consider that maybe what I had been taught was wrong. And I was willing to learn from others that had a different opinion from me. It was still very slow. It took a solid year and a half of counseling before I realized, okay, this is a cult, this is wrong, this is legalistic teaching. I have not been told what the real gospel is. After that point, then I really started to study the Word of God myself for the first time in my life. And now I’m still recovering. I’ve walked away from everything that I was taught in ATI, but I still have PTSD. I still deal with trauma every single day. And I’m still on that road to recovery of how do I deal with my past trauma? How do I deal with the memories? How do I put my life back together after it was completely shattered into a million pieces? One of the most powerful blog posts that I’ve read is one where you talk about Why am I still a Christian? Because given everything that you’ve been through, you know, to sort through truth from error, what’s real, what’s not real. That’s amazing, because a lot of people who completely reject the faith as a result, but you’ve held on to it, and I do want to talk about that. But I almost want to table that till the end. Because I think as we talk about ATI and specifically in the context of the question that everybody’s asking right now, because this Duggar case is so huge, and Josh Duggar, the level of just filth that he was involved in. I mean, hearing this homeland security agent say that this is the worst of the worst pornography I’ve ever seen. Children as young as 18 months old. It’s so gross, to even imagine and to fathom that a wife would stay with a husband. And again, this has been developing for years. We know that he sexually abused his sisters. We know that he was involved in the whole Ashley Madison website. He’s had a porn problem. We didn’t know it was child porn till recently. But again, I think a lot of people, kind of their heads are spinning, saying, How on earth could someone stay with someone? And again, I thought your Facebook post was so good, because it gave us a window really into what it’s like to be an ATi. So, I’d love to just sort of unpack some of these things. One one of the first things you say, Anna Duggar continues to say that Josh, one of those reasons is because one, the word abuse does not exist in ATI. Would you explain that? Yeah, and I know this from my own personal experience. As I was going through counseling, and I began to understand what my father had done to me. So, I understood as a 12-year-old girl and as, as a teenager, I knew that my body was being used. And I was aware that my father had been hiring prostitutes. I was aware that he was heavily involved in pornography. I knew that all of that was tied in together. But I didn’t realize that what I was experiencing was considered sexual abuse. Within ATI I was taught that in order for it to be sexual abuse, it has to include penetration. And I wasn’t penetrated by my father. And so, I thought, Well, I’m not being sexually abused by my father. When I started going to counseling, and I realized, like, Oh, I was molested, oh, he could go to prison for what he did to me. That was completely new. And as I started speaking out about that, people from my ATI community told me Well, no, that’s crazy. That’s not sexual abuse. He was just being inappropriate. And so, you’ll hear that word thrown around a lot in ATI. They won’t call sexual abuse or even physical abuse, or emotional abuse certainly isn’t ever a thing. They don’t really like to use the word abuse. Instead, they will belittle the experiences that you had. And they’ll say, Well, he was just being inappropriate, or he just didn’t understand social boundaries. Or it was a mistake. If you hear interviews that Anna Duggar gave in 2015, she said, Josh made some mistakes. He made some bad choices. They never call it molestation. If you actually listen to the Megyn Kelly interview with Jessa and Jill, Megyn Kelly says, Do you feel like you’re a victim of child molestation? And Jessa pipes in and she’s like, well, I want to defend Josh here because people are saying he’s a child molester and a pedophile. And that is such a lie. But they don’t even understand themselves what was done to them and, and what qualifies as molestation or sexual abuse or what people can go to prison for. Like they don’t understand that. So that’s what I mean when the word abuse doesn’t exist. Because if there is any kind of sexual abuse going on, they’ll say it was just sin, it was inappropriate, it’s a moral issue. And because of that, they don’t see a need to get law enforcement involved, because law enforcement are worldly, according to ATI beliefs, and they don’t know how to handle things properly. And so instead, this is a moral issue. This is a sin issue. It should be taken care of within the church, by Christians. And so, there’s this huge, huge skepticism forever bringing in law enforcement, or ever speaking to any kind of secular professionals, because they’re not going to do this the godly way. And we want to keep this godly way which means within the church. Wow. And it really is almost like a brainwashing that seems to be happening for so many the people within the system. And it’s interesting when you say the inappropriate comment Gothard his organization did an internal investigation and found out that he had done something inappropriate. That’s exactly what they labeled him, and I am curious, what was the end result of the lawsuit? You say it resolved in 2020?

It did. We filed in 2015. In 2018, the plaintiffs made a decision due to several legal complexities, we made a decision to voluntarily withdraw. A month later, Bill filed a motion for sanctions against us. He was asking the judge for a monetary punishment. Said that we had filed a frivolous lawsuit and he wanted compensation for emotional distress of all things and wanted us to pay like a combined total of $250,000 to cover his legal fees, which he didn’t even pay. IBLP paid for all of his attorney fees. So, it was just kind of odd. From 2018 till 2020, that’s what we were fighting was now the tables have turned and the plaintiffs had to defend themselves. And we ended up having a hearing in Chicago, where several of the plaintiffs including myself, we testified. The judge, eventually, he ruled in favor of the women and he declined the motion for sanctions and said that I believe the women gave credible testimony. Just because somebody decides to withdraw a lawsuit doesn’t mean the lawsuit was frivolous to begin with. That’s how it all ended. I mean, in one way we didn’t get the justice we wanted but, in another way, we were vindicated by a judge. That was an amazing victory.

Wow. That’s amazing that he tried to go after you and that reminds me of one of the points you made about the abuse within ATI in the way that they make you think. They actually make you think that when you’re abused, that you should be thankful for the abuse. This one just head spinning, how on earth are the victims of abuse, supposed to be thankful that they’ve been violated in such vile ways?

As I shared in that post, I did tell Bill., I probably didn’t exactly use the word sexual abuse, because again, I didn’t understand that vocabulary at the time. But I did explain to him what I was experiencing from my father and what my father was doing to me. And he walked me through this, how to view my sexual abuse. And he tells victims, he has this little chart that he shows victims, and he explains it. We are divided into three different parts, the body, the mind, and the Spirit. And he likes to think that he can separate these but of course, you can’t. He likes to say, Okay, so what part of you was abused? And he wants you to say the body. And he’s like, okay, so your mind and spirit weren’t abused, just your body was abused. And then he asks victims, to say a prayer to dedicate and turn over their physical body to God. What he’s saying is, if you do this, then that means that the abuser didn’t abuse your body, he abused God’s body. So, you shouldn’t be upset about that. Because it’s not even your body. It’s not your property anymore. Yeah. And as if that’s just going to magically make everything go away. And so then again, he says, like, what was abused? Well, just my body. So, he’s like, what’s more important – your body, your mind or your Spirit? He wants you to say, spirit. Then he’s like, okay, you shouldn’t take offense that your body was abused, because it didn’t belong to you anymore. So, the next step is make sure that you don’t get bitter because bitterness will destroy your spirit. So, he’s putting all of the blame all of the responsibility onto the victim, that now this is their responsibility to make sure that they protect their spirit, and they shouldn’t be feeling any offence whatsoever for being abused. Because it’s God’s body. Utterly outrageous to like, even just explain this. I don’t know how I ever believed it. But it sounds very convincing to a scared 18-year-old girl who is hurting tremendously on the inside and wants help wants healing. And this is how he’s telling you to get it.

I tell you; it’s infuriating to listen to it. That somebody would so manipulate people. I mean, it seems to me like he’s creating a system that enables predators.

It is.

And of course, he was a predator. It sounds like he’s talked to a lot of abuse victims, which I wonder if systems like this don’t attract predators, because they’re like, hey, I’ve got somebody who has my back if I abused my children. But at any point, does anybody talk about again, you’re saying actually reporting these crimes to police, that wouldn’t have crossed their mind?

No, it wouldn’t. Because this is strictly to be dealt with in the church and with God.

So, from the mother’s perspective, so someone like Anna Duggar, who’s with an abusive husband, and she has children in the home, who could be abused by this husband, which we can only imagine. But you’re taught 1) that homeschooling is the only way. If for some reason, you get out of that home and you can’t homeschool anymore, your kids are all going to go to hell probably or end up terrible. And 2) that the only thing that you can be as a woman, I mean, I think being a wife and stay at home mom is a very noble calling. I was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. So, I believe in stay-at-home moms, but at the same time, to say that’s the only possible thing that you can do as a woman and not thrive and that you always have to be under the authority of a male right? Explain that.

Right. At ATI, women were taught that they have a God ordained authority, and that is their husband. And as long as they stay under their husband’s authority, or if they’re not married under their father’s authority, then they are guaranteed divine protection and the word guaranteed is stressed a lot.

And what’s the scripture for this? I grew up in the church, I was never taught this. I’ve read the Bible several times.

I’m not sure. He referenced scripture all the time. But if you actually looked up the references, the verses have nothing to do with what he was talking about, but I believe it was this like continual ideal of, you know, pulling verses out of Ephesians, about women submitting, which if you actually read Ephesians, it says that believers are supposed to submit to one another. So, the men are supposed to submit to the women too Anyway, mutual. It’s mutual submission, under Christ is what God intended. And if you go back and you look at Genesis and how God created, he did not create Eve to be submissive to Adam. He created them as equals to rule over creation together. I want people to understand that if Anna were to divorce, which we can get that into that a minute how divorces never ever, ever allowed. But if she were, she is not just walking away from her marriage. But she’s going to have to reckon with the idea of going against a belief system she’s been raised in her entire life. So that means getting a divorce, which is never allowed. That means getting out of authority of her husband, which means she is now open to attacks from Satan, which means she could be attacked, she could be killed, one of her children could be murdered, she could get in a car wreck. I mean, like every horrible disaster situation you can think of, she’s been told is now a possibility that God’s going to allow that as punishment for her being out of authority of her husband.

So, it’s like superstition, really.

It is. I remember one story in particular, this was published in ATI materials. So, this isn’t just retelling of stories. A man had a teenage daughter who got in a car wreck and was killed on impact. And he was going through her items after the accident in her room. And he came across a rock music CD. Rock music was of the devil, according to ATI. You could be possessed by a demon if you listen to rock music, you were going to become rebellious, all these horrible things if you listen to rock music. So, this father wrote into Bill Gothard, and told him the story of how his teenage daughter was killed. And then he found the CD. And he said, I believe that God killed my daughter in this accident, as punishment, for being in rebellion for having this rock music CD. And he said, I’m so thankful that that happened, because it’s better that she’d be dead, then to be in rebellion and out of my submission. And I know from several stories that were personally told to me, that parents would pray when a mother was expecting a child, the parents would sometimes pray over this pregnancy and say, God, please, make this pregnancy end, cause a miscarriage, if this child at some point in the future is going to rebel. Because it would be better that they never be born into the world than for them to rebel.

It’s such a fear-based system. It sounds like. So much control. One of the other things people have asked because the Duggars just keep having kids. Here she is not only she’s staying with a man who clearly is an abuser, and now looks like a pedophile. Although I guess he was a pedophile before because he abused his sisters when they were underage. But she’s staying and she’s continuing to have children. In fact, is right before, a week before the child porn part, charges came out against Josh, we found out she was pregnant with her seventh kid, wasn’t it?


So, they wonder how on earth can she have children? There’s kind of two things that are working together for that. Explain what those two things are?

Very clearly, she has been taught she doesn’t have a choice. Because number one, birth control is not allowed at all in ATI and it’s not just a matter of using birth control. Various birth control methods like birth control pills, it’s not a matter of maybe this is gonna cause a spontaneous abortion. It has nothing to do with that. It is because not even natural family planning is allowed. A couples not even allowed to abstain mutually, make a decision to abstain from sex when the woman is most fertile, because that means they’re not trusting God. Because we’re taught God opens and closes the womb. So even we are taught even if a woman has been told by a physician not to get pregnant because it could endanger her life, or maybe they’re just super financially strapped, or whatever it is, and they are just nervous about having another child, they are told that No, you do not abstain from sex. You continue to have sex and you trust God, that He is going to prevent any kind of pregnancy if he doesn’t want you to get pregnant. And if you do get pregnant, that’s because it was God’s will. And he’s going to supernaturally care and provide for you and make sure that everything is all good and safe and healthy. And I like to say, having sex when you’re most fertile, and then praying for God’s will, that’s asking for God to defy biology. I mean, like he gave us a brain, he made our bodies to work in a certain way. And you know?

And then they also put on top of this, that a wife can never refuse her husband. I remember, in 2015, when Josh Duggar’s affairs and the abuse all came out. The pastor of Josh Duggar got up in the midst of all this, and actually said, if a husband or wife fails to keep his or her partner sexually happy, they are opening themselves up to the attack of the enemy, and that enemy is going to take your spouse away from you. So basically, blaming the woman if you’re if your husband does have an affair, like Josh did, it’s probably your fault, because you’re not fulfilling him.

Absolutely. Because women are taught that men have this insatiable out of control sex drive, and that he’s gonna want it all the time. And you’ve got to always give it to him, or else he’s gonna stray. A woman is taught that her body no longer belongs to her, which it does come from a verse, but it actually again is mutual. It means that the husband and wife are giving your body to one another. But that doesn’t mean that you lose all right to say No. It’s made one sided, that, hey, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to your husband. So, you need to always comply to whatever he wants. And women are constantly pumped with this fear that if they don’t give their husband sex, every time he wants it, he’s going to go off and have an affair or he’s going to look at porn, or whatever it is. She’s always blamed for any kind of infidelity. Because she’s told Well, she just didn’t give him enough sex.

Again, fear, the woman’s constantly kept in fear. It doesn’t sound like there’s very much preaching on husbands loving your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I mean, the husband should be constantly thinking about how can he love his wife? How can he sacrifice for his wife? How can he as the head of the family be the first to initiate and do what Christ did, which wasn’t come and demand things of u, but come and serve us? I mean, there’s just so perverse there’s, there’s no gospel.

Yes. There’s a well-known blogger who teaches everything that ATI does, I don’t know her exact connections, but she teaches us all the fundamentalist teaching. And she has flat out said, it doesn’t matter. Just talking to the woman. It doesn’t matter if you’re in pain, if you’re hurting. Grit your teeth and bear it, because this is how you serve your husband. You continue to have sex, even if it’s painful. And then for the few times she’s medically not allowed. So, for instance, during postpartum when she’s cleared by a physician, to have sex, she is told she needs that this is an incredibly difficult time for her husband. And it’s going to be very tempting for him to stray. And so, in order to help him, she needs to continue to give him release in other ways. So again, it’s like Never mind that this woman just went through childbirth, and her body is going through massive changes, and she’s trying to heal from such a physically traumatic event. No, it’s this is a hard time for the husband, and you’ve got to do everything you can to give him as much relief as possible, or else he’s gonna go somewhere else. And that will be your fault.

This is just out and out misogyny. It’s just absolutely evil. And then the last thing that you mentioned is that ATI followers are taught this whole practice of shunning. I mean, it’s interesting to me, it’s an ATI, I would have expected there. But in so many of the investigations I’ve done, in fact, just recently, publishing on Mark Driscoll in his church, which sounds like he’s rebooted Mars Hill 2.0, except it’s even worse than it ever was at Mars Hill. And the shunning is ridiculous. If you show up in a picture on social media, with somebody who’s fallen out of favor, then you go down on the loyalty scale. On this sliding loyalty scale. Now you’re not gonna have any access to Driscoll. And of course, everything revolves around Driscoll. It sounds like almost everything revolved around Bill Gothard. There always seems to be some sort of cult figure that everybody’s really worshipping. They’re not worshipping Jesus, they’re, they’re worshipping this cult figure. Did you watch people get shunned? Did you participate in shunning because you were told you had to?

Yes, it’s never called shunning. But we’re told that ATI is the only way to practice Christianity and the things that Bill is teaching is the only way to honor God. We’re taught to be afraid of the world, and that all other Christians that aren’t following all these legalistic rules that they are carnal Christians. Which means they’re same as unbelievers, and that we should distance ourselves and having any kind of fellowship with a non-believer or a carnal Christian, as they would call it is going to taint you. It’s going to be a bad influence. It’s automatically implied that even if your own family members, I mean, we heard stories all the time, they would call a prodigal child, these ATI parents, one of their 20 kids decided to leave the ATI faith, not even leave Christianity, not even leave the faith. I mean, do like what I did, where I still am a believer, and I write about Jesus all the time on my blog. And yet, I’ve been shunned by a good deal of my ATI community because I’m seen as an evil woman who’s spouting lies.

I get that too. So, if you feel any better, I have people praying for my salvation right now, because I’ve reported on John MacArthur. Apparently, that makes me not right. Yep.

Right, exactly. So, it certainly implies you’re not to have any kind of fellowship, and you’re supposed to distance yourself from anybody that believes in any different than you. You’re raised in a bubble, it’s pretty sad.

I love where you land in your post where you say Anna Duggar doesn’t need our condemnation right now. She needs our love. In many ways. I’m sure she feels like she doesn’t have a choice. Although I would say to everybody listening right now, I mean, if you’re in a system like this, you do have a choice. You always have agency. And it may be incredibly hard. But if you’re listening right now, and you’re in one of those systems, I would just so encourage you to reach out to someone to get help, and to actually get out. What can we do as just brothers and sisters of these people that are in these incredibly abusive systems where they’re brainwashed? If we know people like this, how can we help?

Like I said in my post, we certainly shouldn’t be condemning a woman who has continued to stay because she’s taught that by her staying, she’s honoring God. I know that’s what Anna has been taught, is that what she’s going through right now is a trial as testing her faith, and despite what the world would say, which means divorce, she’s going to honor God, by staying faithful to her husband, staying by his side, not filing for divorce or whatnot, she’s going to continue to be a faithful stay at home Mom and homeschool her children. And she has been told to believe that that’s going to earn God’s favor and blessing. I mean, if you really understand that you can’t help but feel compassion, because you understand that they think they’re doing the right thing that is actually trapping them. And it’s destroying them very slowly, and you don’t realize how broken a system like that makes you until you get out of it.

You’ve said this, that for some reason, despite everything that’s happened, you have remained a Christian. Why do you remain a Christian despite the really awful ways that you’ve been abused and the ways that the scripture has been twisted, and the church has been used to exploit you?

Yeah. Because I finally realized that all the abuse I endured was not from Jesus, and it wasn’t from God, but it was from men that were not following God. And I realized there’s a difference between religion and following Jesus and I chose to walk away from religion, and I chose to follow Jesus. Jesus is my safe haven. He is my rock. He is the source of truth for me. So, as I’m going through this deconstruction process of trying to figure out what is truth, I can keep looking to Jesus because I know His truth. Now that I understand who he really is, I understand that he’s the one I can turn to when I mess up. He’s the one I can turn to when I am doubting, when I am hurting, when I am suffering. He doesn’t condemn me. Because all of his condemnation was already poured out. There’s no condemnation left for those who belong to Him. And so I realized, now he’s not this authoritative figure that I have to be afraid of constantly earning his favor by doing actions. I already realized I already have it, and he’s safe. And he’s the ultimate one that I can come to, in my most weakest, vulnerable, hurting moments. And he’s my safe haven. And so, he’s the one out of this incredibly difficult time of deconstructing from my old belief system. He’s always been the one I can go to. And he’s been my safe place. That’s why I continue to preach about his love, and his safety and security. Because I can’t imagine going through all of this without having that, if that makes sense.

It does make sense. How sad if we do equate the abuses with God Himself, and then cut ourselves off from the very one who can give us healing. And, and really give us a strength to go through this. So that was beautifully said, Emily. Thank you. Thank you for being willing to talk about this. Thank you for using the platform that you have to help other abuse victims. And thank you for just, you know, speaking truthfully, and being willing to stand up to an abuser like Bill Gothard. And it’s amazing, and you’re doing some amazing work. So, thank you.

Thank you very much for having me on here. It’s been great.

And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online, just go to Julieroys.com. Also, please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast or Google podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then if you could share the podcast on social media, we’d really appreciate that as well. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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13 thoughts on “Understanding the Duggar “Cult””

  1. Thank you Julie and Emily for making this podcast. I knew there was something deeply wrong with this family long ago. Terribly sorry for Anna in this situation. SO glad you got out, all the best in the future to you Emily!

    1. I heard the Duggars speak at a Reformers Unanimous Fundraising breakfast. I was very disturbed that they were there. And this was even before all the stuff about Josh came out. One of the things they talked about was how they used birth control and that they were “convicted” that birth control was a form of abortion. Hence the 19 kids and counting. I feel not just for Anna, but for all of the Duggar women, including Michelle. Celebrity Christianity at its worst!

      1. Yes, I felt the same way. I always knew that something was just wrong with the Duggars, even though I idealized them based on what I saw on the outside.

        I still remember when Josh and Anna got married, and in their wedding vows, vowed to accept children as the Lord gave, and do nothing to hinder that. It didnt surprise me, because I already knew what the parents believed. But I just remember thinking to myself, what if they run into a tough time in their marriage, or have health problems, or financial issues. Seemed a little idealistic, like they were setting impossible standards for themselves.

  2. I attended his seminars in the 80’s and he would fill stadiums. I was always infuriated when he said it was just “your body” that was violated. The reason why violation is so horrible is that IT Crushes Your Soul.

    Also, if you act up, you are no longer under the “umbrella” of authority.

    I followed the story and the stories of the women who were abused by Gothard. He still believes he did nothing wrong. What a putz. He is a false prophet who has led hundreds of thousands astray.

  3. Gordon Hackman

    I was first exposed to Gothardism at age 18, when a group of Gothard families came into my parents church for a while and pushed IBLP stuff.

    Since Christian rock music played an important role in my testimony and Christian walk as a teenager, I was immediately turned off by the whole thing.

    Over the years, as my understanding of theology, biblical interpretation, and logical reasoning grew I begin to see just how wacky a lot of Gothard’s teachings were, including his teachings on music. The revelations that have come out in the last 15-20 years are worse than anything I could have imagined as a teenager and just confirm the rottenness of the whole system.

  4. I attended a church where we ended up with a bunch of Gothard families. The church was in the process of opening a Christian school, which made for a very tense situation. Plus those families demanded and got their own separate Sunday School class so their kids wouldn’t have to mingle with everyone else’s. Having been in a church that split twice, I wasn’t going to hang around to see another one.

  5. Noel Lokaychuk

    We weren’t even part of ATI. We attended both seminars, read some of the books. But it still took me years to realize how many ideas had rooted themselves in my brain.

  6. Wow…just…wow. I grew up IFB and still consider myself a fundamentalist, but refuse to wear the IFB label. What was said on the podcast was true…and so much more. But I do realize you only have about an hour. I went to a Gothard seminar when I was a Senior in High School. I remember that conference and it was definitely heavy on the guilt. As I stated on Social Media, the abuse isn’t the problem – it is a symptom of the problem, the problem being the heart.(Jeremiah 17:9 for starters.) It angers me that with all of the guilting and shaming ,Bill Gothard turned out to be a very evil man. I always wondered why he never married – I think we all know why now! . I do hope Josh gets the help he needs – preferably behind bars and never see the light of day.

  7. Thank you for this pod cast. The reasons given for how Anna is controlled by her religion are wide spread in the evangelical church. In MK Safety Net we find these same reason used by mission boards in defending missionary abusers. MK refers to people who grew up being children of missionaries. Every day at MK Safety Net we encourage and come along side people who were children and abused by missionaries. Sometimes their own parents. Boarding schools have been a place where many MKs were abused often. Every missionary boarding school seems to have had abuse at some time. This has been covered up by mission boards for decades. One of the added reasons give is exposure of abuse damages the witness of the church in these foreign lands.

    Thank you Julie for your continued post of exposing wrong in the church. And Emily for describing the reasons why people stay in these groups. They are truly in bondage. Jesus came to set us free.

  8. The more that I think about this the angrier I get. This sorry excuse of a hman being, Bill Gothard, had the audacity to file for sanctions against the girls after they dropped their lawsuit. Did he not teach that false accusation was a gift from God and that issues should be handled in the church?? Hypocrisy at its absolute worst!

  9. Brian Patrick

    Someone in evangelicalism needs to wake up and start calling the Quiverfull CULT exactly what it is–something more pernicious and devastating to its victims than 98% of Mormonism, extreme WoF, etc. So far the likes of TGC and other responsible gatekeepers have utterly failed.

  10. “Mutual submission” is a lie. The Bible never says that regarding married couples. The wife submits to the husband. Mutual submission is oxymoronic. Abuse is obviously bad.

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