We expect that most coming to the website are familiar with Bill and his ministry, the high points as well as the low, so we will not focus on this now except for this synopsis. Bill began teaching his Basic Youth Conflicts seminar in the late 1960s based on principles he learned and applied from Scripture as he worked with troubled youth and gangs in preceding years. The seminar catapulted to national and international fame, driven entirely by word of mouth, no advertising, consistently filling the largest venues in the largest cities in the land, often twice a year. The 30 hour week long seminar was very low cost, $45 for most of a decade increasing to $65, this including a large course syllabus. Alumni could re-attend the rest of their lives at no charge. The honor and influence Bill had in the 1970s and 80s was stunning and unparalleled. The loyalty was driven by real results, countless testimonies of lasting solutions to debilitating problems.
Bill was a pioneering force in the modern homeschool movement, laying the foundation in the Basic Seminar; many of those later choosing that option first heard of it in a BYC seminar. ATI was founded in the 1980s and also enjoyed substantial interest with many thousands of children and young people being trained.
A major scandal broke in 1980 when it was discovered that Bill’s brother Steve, executive Vice-President of IBLP, had repeatedly abused several secretaries. Bill did not fully believe the reports, subsequently exiling him to the remote Northwoods facility to clear his head and continue creating materials for the ministry. In the wake of this, more young women were abused at that location, ultimately leading to Bill’s resignation for a period of time. Uncorroborated accusations were made against Bill in national media of “fondling” staff women. We spent a decade trying to find a foundation for these charges – in the end the individual behind this accusation cited “The Cabin Story”, below, as the primary basis for this allegation. A lawsuit was filed against IBLP based on alleged financial misdeeds which was subsequently dropped.
A book was written in 2003 called “A Matter of Basic Principles” by Don and Joy Veinot with Ron Henzel. It focused on damaging Bill’s credibility by documenting the 1980 issues and perceived problems in ATI and other ministries, as well as criticizing Bill’s teachings in general. A long running Yahoo! group catered to hundreds of folks airing complaints in the early 2000’s.
Then in 2011 a group of young people trained through ATI founded a website – “Recovering Grace” – for this same purpose of countering and destroying Bill and his ministry. Their experience caused them to reject Bill’s “legalism” as they saw it and embrace a new perspective of “grace”. Generally speaking this legalism is “rules” and “God is not pleased with your sin”, and the grace being recovered is “no rules” and “God accepts you the way you are”. Many bitterly blamed Bill for the destruction that came to them or their families through rebellion or deficiencies at the hands of ATI.
The group began seeking stories that could link Bill and ATI to sexual abuse, citing the experiences of children in ATI at the hands of family members which were blamed on the “ATI culture”. They openly pleaded for stories of direct abuse at the hands of Bill or Institute staff. In 2012 they published “Lizzie’s Story”, which detailed one staff member’s discomfort at Bill holding her hands too long, touching her feet with his. A total of 6 other women followed to report similar concerns. We know that RG actively recruited these accounts because of other women who have told us they too were contacted. Recovering Grace includes professional editors who prepared well written stories to make the point. It remains interesting that although other virulent anti-Gothard forums existed in the decade prior to RG which we participated in, to our knowledge not a single account alleging sexual harassment was brought forward until Recovering Grace organized itself.
One additional woman, Gretchen Wilkinson – “Charlotte’s Story” (http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2014/02/charlottes-stori/ ) – came forward to allege actual sexual fondling by Bill. Bill has declared publically and repeatedly that she is lying and has sought the opportunity to confront her directly. She has refused these requests to date, demanding that he first publicly declare her story correct, which Bill will not do. To date we are not aware of anyone else besides RG staff examining her account. In her published account she speaks of major sex abuse suffered at the hands of her own father, things she says she was intensely counseled for as a teenager, yet when asked about it privately as an adult, she denied it had happened because she had “forgotten”. She remembered in time to accuse both Bill and her father in the national spotlight.
In a published interview with the Washington Post (02/28/2014 –https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/conservative-leader-bill-gothard-on-leave-following-abuse-allegations/2014/02/28/51f1aac6-a0bb-11e3-878c-65222df220eb_story.html ) Gretchen indicated she had given a report to the Hinsdale Police Department about a week previously. We made inquiry with the HPD for that general time frame three different times under the “Freedom of Information Act” and were told emphatically no such report exists. So, at this point this appears – to us – to be an embellishment.
Recovering Grace has released increasingly larger numbers – currently 60 or more total, 3 others detailing actual criminal sexual behavior – to the press reporting sexual abuse by Bill. Bill’s Wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gothard) states, “As many as 34 women who worked for Gothard claim that he harassed them; four claim that he molested them”. This information is sourced from a Washington Post article, which in turn got those numbers from “an organizer of Recovering Grace”. They remain the only source for these numbers and have refused for the past several years to provide any more information. There are no additional accounts available, let alone named witnesses. Some of us find this reprehensible.