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Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are famous for their supersized family, and wholesome life. While fans are fully aware that the family is super religious, they have never really gone in-depth about the groups they associate with. The Duggars seem to have a good reason for keeping their affiliations quiet; the family is connected to a controversial group. We have the skinny on their religious affiliations and exactly why they have been relatively quiet about the association.

What religion do the Duggars follow?

While the Duggar family considers themselves independent Baptists they do belong to a larger non-denominational ministry. While filming 19 Kids and Counting, viewers were allowed to learn that the family used the ATI homeschool teaching system. They were also privy to the family’s home church services.

The Duggar family (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)

What they did not reveal is that ATI is associated with the IBLP or the Institute for Basic Life Principles. In recent years, sexual abuse allegations have rocked the controversial ministry. Bill Gothard, the ministry’s founder was ousted when the claims became public. Meanwhile, former members have stepped forward to speak out against the ministry and its abusive behaviors. Former members report cult-like and abusive tactics to keep members in line with the organization’s moral code.

Everything you need to know about the IBLP

The Institute for Basic Life Principles is a non-denominational Christian ministry. Offering everything from youth programs to homeschooling materials, the IBLP is headquartered in Illinois and has over 200 employees. While on the surface, it looks like a traditional Christian sect, there is far more to the institute than meets the eye.

According to In Touch, in 2014 IBLP’s founder, Bill Gothard was placed on administrative leave after several female employees accused him of sexual harassment. Thirty-four women and two men have come forward to chronicle harassment and abuse. The allegations range from being forced to play footsie with the founder, to having their hair stroked without permission. According to The Washington Post, lawsuits have been filed.

According to former members, female members of the ministry were also encouraged to dress, use makeup and wear their hair in a manner that Gothard found most appealing. They were also forced to adhere to strict rules about interacting with the opposite sex and dating.

The ministry also allegedly blames female victims of sexual assault. According to a former member, victims are told that they are just as guilty as the men who assaulted them. In some cases, they are blamed for “defrauding” their assailant with their manner of dress.

The Duggars have never spoken publicly about the allegations. Incidentally, The Bates family of Bringing Up Bates fame are also associated with the IBLP. The Duggars and Bates family are said to have met through the homeschooling conferences and retreats offered by the group.

The IBLP has had sexual abuse allegations levied at it in the past

While Bill Gothard made news recently for his inappropriate behavior, it was not the first time the IBLP weathered such a storm. Gothard’s brother Steve, resigned after several extra-marital affairs were made public. According to The New Republic, women were sent to serve as staff members at a notorious ministry campus in Michigan. Once there they fell victim to sexual harassment and abuse.

Some victims have alleged they were sent to the campus as punishment, after falling out of favor with higher-ups. Steve’s behavior was not only a gross violation of sexual harassment laws but of the moral code of the IBLP. While the allegations levied against Steve Gothard came to light in the 1980s, it appears not much has changed at the organization.

Have the Duggars ever spoken about the IBLP?

The Duggars have never openly mentioned the IBLP, but have discussed the ATI curriculum they use. Perhaps TLC made the call to avoid mentioning the controversial ministry, or the Duggars were concerned that sharing the association would be a problem for viewers. Either way, they have remained relatively tight-lipped about the organization.

Jim Bob Duggar (R) and wife Michelle Duggar
(Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)

What we do know is that the Duggar children were regularly involved in IBLP programs, including ALERT and Journey to the Heart. ALERT, according to Recovering Grace, a blog penned by a former IBLP member, is a program for teenage boys that utilizes some military tactics in its training regime. The goal of the program is to instill discipline in young men so they can walk with God, according to the official IBLP website.

The sleuths at Free Jinger, a forum dedicated to ultra-conservative families, allege that Josh Duggar was sent to the program after he molested his siblings. Josh’s enrollment in the program has never been confirmed.

Jana Duggar, the eldest Duggar daughter, has spoken regularly about attending the Journey to the Heart program. The program, according to the IBLP website is a retreat that intends to connect young adults with God.