Where Do You Begin With Something Like This?

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2015

Welcome_Duggar_612x187How about with a little bit of snark? Throughout the Family “Research” Council’s 32-year history, it has promoted the lie that gays and lesbians were far more likely to molest children, even though it is not and never has been true. In fact, we now know that, at least as of yesterday, it’s FRC leaders who are statistically much more likely to molest kids than pretty much any other group.

That fact came to light after Josh Duggar, the executive director of FRC Action, the group’s political lobbying arm, resigned amid allegations that he had molested at least five girls between 2002 and 2003.

Josh Duggar joined the Family “Research” Council in 2013 to become their rock-star anti-gay activist. Last December, he led successful effort to defeat an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He charged that the ordinance would pose a threat to children, an argument that his mother, Michelle Duggar, repeated in a robocall to voters. ThinkProgress has a pretty good round-up of examples of Josh Duggar’s lectures on family values. As FRC’s superstar political executive, he campaigned on behalf of ultra-conservative candidates in Kansas, Virginia, and Mississippi, and he’s had so many photos and selfies taken with GOP presidential aspirants that there’s an entire Tumbler dedicated to them.

DuggerFRCJosh Duggar reached his rock-star status as the scion of the humongous Duggar clan, headed by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The family follows a strict form of conservative Christianity which includes the Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements. The names of those movements are suggestive. The Quiverfull movement eschews birth control so that families can raise up large numbers of children as foot soldiers for Christ, while the Christian Patriarchy movement teaches that families must follow a strict patriarchal order. Millions of viewers have become familiar with these movements through the Duggars’ TLC reality series “19 kids and counting.” It had debuted as “17 Kids and Counting” in 2008. That series grew out of a series of TLC specials, including “14 Children and Pregnant Again!” (2005),  Raising 16 Children” (2005), and “16 Children and Moving In” (2005), in which they move into a 7,000 square-foot house that was partly built by TLC.

But it was at about that time when Springdale, Arkansas, police had opened a felony investigation against the Duggar’s oldest son, Josh. The scandal magazine InTouch Weekly broke the story yesterday, that Springdale police opened their investigation following a tip from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, which had received an email from an un-named Arkansas resident detailing some of Josh’s molestations. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette added that at the same time Harpo Studios passed on the email to authorities, Springdale police were notified about a letter “containing allegations of improper touching in the Duggar home. The report says the letter, written 31/2 years earlier, had been found in a book lent by a family friend of the Duggars to someone else.”

Police followed up and interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who said that they learned in March 2002 that Josh, then 14, had, on multiple occasions, touched another girl’s breasts and genitals while she slept. Their reaction? They “disciplined (Josh) after this incident,” but otherwise kept quiet.

Then nine months later, they found out that “there was another incident” — actually incidents, as multiple girls were involved. This time, Jim Bob consulted church elders — none of whom reported the abuse to authorities — and promised to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling.” That “program” appears to have been little more than helping out a family friend in the remodeling business for three months, although new reports are emerging that the family friend, Harold Walker, was a former leader at the Little Rock-based Institute in Basic Life Principles Training Center. The faith based and unaccredited center was founded by Bill Gothard, who resigned after more than thirty young women and teenagers claimed they were sexually harassed by Gothard.

After Josh returned from Arkansas, Jim Bob took him to family friend and Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens, who gave Josh a “very stern talk,” but otherwise took no official action. Hutchens, it turns out, is serving a 56-year prison on child porn charges. When police asked to talk to Josh, the Duggars lawyered up — after two lawyers refused to take the case — and refused to cooperate further. The investigated ended in late 2000 because the statute of limitations ran out. The Democrat-Gazette reports however than investigators filed a “family in need of services” affidavit in Juvenile Court, which resulted in a trial in 2007. The records of that trial are sealed.

Well, now that this has come to light, TLC has announced that they are pulling “19 Kids and Counting” from their schedule. That was after having unwisely run a three-hour “19 Kids and Counting” marathon last night, which provoked a giant social media backlash. Another seven-hour marathon had been scheduled for tonight.

Immediately following Josh Duggar’s resignation, the Family “Research” Council issued the following statement:

“Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.

“Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved,” concluded (FRC President Tony) Perkins.

You can bet that this statement is a very far cry from the one they would have released had it been the oldest son of a famous same-sex couple who had been accused of molesting children. It’s also interesting that FRC posted the statement to its front page where it will likely disappear over the weekend, instead of to a dedicated press release where it might remain available for future reference. Meanwhile, the Dugger family — Jim Bob and Michelle, Josh, and his wife Anna — posted these three statements on Facebook:

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married – it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him. When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn’t know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was — even every difficult past mistakes. At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him… I was able to say, “Yes” knowing who Josh really is – someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right. I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren’t for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

Do you notice what’s included in these statements? God has forgiven him and so should you. Also, they’re closer to God now. (Is that supposed to make it okay? I wonder how Josh’s victims feel.) And lots of concern for Josh’s well-being in this “difficult time” — but don’t worry. He’s moved on and is much better now.

Notice what’s missing? Any mention of his victims or their difficult times, which must undoubtedly stretch back at least a dozen years and is being revived all over again today. How are they doing today? Are they thankful for their “journey”?

This is more than mere hypocrisy. That word is far too trivial to use here. This is abusive, both in the original acts of molestation, and in the parents unconscionable decision to turn their entire family into a public spectacle. Because here’s the thing: At least one of the victims was a daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle.* That fact right there, which they well knew at the time and were busy sweeping under the rug, makes their decision to turn their entire family reality TV starts all the more revolting. For the sake of their pride and the opportunity to become big-time TV stars and culture war activists, they coerced at least one sexual abuse victim in their own family to smile and pretend that nothing was wrong. I can’t imagine too many things more vile than that.

* A number of other sites have reported this detail about Josh’s victims, and it’s not too difficult to find out more, including the precise numbers and other details. I recognize how important it is to keep sexual abuse victims’ details private, and I struggled with whether to provide this information here. But I decided to include this because it is particularly germane to a broader issue of abuse that goes beyond Josh’s activities and the parents’ egregious response. Please do no disclose any further details about the victims in the comments. They will be deleted, without exception.

Timothy Kincaid

May 22nd, 2015

I agree with everything said. I’d only like to add that focusing on Josh’s “journey” and what “path” he was on while ignoring the girls’ trauma would suggest that their brand of religion is not only patriarchal but downright misogynistic. Boys matter, girls not so much.


May 22nd, 2015

Well, FRC had the opportunity to cry about prominent gay activists being charged for molestation.


It just turns out that not only are they incompetent at their job of finding gay boogeymen (which will exist, no population is exempt from its fiends).

They’re also hilariously incompetent at vetting their own high ranking officials.

Eric Payne

May 22nd, 2015


Thank you for your editorial decision to not disclose the details of Josh Duggar’s (and by extension, due to their complicity, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s) victims.

The trauma inflicted upon a child from unwanted sexual touching by an adult never fully fades, and despite any amount of counseling, those feelings can sometimes overwhelm the victim, years or decades later.

Some victims choose to simply have the incident(s) ignored. Others, like myself, confront those feelings head-on, never forgetting their abuser ([REDACTED. I’m sorry, but I cannot accept the potential liability that comes with a commenter giving a name and address of another person he accuses of a crime — Jim B.]).

What [REDACTED] did to me from 1969 through 1972 shaped the relationship between my parents and myself up to the present day, and through the rest of their lives. His need to get his rocks off robbed me of familial support, not just through “those difficult teenage” years of high school and dating and learning to drive and… any number of things… but also of the option of simply being by their side as they were dying. [REDACTED]’s compulsions, and my parents reactions to the revelations of his actions, became the defining moment for my parents’ attitude toward me, and mine to them.

It’s been reported some of Josh’s alleged victims may be a few of his female siblings. I can only imagine the ongoing trauma those victims endure, as, for them, there’s “no escape” from not just their attacker, but the fact her parents chose sides… against her. How does a little girl become a healthy woman when she is completely, and publicly, so devalued by her own parents?

If I were ever to come face-to-face with [REDACTED] again, I can honestly say I don’t know how I’d react, though I wouldn’t want any weaponry laying around, tempting me. But if I were ever to come face-to-face with [REDACTED] again, it would be either completely by my choice or completely by accident… and not because it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving and the whole clan’s at Mom and Dad’s.


May 22nd, 2015

Well done, Jim…

I find TLC irresponsible, even if they somehow went into their Duggar contract in the dark about the abuse. Give a show to folks raising kids in extreme circumstances, whose parents reject anything resembling competent mental health care? Just not smart. The network handed them motive and reward for being a fairly extreme experiment, knowing they wouldn’t be able to get the kids competent health care if it turned sour.

Eric Payne

May 22nd, 2015


I understand. Though I assumed all “risk” of my personal revelations would be borne by me, owing to the openness of the forum, I realize their is always an attorney, somewhere, who could make persuasive, obfuscating arguments to the contrary, and respect your decision.

In the last decade — nearly 40 years after my abuse took place — I woke up from a particular nasty dream that left me in such dread I contacted the police in the town in which my abuse took place. I told them of the abuse, named my abuser, and told them: “I know it’s way too late for me, but I know how families are (in that area). They stay in place forever, and it just struck me — what if he’s got grandkids, and he does something to one of them?”

I can honestly say, since that day (and that’s been since we moved to Atlanta), I haven’t had any more bad dreams in which he’s taken center-stage.


May 22nd, 2015

While I am not an xtian, I am a big believer in forgiveness and redemption, especially for kids who do stupid, even horrible, things in their teenage years. But this guy, and the whole sick clan, have perverted those concepts in the pursuit of a toxic mixture of profit, notoriety and bigotry.


May 23rd, 2015

“The faith based and unaccredited center was founded by Bill Gothard, who resigned after more than thirty young women and teenagers claimed they were sexually harassed”

Gothard? As in Got-Hard?! I swear, EVERYTHING about this story is (in addition to being disgusting) ENTIRELY impossible to make-up! (And also beyond parody)


May 23rd, 2015

Timothy Kincaid: That’s a very good point, and only underscores something I’ve notice again and again about these particular kinds of “Christians”: it’s all about them. They don’t really give a tinker’s damn about anyone outside of their own little group, if their concern even extends that far.

Now, it’s possible the Duggars actually did something for the victims that has not been reported, but my guess is, given their apparent attitude toward women, and the general attitude I’ve seen among “Christian” activists, the girls were just told to shut up about it.


May 23rd, 2015

In the two years between college graduation and my start in grad school, I volunteered for CASA—Court Appointed Special Advocates. (I will return when I graduate.)

CASA volunteers represent the interests of abused and neglected children in the judicial process. They are “lawyers” for those kids—and ONLY those kids—until a case is finally resolved.

I say this in prelude to a simple fact of huge importance that I learned there: abused children MUST see and know that what has happened to them matters, that it is taken seriously and that those who did it will be held accountable.

I see nothing in the Duggar’s response at the time, as they themselves report it, that comes near appropriate support for the victims of their son’s abuse. The very idea of it is missing.

It is sickening.

Eric Payne

May 23rd, 2015


I’ve gotten the impression from the elder Duggar’s response to the situation, both now and what they claim to have done 12 years ago, that they are very, very old school “Christian.”

Yes, Josh “sinned.” And he’s made repentance. He’s been forgiven by God, and is back in His Grace, hallelujah!

Josh gave in to man’s lustful nature, and man is only lustful because in the Garden, Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. So the girls brought it upon themselves because of the actions of Eve, and it’s Josh who is the true victim here.

Can you say “Amen”?

(I still firmly believe that in the coming week, the Duggars will claim Josh’s “acting out” was because Josh, himself, was the victim of homosexual child molestation by a trusted family friend who is now dead… or maybe serving 56 years in prison on kiddy-porn charges…)


May 23rd, 2015


I think there may be one more instance of the person’s name that you didn’t redact from Eric Payne’s comment.

There are some very good reflections in these comments on the effect of these events on the victims.
Thank you all for your sensitivity.

Eric Payne

May 23rd, 2015


I saw that as well, but didn’t want to draw additional, unwarranted attention to it.

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 2015

I’ve redacted the additional instance.


May 24th, 2015

TLC – Yuck


May 25th, 2015

well, clearly there is only one thing to do here. come on everybody, let’s pray the molestation away.

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