Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against Patriarchal Christian Group

As I reported last Fall, Doug Phillips resigned from Vision Forum Ministries in what seemed like a sudden confession of a lengthy inappropriate relationship with a woman but with whom he denied having sex. As details trickled out it became clear the woman was the family’s nanny, a member of the church where Phillips was a leading elder (but had resigned months earlier when the church learned of his misconduct), and an employee of Vision Forum.

The details from a lawsuit filed last week against Phillips by Lourdes Torres-Manteufel only underscore the reality that this and the recent sex scandal at Bill Gothard’s Institute in Biblical Life Principles (IBLP) are more than isolated events—they shine a light on a darker side to Protestant fundamentalism that facilitates abuse.

While distinctly different, these two “ministries” share elements that facilitated the abuse, and a growing number of “alumni” are raising concerns.

Gothard has staffed the headquarters of his $95 million nonprofit with young home school volunteers, some of whom (now adults) recently started sharing stories of his behavior toward them when they were teens, away from home serving the ministry on the website Recovering Grace. A groundswell developed and Gothard was forced to resign; he’s now under investigation and on April 18th he released a statement admitting to many of the accusations but insisting they were not sexual.

jingerso@unf.edu'

Julie Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles and is currently writing a book on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism.

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