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Jinger Duggar Calls Out Family Pastor for "Damaging" and "Cult-Like" Teachings

The former reality star opens up in her new book, Becoming Free Indeed.

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Over the course of 10 seasons and seven years, the world watched the Duggar children grow up on 19 Kids and Counting. The popular reality show followed parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and—as the name suggests—their 19 kids, who were raised under the teachings of Christian evangelist Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Now, Jinger Duggar Vuolo, who later went to star in the spin-off series Counting On, is speaking out about Gothard's teachings, which she says were "damaging" and "cult-like." Read on to find out how Jinger now feels about her religious upbringing.

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Jinger just published a memoir.

becoming free indeed by jinger duggar
Thomas Nelson, Inc.

On Jan. 31, Jinger published a new book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, written alongside Corey Williams. She stresses that her memoir isn't a "tell-all" about her famous family and that she "had a wonderful childhood." Instead, the book is a reflection on her faith and her religious journey.

Jinger discusses her feelings about Gothard, who was forced to step down from IBLP in 2014 after over 30 women accused him of sexual harassment, Fox News reported. Gothard has denied any wrongdoing, per Entertainment Tonight, but Jinger says these allegations affected her perspective of the minister she had looked up to and respected.

Jinger's book is dedicated to "those who have been hurt by the teachings of Bill Gothard or any religious leader who claimed to speak for God but didn't."

She says Gothard's religious teachings were "cult-like."

jinger duggar vuolo on counting on
TLC / YouTube

The IBLP is rooted in conservative Christian practices, which include modest dress and submissiveness for women, as well as a special courtship process, according to NBC News. Gothard also preached avoidance of certain music, TV, alcohol, and public schools.

While discussing her book with Fox News, Jinger said she can't officially say that IBLP was a cult, but there were signs that point to that characterization.

"I would definitely say that [his philosophy] was cult-like in nature," she said. "I can't say, 'Oh, it was a cult.' I will leave that to the experts. But I will say that a lot of things make it tough for kids to leave or families to leave because the community is so tight-knit. The teachings are based on rules—man-made rules."

This part of her upbringing was the most difficult to discuss in her memoir, Jinger said. "What I grew up in was very fear-based, based on superstition, manipulation, control—and so, my view of God was warped," she told Entertainment Tonight. "I was promised that if I followed these teachings from Bill Gothard, this man, that my life would be a success and God would bless me, but if I didn't follow every principle, maybe God is gonna kill me in an accident."

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Jinger notes that Gothard's teachings were harmful to his followers.

duggar sisters on counting on
TLC / YouTube

According to Jinger, there's a "healthy fear of God," mentioned in the Bible, but "it's more of an awe reverence, realizing the greatness of God." In her memoir, she explains that instead of looking at the text this way, Gothard's approach was fear-based, and he would make up his own rules about the will of God.

Jinger mentions the "sadness" she then saw in her loved ones. "[Gothard] had this warped view of the Bible," she alleges in her memoir, per Fox News. "I'd say the most damaging thing I can think of is the way that people viewed him. They left Christianity altogether because of these teachings. That's the most damaging, lasting effect."

Jinger writes that Gothard once told a story about a pastor who visited a grieving woman whose sons and husband died at sea. When she asked the pastor why this happened, he pointed to a painting of a ship hanging on the wall, citing that as the reason.

"How could a picture of a ship bring you harm?" Jinger questions in her book. "How could this painting she owned send her husband and children to death? That's the guilt placed upon you. God says nothing of that in His word … I can see how sadly this type of teaching would tear someone's faith down."

She concludes, "Teachings like this lead people to very dangerous, awful places in their lives."

She stresses she came to these conclusions as part of her own journey.

jerermy vuolo and jinger duggar vuolo
Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

Jinger first began to question her beliefs in 2017, per Fox News, when her husband, Jeremy Vuolo, "challenged" her thinking. The two watched Gothard's seminars together, Jinger explains in her book, and Jeremy would point out inaccuracies.

"As soon as I saw these teachings were not rooted in the word of God, or that [Gothard] had taken one verse and twisted it to make it say whatever he wanted … it shook me," she writes. She says she then had a "lightbulb moment" and felt free to form her own beliefs.

As a Christian, Jinger wants the book to inspire readers on their own spiritual journeys. She notes that she doesn't fear damage to her familial relationships, but she knows that the IBLP might not be as forgiving.

"Some may not appreciate that I'm speaking out on this topic," she writes, per Entertainment Tonight, adding that they might blame her husband for changing her beliefs. "No matter how much I insist that this is my own journey, some won't be convinced that these are my convictions."

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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