Jinger Duggar Talks ‘Disturbing’ Religious Environment She Grew Up In And Why So Many She Loves Have Quit Religion Altogether

Jinger Duggar Vuolo on Counting On.
(Image credit: TLC)

Jinger Duggar Vuolo has done some major unpacking when it comes to her faith, being raised under the teachings of disgraced religious leader Bill Gothard, and her thoughts on religion following her brother Josh Duggar being sentenced to federal prison on child pornography charges. In her most recent book, Becoming Free Indeed, the sixth child in the family made famous on the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting explores her journey, as she distances herself from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, calling out the “disturbing” environment and expressing understanding for those who have given up Christianity altogether.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar raised their children under the IBLP teachings, a conservative lifestyle that promotes male dominance over women, having large families and dressing conservatively, as ET described — which made it a big deal when some of their daughters started wearing shorts — among other things. Jinger Duggar Vuolo said in Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear that she realized Bill Gothard was preaching the false teachings the Bible had warned about, and she explained how unsettling the IBLP founder’s behavior was. She wrote (per Christianity Today): 

It’s disturbing that an older man insisted on surrounding himself with young girls, some of whom were still minors. And he did so in the name of service to God.

She also pointed out that he hired young women as office assistants in an organization that thought women shouldn’t have jobs outside of the home. 

Bill Gothard resigned from the institute in 2014, following dozens of sexual harassment claims from former employees, and Jinger Duggar said she understood why people were distancing themselves from IBLP and in some cases leaving religion altogether. Even before she stepped away, she said she’d noticed that people she’d loved had stopped showing up at conferences, and she explained in the book:

So many I know and love have decided Christianity is not for them because all they ever knew was Gothard’s version of it. They assume God is oppressive and overbearing, just like Gothard’s theology. When they see so-called Christians treating others poorly, and leaders like Gothard accepting it, they think God is like that too. My heart goes out to them. I can understand why they don’t want anything to do with Christianity.

Jinger Duggar said she, herself, grew up constantly worried that God wanted to punish her for minor disobediences, including not eating enough fiber in her bread. Bill Gothard taught that things including “immodest dress” were reasons God may allow victims to be abused.

The Counting On star’s views on Bill Gothard’s negative effect on people’s faith is similar to thoughts she had regarding Josh Duggar -- who Jinger Duggar Vuolo has said was “living a lie” -- whose arrest was possibly made more prominent by the public knowledge that he had molested his sisters at a young age. Vuolo argued that her brother would be in prison for his actions either way, but because he is a public figure, “his sin gives Christ a bad name,” and fuel for those who wish to oppose Christianity. 

Josh Duggar was sentenced in 2022 to 151 months in prison, before his release date was shifted to 10 years out. Now Duggar is expected to be released on August 12, 2032, at which time the former 19 Kids and Counting star will be on probation for an additional 20 years. As for Jinger, her book Becoming Free Indeed is currently available at Amazon and other retailers.  

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.