What Is the Institute in Basic Life Principles and How Is It Connected to the Duggars? (EXCLUSIVE)

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Jun. 1 2023, Updated 9:39 a.m. ET

Over the years, fans and those who simply follow the Duggars from 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On fame out of sheer curiosity have learned little about their religion. As far as many were concerned, the Duggars follow an Independent Baptist church and adhere to strict guidelines framed by morality convictions. But the Prime Video docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets explores the family's connection to the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).

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Distractify spoke exclusively with director and executive producer Olivia Crist and executive producer Blye Pagon Faust about IBLP and how the Duggars helped shape it in the public eye. The docuseries explores the way the Duggars helped bring the values of the Christian organization, and its churches around the world, to light for more families and how the reality TV stars' influence helped spread the message.

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What is the Institute in Basic Life Principles that the Duggars believe in?

According to the official website, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, or IBLP, is an organization that offers teaching to different Christian-based ministries. It was founded by Christian minister Bill Gothard, whose beliefs still influence those who continue to follow the IBLP, like the Duggars.

Some of those beliefs, according to individuals who grew up in the culture, include women wearing clothing that doesn't contain what Gothard called "eye traps," or clothing that would be considered "defrauding."

There are even reports that Gothard prefers curly hair in women and that that's why Michelle Duggar continues to wear her hair that way and encouraged her oldest daughters to have curled, teased hair in their teen years.

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While that is speculation, it does seem possible to be behind Michelle's reasoning, given the other claims from ex-IBLP followers who have shared their experiences online about rules they were forced to follow that weren't part of the IBLP, but were instead part of Gothard's vision.

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Although Gothard stepped down from his role in the IBLP in 2014 under accusations of sexual misconduct and molestation, families like the Duggars continue to follow the IBLP and some of Gothard's teachings. Michelle once used the IBLP homeschool curriculum too.

IBLP used to offer homeschool materials via the Advanced Training Institute, or ATI. The curriculum was heavily faith-based and often included scriptures or other Biblical readings to go along with lessons taught in each section.

Although the official program ended in 2021, you can still access its ATI Wisdom Booklets online to get a better understanding of the adult Duggar kids' education.

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Some of the booklets, which were shared online, include questions like "how did man's sin increase his need to depend on God?" under the science section. And for a learning section on medicine, the question "how are eyelids used for seductive purposes?" is posed.

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The IBLP isn't "just one church."

While the Duggars follow the IBLP teachings and even once followed its homeschool curriculum, which is now no longer credited as an acceptable education system, the organization isn't just a local church they follow. Shiny Happy People EP Blye explained that "it's gone so much farther than just IBLP" in terms of the message being spread further than Arkansas, where the Duggars live, and certainly beyond Bill Gothard's initial teachings.

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"It's not just a church, one church, it's not just a group of churches on a corner," Blye told Distractify. "It is an entire belief system and ideology that was really packaged up and put out there into the world into civic institutions and into political systems."

She also shared that, in researching IBLP and learning what it means for so many, and not just the Duggar family, "it was pretty eye opening to see the real story behind all of that gloss."

Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets will be available on Prime Video on June 2.

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