When the world was first introduced to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their brood of 19 children, viewers were captivated by their unique lifestyle — and in awe over the logistics of having that many kids. The Duggars have shared their modest clothing rules, their "buddy system," (pairing older kids with younger kids,. how they split up "jurisdictions" (chores), and how they shunned birth control.
Naturally, Counting On fans and others have wondered: What religion are the Duggars, exactly?
What religion are the Duggars?
The Duggars are conservative Christians — Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, to be exact. They follow the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a non-denominational Christian organization. IBLP is based on the teachings of founder Bill Gothard, who resigned from ministry in 2014. His departure came after allegations by more than 30 women of molestation and sexual harassment, some involving minors, per The Washington Post.
The same organization is detailed in Prime Video's Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets docuseries. The four-part series features Jill Duggar and her husband Derick Dillard, who both share their stories of being in the public eye with Jill's ties to the IBLP. Michelle and Jim Bob have publicly distanced themselves from Bill Gothard specifically, but the Duggars do appear to still follow guidelines and rules put forth by the Christian organization.
Homeschooling is a key component of the Duggar kids' upbringing.
The Duggar's also used IBLP's homeschool curriculum, Advanced Training Institute (ATI). According to its website, “the ATI curriculum uses the teachings of Jesus Christ, given in the sermon on the Mount, as the primary source for teaching linguistics, law, history, science, and medicine."
Essentially, ATI students would read a passage from the Bible and then learn about various subjects through questions about what they've read. Gawker offered up a few examples of these questions, like: "How do prime numbers illustrate the principle of ‘one flesh’ in marriage?” and “How can graphs help to visualize the consequences of lust?”
The program ceased enrollment in 2021. However, its materials are still available online.
Some have also linked the Duggars to the Quiverfull movement, which shuns birth control and allows God to give couples the right number of children. This is based on Psalm 127, according to NPR, which states: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
What rules to the Duggars follow when it comes to modesty?
It's well known that the Duggar kids were raised to dress modestly — and for them, that meant girls wore long dresses or skirts paired with shirts that covered their shoulders and with high necklines. In a TLC Q&A once, Michelle explained why her family adheres to this dress code.
"Our interpretation [of modesty is] that from the neck down to the knee should be covered. By keeping those private areas covered, there's not any 'defrauding' going on," she explained.
She added: "My kids are taught the definition of defrauding as stirring up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled. We don't believe in defrauding others by the way we dress. And different people may be defrauded by different things. We can’t control their thoughts, but we’re responsible before God for our part.”
Meanwhile, Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger touched upon modesty in their 2014 book titled Growing Up Duggar. They wrote, “We do not dress modestly because we are ashamed of the body God has given us; quite the contrary. We realize that our body is a special gift from God and that He intends for it to be shared only with our future husband."
The Duggar sisters elaborated: “We avoid low-cut, cleavage-showing, gaping or bare-shouldered tops and, when needed, we wear an undershirt. We try to make it a habit to always cover the top of our shirt with our hand when we bend over. We don’t want to play the peekaboo game with our neckline.”
It's worth noting that many of the Duggar daughters have relaxed these rules as they've entered adulthood; Jinger, Jessa, Jana, and Jill have all been spotted wearing pants at some point.
The Duggars practice courting and purity before marriage, which are also tied to religion.
Michelle and Jim Bob's kids also practice courting, or as they call it "dating with a purpose." This means they don't casually date around and instead, enter into purposeful relationships with the intent of marriage. During this period of time, couples spend time together while supervised closely by chaperones to ensure they remain "pure" in the eyes of their religion until marriage.
For the Duggars, only side-hugs are permitted during courtships. Typically, hand-holding is OK once a couple is engaged. There's no kissing or sex until their wedding night, either — which is likely why Duggar engagements are super short. This and so many other rules the family follows, however lax they've become in recent years, can be attributed to the Duggars' religion.