jinger duggar
Tamron Hall Show/YouTube

Jinger Duggar Vuolo finally feels “free” after being raised to follow religious teachings that she says were “cult-like in nature.” The former “Counting On” star has written a book titled Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear.” It explores her strict upbringing and what compelled her to walk away from the “false teachings” of Bill Gothard.

The 29-year-old told Fox News Digital, “I would definitely say that [his philosophy] was cult-like in nature. 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.”

Gothard, a prominent Christian evangelist, founded the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) in 1961. His organization has conducted Bible-based seminars around the country since the ’60s on subjects ranging from conflict resolution to achieving financial success. His so-called “chain of command” teachings promote the belief that God put bosses, city leaders, and husbands in elevated positions.

Duggar Vuolo alleged that Gothard’s teachings “are based on fear and superstition,” which left her with a crippling anxiety that she still struggles with today.

“There’s a healthy fear of God that the Bible speaks of, but it’s more of an awe reverence, realizing the greatness of God,” she explained. “But sadly, Bill Gothard would take one verse of the Bible and make it say whatever he wanted it to say, and he would make up his own man-made rules and say, ‘This is the Bible.’ And then he would have you vow to God to keep this principle. It was very binding. He would say, ‘Never break your vow before God.’ It was fear-based.”

The goal of IBLP is to provide others with a “clear institution and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture.” IBLP’s site claims that “over 2.5 million people” have attended their seminars.

Duggar Vuolo was raised by her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, devout followers of IBLP. The movement teaches that women should be subservient to their husbands and that followers should shun dancing, dating and much of pop culture, People magazine reported. According to the outlet, Jim Bob, 57, and Michelle, 56, have spoken at IBLP seminars.

TLC’s “19 Kids & Counting”  chronicled the lives of the growing Duggar family and aired from 2008 until 2015. “Counting On,” which focused on the family’s older children, ran from 2015 until 2021. In her book, Duggar Vuolo claimed that she “saw so much sadness in so many families I knew and loved.”

Duggar Vuolo said it would not be until 2017 that her outlook on the religion began to change. She said she spoke to her family about exiting IBLP after she started wearing pants. She also told them about her new book.

“I didn’t want my siblings to wonder,” she explained. “Those conversations have continued throughout the past several years. Some have responded better than others. But at the end of the day, I know they just want the best for me.” While her faith has changed, Duggar Vuolo stressed that she is still a devoted Christian and is hopeful that her book will show others that one can embrace a new life and be at peace.

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