Tag Archives: History

New Gothard Revelations Hint at BJU’s Ugly History of Abuse

Recovering Grace, a website dedicated to publishing documents and stories related to abuse in Bill Gothard’s various organizations, has recently unearthed a few troubling tidbits that point to similarly abusive tactics used at BJU over the years.

Recovering Grace has been in operation since 2011, but has made headlines in recent weeks because its revelations finally reached critical mass, resulting in Gothard being put on administrative leave by his ministry, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (known as the Institue in Basic Youth Conflicts during its early days). You can read more about this news from the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, among many others.

The scandal involves a wide array of allegations spanning decades. According to dozens of victims who’ve told their stories on Recovering Grace and in its comments, Gothard and other IBYC leaders used their “spiritual authority” to control, abuse and manipulate employees, mainly young women. Gothard himself stands accused of sexual harassment and failure to report child abuse, among other things.

An investigation of this scale necessarily implicates more than one organization, and in this case BJU is among those named. In 1980, two BJU officials (only one is named, a Rev. Van Gelderen) were summoned by Gothard to help him downplay a scandal that was about to overwhelm his multi-million dollar ministry. You can read more about that scandal on Recovering Grace, but suffice to say that the two BJU men were used by Gothard in his attempt to hush up accusations of sexual harassment against Gothard’s brother. Gothard asked the two BJU officials to help convince the IBYC board not to send a letter to supporters admitting the scandal and apologizing, and they obliged. Their plot failed, however, and when the board overruled Gothard and the BJU staffers and demanded that the sexual harassment be dealt with, Van Galderen reportedly reversed his stance and regretted coming at all. This incident is a fascinating parallel to BJU’s current PR troubles, as the school clearly still clings to a strategy of withholding potentially damaging information until the story has already exploded in the media.

Most damaging in this narrative, though, is a remark Van Gelderen made to the IBYC board when trying to dissuade them from properly handling sexual abuse:

They explained that “this kind of thing had happened also at [Bob Jones] University and this is how they have always handled it there.”

This ominous declaration can only mean one thing: in the 1980s, BJU already had a firm process in place for dealing with cases of sexual harassment and scandal within its administration. Whatever else that process might entail, it’s clear from Van Gelderen’s testimony here that covering up information and keeping supporters in the dark was key. Here’s the full text of this passage:

At the end of May 1980, discussions were still ongoing as the directors and staff attempted to approve a draft for a letter explaining the situation to the seminar alumni pastors. Bill was strongly against sending out this letter, but IBYC staff and leadership had almost completely lost confidence in his judgment by this time. Bill had lost control over his staff, and he knew it. They refused to remain under Bill’s asserted authority and were insisting upon straightforward and public transparency about the scandal. Bill pulled in two men from Bob Jones University—the administrative vice president and a BJU board member, Rev. Van Geldren, to help confront the staff. The BJU delegation rebuked the staff, stating that “a letter to pastors should not be sent out, and that it was wrong to inform the pastors and supporters of the Institute what was happening.” They explained that “this kind of thing had happened also at the [Bob Jones] University and this is how they have always handled it there.” In the end, though, Bill did send out a letter. The public and the media had picked up on the story, and he decided that he needed to make a statement.

In a sharp turn of events, two days after confronting the staff, Rev. Van Geldren had already apologized to the chief pilot (who was involved in uncovering the scandal) for his blind support of Bill, and apparently informed him that he had come to the conclusion that Bill could not be trusted. Rev. Van Geldren then did what we pray many parents are doing right now as they read these reports thirty years later—he withdrew his daughter from working at the Institute.

The second incident reported by Recovering Grace involves one of BJU’s longest-serving (1967-2013) Board members, John McLario. McLario was called in by Gothard to be a replacement for his father as IBYC chairman and president. This revelation shows a strong connection between BJU and Gothard’s ministry at this time, and a willingness on McLario’s part to help smooth over the scandal that was then threatening to destroy the IBYC. McLario did more than just accept the positions at IBYC, however. On his first day as new leader of the IBYC, McLario demanded that all of Gothard’s former staff, many of whom were victims of sexual harassment, declare their allegiance to the IBYC or lose their jobs. Here’s the full quote:

The media frenzy was being held at bay with partial truths about mishandling of Institute properties. Some prominent members of the IBYC staff and of the evangelical community began to step forward to help handle things. John McLario, an attorney and executive council for Bob Jones University, was asked on July 8, 1980, to take over as IBYC president and chairman of the board. William Gothard, Sr., submitted his resignation to the IBYC board on this same day. McLario took a heavy-handed approach to what he believed to be a rebellious staff. According to one timeline, “McLario meets with the entire staff and, without anybody saying who he was, he commenced to inform the entire staff that they have one hour to decide to resign immediately from the ministry or continue to work without any more resistance or questions. This action of McLario was fully supported by the Board and Bill Gothard.” At least one of the girls who had been involved with Steve received a phone call from McLario pressing her to remain compliant and silent about all that had happened (we are told this inspired exactly the opposite reaction from her). Within days, approximately one-half of the IBYC staff had resigned or been fired…

…As is often the case in fact versus fiction, what happened next was both anti-climactic and profoundly remarkable. John McLario abruptly resigned only seventeen days after assuming Institute leadership, reportedly to avoid dealing publicly with his own alleged sexual immorality.

Drawing conclusions from these incidents is simple enough: some of BJU’s highest-ranking, longest-serving and most-respected leaders were complicit in the horrifying abuses perpetrated by Gothard and his minions upon their staff. BJU was the first place Gothard turned to when he needed people to help him cover up scandal. And according to his own words, a respected BJU leader said that BJU, even in 1980, was already long practiced in “handling” scandals in a manner meant to protect leadership and silence victims.


2001 BJU Accreditation Pamphlet Surfaces, Shows School’s Apparent About-Face on the Issue


A pamphlet entitled “Taking The Higher Ground: The Accreditation Issue From The Bible Point Of View”, written by Bob Jones III 2001, has surfaced online–and its inflammatory anti-accreditation rhetoric emphasizes how completely Jones and BJU have reversed course on the issue, though without explaining that reversal.

Jones’s premise in the pamphlet is that “uniting” with an accreditation body is tantamount to apostasy for a Christian University.  The arguments used here are quite similar to those employed by Bob Jones Jr. in his 1960 defense of the school’s segregationist ethic (read that document here), particularly the paranoia regarding “the world” and its influence.

The accrediting associations will not approve our educational process if it does not include the worship of their gods. All education is brainwashing. We wash with the pure water of God’s Word, and they wash with the polluted waters of the New Age. [pg. 6]

Jones states flatly in “Taking the Higher Ground” that lacking accreditation will “not be easy” for BJU grads, but also claims that God will help those grads and honor BJU’s choice to remain “separated” by refusing to seek accreditation. That explanation seems inadequate in the face of the numerous and well-documented stories of BJU grads who experience endless frustration because of BJU’s proud unaccredited status.

As long as there is a Bob Jones University, God helping us, we will not make covenant with them, nor worship their gods. [pg. 6]

This brochure, which was apparently displayed publicly at BJU and mailed to pastors and alumni to reassure them that BJU would not “compromise” on accreditation, raises several questions. First, has there been some kind of enormous change in the so-called “agenda” of accreditation bodies that now allows BJU to in good conscience consider applying to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools*? Or was Jones simply trying, in this pamphlet, to justify a position that has now become untenable for a University trying to compete against more value-focused alternatives? It seems impossible to reconcile the extreme, caustic condemnation of accreditation in “Taking the Higher Ground” with BJU’s current overly-eager attempt to sell prospective students on its intention to pursue what Jones in just a decade ago equated with idolatry.

Regional accreditation is a sellout to the gods of the secular educational world. How can we make a covenant with them? [pg.5]

Hopefully the school will eventually explain how, in less than ten years, regional accreditation has gone from an indication of a school’s spiritual demise to being BJU’s favorite marketing tactic. If they do, you’ll hear about it here first.

(*note: BJU has NOT applied to that organization and, even if it did so today, would be years away from achieving accredited status even if the process went smoothly)


Bob Jones III 1982 Interview With Phil Donahue Appears Online

The transcript of a Bob Jones III interview with Phil Donahue from January 20th, 1982 has been published online by Fundypedia.

The interview covers a spectrum of topics, mostly related to BJU’s controversial racial policies of the time. Dr. Jones defends the policies, like their anti-miscegenation rule and their previous barring of minorities from enrollment, on the grounds of religious liberty.

No video of the interview is publicly available.

The Scribd is embedded below. Click on the (+) button to zoom in, or click “View this document on Scribd” for full control.

Larry King Interview With Bob Jones III Now Available In Full On YouTube

Our previous post on the Bob Jones III Larry King interview from 2000 has now been updated to include the entire video, split into four parts.

The video had been unavailable online for over a decade until an anonymous poster began uploading it on YouTube and sharing it via Facebook this month.

Video of Bob Jones III on Larry King Live Surfaces on YouTube

A Larry King Live interview with Bob Jones III from March 3rd 2000 which was previously unavailable online has today appeared on YouTube.

Jones appeared on the show to announce that BJU was dropping its controversial rule prohibiting interracial dating at the school, but also to explain the “Biblical basis” for what many saw as institutional racism wrapped in religious expression. The University maintained the rule until 2000 despite losing its tax-exempt status as a result.

The transcript of the conversation is available here.

We’ll update once the full interview is available.

All four parts are now available below.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Part IV: