Although the Duggars portray a picture-perfect image of the basic principles of education of children in the family togetherness in public, survivors who were raised in the same ministry as the TV family say the reality is a lot less wholesome. ATI to share their experiences and discuss how harmful its teachings are, and get their advice on what they’d say to the women of the Duggar family.
Micah’s Story Growing up, writer Micah J. Murray’s childhood was typical of most homeschooling Christian families. When his family officially joined ATI in the early ’90s, not much changed. Conservative homeschooler culture was just our normal way of life, with all the rules that come with that,” Micah told In Touch Weekly in an email. ATI taught things like “white bread is a sin” and other ideas that he now realizes were crazy. Micah described his strict upbringing as just a “normal way of life” for families affiliated with IBLP.
He wasn’t allowed to watch TV or movies, couldn’t listen to music with a beat, and was isolated from anything mainstream or worldly. Micah as a teen at an ATI training center. There are the big things, the overarching ideas which f–ked my soul in really fundamental ways,” he said. ATI also taught many bizarre things that he would later realize were completely ridiculous. Then there are all the silly wacky things they taught that were also super f–ked up in their own ways,” he explained. He went through the courtship process when he was 21.
In ATI, dating was forbidden, and even having a crush or admitting to liking someone was against the rules. I spent most of my teen years trying to repress my very normal attraction to women,” he said. I referred to it in my journals as a ‘monster’, some sort of evil thing that I had to destroy or else it would destroy me. In ATI circles, young people don’t date, they “court,” which means dating with the intention to get married. For Micah, he got his parents’ permission to court a girl when he was 21. He followed all the necessary rules, got the girl’s parents’ permission, and even waited until his wedding day to have his first kiss.
As it turns out, the whole framework of courtship isn’t a great foundation for a healthy relationship,” he said. It was a terrible place to be a 19-year-old. After graduating from high school, Micah enthusiastically joined an ATI training center, working at several locations throughout the country. At first I really liked the training centers because I got to be around other people a lot and felt a sense of purpose and belonging,” he said. But as time went on, I felt the walls closing in and my soul being suffocated. While there, he also witnessed things he would later realize were totally inappropriate.
None of us knew at the time about the allegations of sexual impropriety by Bill Gothard that would be forthcoming, but we saw the girls who he’s picked out as his favorites,” he said. We all knew he had a type, and we knew that he gave extra attention to those girls — promising them special roles in his various programs and outreaches. After being at the centers for two years, he started feeling jaded about ATI. During my time there, I saw up close that it was a system of extreme authoritarianism, and I began to question the fundamentalist approach to Christianity that was pervasive everywhere I went,” he said. I started to feel the cognitive dissonance between what we were taught and what Jesus had said. After leaving ATI, he spent years trying to “deprogram” its teachings.