Jinger Duggar Vuolo Calls Childhood Religious Beliefs "Cult-Like"

Jinger Duggar Vuolo shared she grew up “crippled with anxiety” from her family’s religious beliefs. Here’s what she said about the “cult-like tendencies” she now describes.

By Kelly Gilmore Jan 19, 2023 2:45 AMTags
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Jinger Duggar Vuolo is getting candid about her faith.

The Counting On star recently reflected on growing up in a household devoted to the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a controversial Christian organization founded by Minister Bill Gothard, sharing how she now views the practices she was once dedicated to.

"[Gothard's] teachings were so harmful, and I'm seeing more of the effects of that in the lives of my friends and people who grew up in that community with me," Jinger told People in an interview published Jan. 18. "There are a lot of cult-like tendencies."

The 29-year-old, whose family shot to fame on the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, explained that growing up, she was taught to do certain things in obedience to God, such as only wearing skirts and dresses instead of pants. But often, she explained rules on what to do and what not to do weren't clear.

The Complete Duggar Family Tree

"[Gothard's] teachings in a nutshell are based on fear and superstition and leave you in a place where you feel like, 'I don't know what God expects of me,'" she said. "The fear kept me crippled with anxiety. I was terrified of the outside world."

That uncertainty is something Jinger remembers when she thinks back on a time when she and her family went to play broomball. "I thought I could be killed in a car accident on the way," she told the outlet, "because I didn't know if God wanted me to stay home and read my Bible instead."

Per the outlet, Jinger started to question her belief system in 2017. Now, she is still a Christian with a different approach to living out her faith who is fully separated from IBLP.

E! News reached out to Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles for comment, and has not heard back. E News also reached out to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and they declined to comment.


Gothard resigned from the IBLP board of directors in 2014 amid allegations against him that claim he molested and sexually harassed women in the organization, per NBC News. At the time, Gothard addressed the allegations in a since-deleted statement on his website: "My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong."

According to NBC News, IBLP launched an internal investigation, which ruled that Gothard "had acted in an inappropriate manner" and would no longer be a part of the organization. Despite this, IBLP noted they found no criminal activity in his actions.

Two years ago, Jinger shared about her journey to leaving IBLP behind. In her 2021 book The Hope We Hold: Finding Peace in the Promises of God, co-written with husband Jeremy Vuolo, Jinger details the start of her journey to breaking away from IBLP.

"I wanted to see if the convictions I'd always held were true," she wrote. "I wanted to examine why I believed what I believed, and if those beliefs were supported by the Scripture. Now, as I reexamined and compared them to scripture, my convictions were changing."

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