Josh Duggar, oldest son of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the family profiled in the reality TV juggernaut 19 Kids and Counting, resigned from his position as executive director of the Family Research Council on Thursday after reports surfaced that as a young teen he had fondled the breasts and genitals of several girls, including his own sisters, over an unknown period of time beginning in at least 2002.
The Duggars rose to fame based on their brand of “biblical family values.” These, as described by writer Vyckie Garrison, are based on the premise that “God designed males and females to fulfill distinct roles [in which] men are to be leaders, teachers, initiators, protectors and providers. Women are created to be “helpmeets” to the men in authority over them (husbands, fathers, older brothers) ~ they are to be submissive and yielding.” The Duggars home-school their kids, place very heavy emphasis on chastity—couples don’t even hold hands before they are engaged to be married—and the “proper” role of women and girls, eschew birth control, and strongly embrace other so-called Christian conservative values.
The Duggars quickly became big business. Based primarily on the size of their family and the apparent willingness of Michelle and Jim Bob to keep getting pregnant irrespective of the documented dangers to both Michelle and the babies she carries, the cable channel TLC gave them a reality show from which they make a reported $25,000 to $40,000 per episode. From that show grew incessant coverage of the Duggars in People magazine and a range of tabloids, which have documented ad nauseum the weddings of the three oldest Duggar children and the rapid birth of their own kids. Add to all of this money from book sales, promotional appearances, and their other family businesses, including real estate, and the Duggars are making a considerable income peddling their values.
Given their visibility and their fundamentalist beliefs, it’s not surprising that the Duggars then became the poster family for all things “anti”: anti-choice policies, anti-LGBT rights, anti-birth control coverage, and anti-women’s rights. Jim Bob and Michelle have made campaign appearances for numerous conservative candidates. As reported by Media Matters for America, Michelle famously recorded a robocall in 2014 urging voters in the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas to repeal an ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other categories. The Duggars contributed $10,000 to the campaigns of opponents of the ordinance, and it was repealed by a vote of 52 percent.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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In June 2013, Josh Duggar was hired as executive director of the Family Research Council (FRC), a Washington-based group that lobbies vociferously against efforts to expand the rights of women, LGBTQ persons, and undocumented immigrants. They promote abortion bans and limits on access to birth control, support bills to overturn Obamacare, and are against expansion of Medicaid to those in need. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as a hate group. Josh Duggar not only came with the Christian right cred of his family name, but had also previously campaigned for 12-week abortion bans and for Rick Santorum. Tony Perkins snatched him up as the poster boy for an organization based on spreading stigma, discrimination, and other similar “family values.”
It’s not clear whether Perkins knew when he hired Duggar that as a teen, Duggar had been accused of multiple instances of child sexual molestation, including molestation of some of his sisters while they were sleeping. According to In Touch magazine, which broke the story this week, the molestation first came to light in 2002, when Jim Bob became aware of the first of what were apparently several instances of Josh’s child sexual molestation. The details and timeline as reported in this article are not completely clear, but it appears there were several delays between when Jim Bob found out about the acts of molestation and when he first spoke to church elders about the incidents. There were then even further delays of several months or even years before authorities were contacted, followed by the refusal of Jim Bob to allow Josh to be questioned by authorities. Then, in another twist, In Touch reports “the state trooper who originally took the report about Josh shortly before 2005 never followed up. That state trooper was later convicted on child pornography charges and is serving a 56-year prison sentence.” According to In Touch, the three-year statute of limitations had passed by the time other authorities found out about the case and the investigation was discontinued.
Further confusion arises from the apparent dissembling by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar with regard to the steps they took to address what any functional family would clearly see as a serious problem. Jim Bob first told authorities and others that he and Michelle had sent Josh for “counseling” and “hard physical work,” reports In Touch. In fact, she had merely sent him to live with a family friend who was working on a home remodeling project.
Josh Duggar posted a statement on Facebook on Thursday that read:
Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.
He also published a resignation letter, published by People magazine, in which he expresses his regret for the effects of this news on FRC and its agenda.
Each of the statements made by Josh Duggar, his parents, and by FRC focus on actions Josh took as a teen. At no point do either he or his parents express concern for the victims of his actions, nor do they or FRC address or condemn the broader issue of sexual abuse and coercion.
In her robocalls to voters against the Fayetteville anti-discrimination ordinance, Michelle Duggar, who clearly knew about her son’s past, said: “I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.”
Apparently, in addition to fomenting hatred and undermining public health and human rights, Duggar-style Christian family values involve unfairly and unjustly projecting onto others the actions of those under your own roof.