A stunning civil lawsuit alleging a sex-abuse cover-up involving several minors has been filed in Illinois against a longtime Christian ministry that has taught millions of people in its seminars, has a variety of “family centered home education” programs, runs a prison ministry and a multitude of other outreaches worldwide.
The claim, filed by the Gibbs Law Firm, also alleges the organization is “liquidating assets” totaling more than $100 million “in an attempt to flee the jurisdiction (State of Illinois) where this wrongful conduct occurred.”
The filing against the Institute in Basic Life Principles was accepted in DePage County, the state’s 18th Judicial District, on Tuesday. It is on behalf of five plaintiffs, Gretchen Wilkinson, Jane Doe, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost and Rachel Lees.
Officials with the IBLP, when contacted by WND requesting comment, first said they did not know of the allegations. A second request submitted an hour later was turned away by a receptionist who said officials with the organization told her to relay a message that they would have no comment.
As this is a civil lawsuit involving a legal dispute among private parties, IBLP officials are not accused of a crime. Gibbs Law Firm officials said there were no police complaints filed regarding the situations cited in the filing. The civil action is seeking $50,000 plus per plaintiff.
They said the lawsuit was being brought to “seek redress and damages for personal injuries based on the negligent and willful and wanton acts and omissions of the defendants with regard to sexual abuse and sexual harassment and similar allegations of malfeasance suffered by the plaintiffs.”
“It is very concerning that while we were trying to negotiate a resolution of our clients[‘] claims against IBLP, the organization suddenly announced plans to move its headquarters out of the Chicago area to the state of Texas,” attorney David Gibbs III told WND.
“As our complaint states, the majority of the wrongful acts that we are suing IBLP for occurred in the state of Illinois. This gives us concern that IBLP may be trying to avoid paying our [clients] for their injuries. For this reason, we have asked the court – in our complaint – to impose a constructive trust on IBLP’s property,” Gibbs told WND.
The complaint does not provide specifics about any of the alleged incidents.
But it cites complaints regarding “negligence,” “willful and wanton” “indifference to and/or conscious disregard for a substantial risk of harm” and “civil conspiracy” to accomplish “an unlawful result through concerted action, specifically that they agreed not to comply with their affirmative, mandatory, non-discretionary and continuing duty to report any allegation of abuse or neglect of a minor about which they had reasonable belief.”
The plaintiffs are described variously as “a participant in IBLP seminars, a volunteer for IBLP,” a participant in the organization’s programs or an employee of IBLP.
Individuals named as defendants in the complaint were the group’s directors, John Stancil, Anthony Burrus, Gil Bates, Timothy Levendusky, Stephen Paine and David York.
“Each of the individual plaintiffs were the victim of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching, many times while they were minors, at the hand of the IBLP, by and through its agents and employees, and suffered as a result thereof,” the lawsuit states.
“On information and belief, at the relevant times to their claims, Defendant IBLP’s agents, employees and/or directors were aware or should have been aware of serious allegations of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching occurring to certain IBLP’s interns, and/or employees, including but not limited to the plaintiffs, initiated by IBLP’s agents/employees, but neither the defendant IBLP nor its agents, employees or directors reported these serious, potentially criminal allegations to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services, in accord with their duties and their statutory responsibilities,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, in February 2014, “after decades of allegations and internal reports of various types of sexual abuse,” IBLP hired a group to investigate, paying $50,000 for a report that was not released, but plaintiffs claim that was “nothing more than a cover-up.”
The result was that in November 2014, according to the complaint, IBLP said, “At this point, based upon those willing to be interviewed, no criminal activity has been discovered. If it had been, it would have been reported to the proper authorities immediately, as it will be in the future if any such activity is revealed. … However, the review showed that Mr. [Bill] Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner, and the board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach.”
The complaint notes that Gothard was removed from his post at the time.
“Defendant IBLP has now announced plans to sell off its significant holdings in the state of Illinois, where the majority of the sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching occurred and where the negligent and willful and wanton acts and omissions, including the cover-up thereof, occurred,” the complaint alleges. “Defendant IBLP has now also announced its intentions to relocate its headquarters to the state of Texas, in an attempt to flee the jurisdiction (State of Illinois) where this wrongful conduct occurred.”
It continues, “For these reasons, the plaintiffs seek the imposition of a constructive trust on all of defendant IBLP’s assets, [liquidated] or unliquidated, during the pendency of this matter to ensure that the plaintiffs’ claims, as set forth … will be properly compensated.”
Wilkinson, one of the plaintiffs, claims she and others have spent time and money due to the treatment they say they endured.
It has cost, she told WND, “dollars and hours counseling to put our lives back together.”
“It blows my mind that the board has ignored … and not once has the board reached out to me personally to ask, ‘How can we make this right?'” she told WND.
IBLP states online that the organization was founded by Gothard, who at age 15, “noticed some of his high school classmates making unwise decisions. Realizing that they would have to live with the consequences of these decisions, he was motivated to dedicate his life to helping young people make wise choices.”
The site explains that he later was invited by Wheaton College to teach a course called “Basic Youth Conflicts,” which developed into seminars and ultimately, the institute. The name Institute in Basic Life Principles was formally adopted in 1989.