And many others, such as Sarah Palin, as mayor of Wasilla, have attended his ostensibly secular (but not) International Association of Character Cities (IACC) conferences, based on his 49 character traits, and declared their municipalities “Cities of Character.” The supposedly secularized version of Gothard’s “character traits” have been taught in public schools.
Gothard doesn’t deny he teaches adherence to what he calls “the commands of Christ.” And even though he has developed his own highly unusual interpretation of the Bible, he insists he’s not demanding that his followers obey him, but that they obey God (or how he singularly has interpreted God’s word).The religious right Florida Family Policy Council named its annual award honoring “outstanding service to the pro-life and pro-family principles” after him.Recipients have included the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon.Following this path, he tells me cheerfully, will bring one “success and health and happiness and joy.” “Laws in Harmony with the Laws of God” In a video of Webster’s appearance at a 2003 Advanced Training Institute (ATI) seminar, for sale at the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) website, Webster described how making a “commitment” to Gothard’s teachings “absolutely changed my life.” Those commitments, he went on, “are the basis for everything I do today.” Webster isn’t the only member of Congress with deep connections to Gothard. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who just became chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, is the chair of the board of directors of the IBLP.Other politicians, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, have spoken at IBLP conferences, and Mike Huckabee is fan.
Venoit told me he doesn’t consider Gothard’s organization a cult, but that Gothard’s “view of authority is the core of where things go wrong.” Gothard teaches, in the first hour of the first night of his “basic” seminar that “authority is like an umbrella of protection.” If you get out of that protection, “you are in rebellion, which is like witchcraft,” and “all evil will befall you,” said Venoit. Gothard says that Venoit’s descriptions of his teachings are a “distortion”—but his defense is that all he is teaching is the necessity of obeying God’s commands.