Liz Turner, Institute in Basic Life Principles survivor
In a series of TikToks, Liz Turner detailed her adolescence within the Institute in Basic Life Principles.

What's it like being in a cult? One TikTok user is sharing her story of surviving a patriarchal Christian "cult" group that has unique ties to a certain family of reality TV stars.

In a series of TikTok videos, Elizabeth Turner details her experience with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (often called ATI) after being adopted at the age of 10.

The controversial Christian sect was established by minister Bill Gothard in the early 1960s and has a focus on members living strict conservative biblical principles, including extreme modesty and a strong focus on traditional gender roles.

After escaping her former life, Turner is pulling back the curtain on this sometimes-mysterious ministry and explaining her experience coming of age in what she is now calling a cult.

The Institute in Basic Life Principles

“The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) was established for the purpose of introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ,” states the IBLP’s website. But as Turner details in her viral TikTok videos, that introduction is through an extremely conservative, patriarchal, and isolating lens. 

“No TV, no music, no pop culture, and that the dad in the home was the absolute authority on everything,” is how she described her upbringing in a video that has hundreds of thousands of views. “Whatever your dad said was absolute law, and you had to do whatever your dad wanted you to do or you were disobeying God himself.”

In one video, she details the extent to which her father controlled her life – right down to her wardrobe choices. “My dad didn’t like the color green,” she explains in one video. “So even though I was a natural redhead, I was not allowed to wear the color green.”

In another video, Turner explains her homeschooled education, which consisted of learning baking, sewing, and babysitting her younger siblings.

She was prohibited from flirting with boys, because it was understood that her father would choose her husband for her.

Turner also talks about how she came to discover this group was a "cult," as she now calls it.

Describing how she was often put on babysitting duty for her younger sister, she stated that “when my younger sister fought against [being babysat] and would refuse to hang out beside me, my parents got a rope and tied us together.”

The moment clicked for her when she was explaining this to her therapist, who told her this was child abuse.

A Reality TV Connection

The Institute in Basic Life Principles is perhaps best known for its connection to the Duggar family, of reality TV fame. The Duggars came to national prominence as the focus of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, which explored the ever-expanding family of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. 

Followers of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, the Duggars utilized these strict teachings when homeschooling their 19 children. 

ATI education has a focus on a conservative upbringing of strict biblical principles. Its teachings include claims that some illnesses are curses from God for lack of faithfulness.

Following their rise to fame, however, the Duggars have been plagued by a series of scandals.

In 2015, child molestation allegations surfaced against Josh Duggar, one of the older children featured on the show. Duggar ultimately admitted to molesting younger girls – including his own sister. Then, in 2021, Duggar was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. He was recently sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison.

Some have pointed out a potential connection between IBLP teachings and Duggar’s crimes. An ATI handbook obtained by In Touch Weekly called "Counseling Sexual Abuse" reportedly says that sexual abuse can be caused by the victim “defrauding” the perpetrator with “immodest dress” and “indecent exposure.” 

What is your reaction?

42 comments

  1. Ty Ford's Avatar Ty Ford

    As a senior member of SAG/AFTRA, I can say that people shown on realty TV are not "stars." Not even if they show up in the tabloids sold at food store check out lines. Usually they are anything but.

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      I would agree, they are typically victims who are being exploited.

  1. Kathryn Darcy Smith's Avatar Kathryn Darcy Smith

    Christianity IS a cult. Always has been. It's basis is stolen ideas from other faiths throughout history in order to extort wealth and power. MILLLIONS have died at the hands of "Christians" throughout history. Anyone smart enough to read MORE THAN ONE religious text, will quickly come to realize the tenants of the Christian faith is not original by ANY means. That is HUGE REASON why MANY ULC ministers are NOT Christian, or are RADICALLY fundamentalist "Christians". They either got smart and read OUTSIDE the Bible, or they are so deep in the kool-aid, that no mainstream Christian religion will have them. Prove me wrong.

    1. Jim Randolph Self's Avatar Jim Randolph Self

      Thank you for that truth. I agree with you 100% as to Christianity being a cult. The personality erroneously called Jesus said himself that he only came for a few . He also revealed his innermost teachings to the 12. Sounds like the making of a cult to me.

    2. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

      No need to prove you wrong. You do a good job on your own. Stop yelling it only makes you sound stupid.

    3. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      There also seem to be a non-trivial number of ULC ‘ministers’ that lack any faith whatsoever. Having ‘credentials’ was just a lark for me. But there are also some rather fundamentalist individuals on here who apparently just want to make their delusional beliefs more ‘official’ and be known as a ‘leader’.

  1. Kathryn Darcy Smith's Avatar Kathryn Darcy Smith

    Christianity IS a cult. Always has been. It's basis is stolen ideas from other faiths throughout history in order to extort wealth and power. MILLLIONS have died at the hands of "Christians" throughout history. Anyone smart enough to read MORE THAN ONE religious text, will quickly come to realize the tenants of the Christian faith is not original by ANY means. That is HUGE REASON why MANY ULC ministers are NOT Christian, or are RADICALLY fundamentalist "Christians". They either got smart and read OUTSIDE the Bible, or they are so deep in the kool-aid, that no mainstream Christian religion will have them. Prove me wrong.

    1. Jim Randolph Self's Avatar Jim Randolph Self

      I agree 100%.

    2. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

      Love this!

  1. Alexander Arends's Avatar Alexander Arends

    I would want to study this lifestyle and see if it has a positive or negative affect on the children as they mature. I was raised in a similar environment 60+ years ago that now appears to be far too extreme. As children we were well behaved (well, most of the time) and disciplined. It was God vs the world and the world was bad. And the Bible was God's law.

    We may not agree with many of these practices, but they should be allowed to exist in countries where the government does not prescribe a water downed religion, or where religion serves to satisfy mankind rather than God.

    My experience is that children brought up in this type of environment grow up to be responsible adults and place a high value on human life. As adults, we should examine our faith and probably turn into a different direction, but few will vilify their upbringing.

    1. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

      My experience as an adult who grew up in a pentecostal cult-like environment is that children are well-behaved out of FEAR and GUILT. Same things that motivate the adults to keep going back to that elaborately shame-creating ponzi scheme. I've since de-conditioned myself and am apphalled at what I was taught and how it destroyed any chance self-worth before I was able to even build it up at all. No one should be constantly asking forgiveness for their own existence. That is a disgusting to teach any human.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Yes all those seductive 4 year olds need their burkas and full body robes so that they stay pure when there daddy comes at age 5 to introduce them personally to womanhood so they are properly god-fearing when they are married at age 6. What's the problem?

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    It's not just one women, there are many.... Interesting how it's seems as if it's always the women who are smart enough to realize they are in cults and need to leave? Dawn Smith gave an excellent TED talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/dawn_smith_why_i_left_an_evangelical_cult/transcript?language=en So did Lilia Tarawa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS7mBbXxJYA&t=565s

    It's embarrassing to see what Christians do to keep people Christian. Beatings, physical viloance vloance and and rape,

    1. Joy 's Avatar Joy

      Thank you for posting those videos. They are amazing and powerful.

  1. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

    The only difference between a religion and a cult is the number of members. That and the fact that all religious beliefs are delusional, the only difference being a matter of degree.cults just have smaller numbers and are more delusional.

    1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

      The delusional one is you. There are major differences between religion and cults. But I will not waste my time trying to explain anything to someone as delusional as you.

      1. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

        Your concern regarding your time being wasted is justified. Keeping your thoughts to yourself appreciated.

      2. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

        Hey I'm someone who hasn't personally offended you yet- Maybe you have an explanation for me?

    2. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Here's another video you might find inspiring.... This women, Aimee Mullins was born without any any bones in her legs. Here's here incredible story. https://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_changing_my_legs_and_my_mindset?language=en And about 10 years later. https://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_my_12_pairs_of_legs?language=en

      Inspiring...

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool. - Mark Twain.

  1. Thunder's Avatar Thunder

    Here's a venerable neopagan perspective on cult identification.

    https://neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html

    Truth is, Abrahamic religion has for well over 2000 years shown itself again and again to be a constant source of violent xenophobic genocide cults driven by mass delusions resulting from advocating for literal belief in a pseudohistorical fantasy novel. People who continue to advocate for this cult are no different than neoNazis, or any other group which pretends their saccharine platitudes can sweep 2000+ years of world-wide hatred and mass murder under the rug.

  1. Bryan Bauman's Avatar Bryan Bauman

    The Left's wokism is a cult. No one admits that.

    1. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

      Cancel culture is ridiculous but definitely not a cult just based on structure alone, but you might like John McWhorter and thinkers of that vain who are on the same page: https://youtu.be/1G8z7gognoI

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Who actually signs these churches up .is there no governing body Like we have in the UK Or can anyone start a Church usually for illegal gains profit and money.As for what I was taught at school. It was all about The Church God Jesus and the Virgin Mary I'm stumped as to how churches can brain wash people. You couldn't do that to me.Only a fool parts from his money.Just recently on You tube there's a video of David Kuresh and the branch of Davidson .What an eye opener.

    1. Amy Minckler's Avatar Amy Minckler

      In the US this is all you need to do

      Incorporate your church Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (F.E.I.N.) Create and adopt Bylaws for your church Establish policies and procedures Apply for and obtain the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status

    2. Jim Randolph Self's Avatar Jim Randolph Self

      I think that there is nothing wrong with the fundamental principles of religions. It's the leader of the groups understanding of the teachings that sometimes goes astray and begins to borderline on "brainwashing ". Like when you force your understanding of the scriptures and don't allow for others to express their understanding. Especially when it differs.

      1. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

        You just described the actual determining factor that makes a religion a religion... it requires a leader, dictation, and indoctrination. Without those elements, what do you have? Simple spirituality and brainwashing religions are two entirely different beasts due to this factor. Well-spotted.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    So let me see if I got this right....the Amish follow the same teachings and they are a recognized religion, this guy does the same thing on the same rules and this little twerp calls him a cult? Seems she hasnt grown up yet. A cult stops you from leaving, she does not look like she was stopped from doing anything. Maybe she is just being obstinate and doing her version of Rumspringa

    1. John R Goss's Avatar John R Goss

      The Amish bear very little similarity to what is described here. And you miss the cultural precepts that reinforce (or reject) the actions taken by groups. "Cult" is always defined with respect to social norms--there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cult.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        The Amish are EXACTLY what is described here. I have had them work on my home, I have visited them in their home and I am not that far from Grabile Indiana which is the largest collection of the Amish in Indiana, not to mention that I am close friends with their local Bishop. You can lie to yourself but you wont lie here

        1. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

          You are not her and did not have her experience.

          1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

            And neither are you. You really need to do more of your homework before you start believing such a bunch of claptrap. If she was so worried, then why did she stay? I mean get real if it was this bad all she had to do was get the info to Child protective services and it would have been all over. You cant be this gullible.

            1. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

              P.S. the fact that you can't grasp the basic psychology of brainwashing and conditioning is pretty revealing.

              1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

                No thats YOUR OPINION and nothing you have said is based on fact. Try again

              2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

                the fact I stated is reality and fact and what you have stated is neither, clearly shows your bias and agenda

              3. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

                You thinking other people's lives are not facts just proves your delusion.

              4. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

                Nope I am stating fact and reality. unlike you

          2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

            No and neither do you. But from what I have dealt with in the Amish Community, they do the same thing and it can be proved by a simple visit to Penn Dutch country or Grabil Indiana. So pardon me if I call bull on her claim

            1. DubSpell's Avatar DubSpell

              I lived in MD, met many a mennonite and amish family. You are not the only one with that knowledge. But not sure where you are getting this Amish comparison from besides your limited experience, as she's not referring to the amish religion as far as I can tell here. Fyi someone who grew up in a similar situation such as I did does NOT need to "do their homework" as the experience was repeatedly inflicted on my throughout my childhood and adolescence. Yes, CHILDhood. Meaning I was a child like this person was. When someone is indoctrinated with religious nonsense at a young age before learning how the world really works and is placed in an extensive echo chamber there's really no hope for them until they can leave the home. I lived and witnessed this. Saw many of my childhood friends go through the same thing. Your invalidation is uninquisitive, harmfully judgmental, close-minded and straight up negative. Good luck growing into anything with that sad state of mind. Lol my trauma and therapy are my homework you dimwit.

              1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

                And I deal with the Amish on a daily basis, so who do we listen to. You or someone that deals with them on a daily basis?

    2. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      Christian churches will do all they can to ‘stop members from leaving’. Pray for them, send other members to convince them to stay. Cults and religions are both groups of delusional individuals and the difference is the number of people involved.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        Um sorry but no. Your claims are your opinions only. If they were true, then why do you constantly post that a lot of people are leaving the Christian Church if they are a cult as you claim?

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