|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Daniel Webster’s association with Bill Gothard’s Institute For Basic Life Training has continued into the present, and a speech Webster made at a Nashville IBLP conference in 2009 has now become a source of controversy due to a new Alan Grayson campaign ad. Grayson is currently taking a media drubbing because of an ad campaign ad that calls Grayson’s political opponent, Republican Daniel Webster, “Taliban Dan.”
An assessment from Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, has charged that a new Grayson campaign ad attacking Grayson’s political opponent, Republican Daniel Webster, takes out of context statements Webster made in a speech at a 2009 conference of a religious organization called the “Institute of Basic Life Principles.”
But die-hard religious right researchers at ReligionDispatches.org are raising questions about Factcheck.org’s charge, and Religion Dispatches editor Sarah Posner calls out Factcheck.org in turn for its benign depiction of Bill Gothard’s IBLP, noting that “Factcheck.org fails… to describe what the IBLP is really about, describing it as a “non-denominational Christian organization that runs programs and training sessions.”
Many across the political spectrum appear appalled by the Grayson campaign’s “Taliban” label but Daniel Webster’s nearly three-decade long, intimate involvement with the Bill Gothard and the Institute For Basic Life Principles suggests that the label may be less than hyperbolic.
More on Bill Gothard and Gothardism
As described in a February 18, 1999 story in the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, by Bob Norman, Bill Gothard’s Character First! curriculum, now being taught in public school systems across the United States, teaches an extreme form of submission to authority. As Norman’s story begins,
One of the lessons for today is obedience, and the first graders at the school inside the First Christian Church building in Fort Lauderdale sing about it quite obediently.
While the students at the Charter School of Excellence are divided fairly evenly between blacks and whites, they dress alike, with the boys in dark blue pants and green buttoned-up golf shirts and the girls wearing white blouses under plaid jumpers. All eyes are focused on their young and attractive teacher, Mrs. Blocker, who leads them in song:
Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly.
For when I am busy at my work or play,
And someone calls my name, I’ll answer right away!
I’ll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say “Yes, sir!” “Yes ma’am!”
Hup, two, three!
A July 20, 1995 story in the Dallas Observer, by Julie Lyons, underscores the authoritarian nature of Gothard’s programs and also corroborates Alan Grayson’s charge that Daniel Webster indeed referred to a Gothardite doctrine of female submission in his 2009 Nashville speech. As Lyons writes,
“It is one of the stranger sights in South Dallas: each day, when the weather is fair, 125 teenage girls stream out of the Ambassador hotel and cross the street into Old City Park. The girls are dressed almost identically, in navy blue smocks and skirts and crisp, lace-collared blouses, their long hair cinched with bows or bands. All but a few of the teens are white.
No, these teens aren’t part of the exhibits at Old City Park, or some lost tribe of Girl Scouts. But they are vestiges of values past, students in an eight-week religious finishing school–works in progress at a factory seeking to build pure and perfect teens. The program is called EXCEL, which stands for “Excellence in Character, Education, and Leadership.” It costs $900 per teen.
The girls, who range in age from 15 to the early 20s, come to Dallas from all over the country for the year-old residential program at the Ambassador. Though they hail from a variety of evangelical and fundamentalist churches, they’ve all been nurtured in the “basic life principles” of well-known Bible teacher Bill Gothard–principles that include unquestioning obedience to their parents, future submission to their husbands, eschewing rock music and television, and remaining chaste.
A January 9, 2006 In These Times report from Silja J.A. Talvi suggested that Bill Gothard’s approach has changed little if at all since then, and other news reports have also underscored the same authoritarian, anti-feminist streak in Gothard’s teachings.