Josh Duggar, the eldest child of the 19 kid Duggar family, has resigned his post as executive director of FRC Action, the political and lobbying arm of the far-right Family Research Council, over multiple alleged molestation incidents which took place when he was a teenager. The Duggars, in the unlikely case you’re not familiar with them, are the subjects of a long running reality TV show, 19 Kids and Counting, chronicling their lives as an evangelical family raising 19 biological children from more or less nonstop child-bearing by matriarch Michelle Duggar.
The family has also served as semi-official mascots of the pro-life and anti-gay rights movements in the United States. The FRC is classed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Josh Duggar is an outspoken advocate of discrimination against gays and lesbians. He has also, ironically, repeatedly attacked members of the LGBT community as threats to the well-being of young children.
This evening the FRC posted the following statement on its website …
“Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.
“Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved,” concluded Perkins.
Both Josh Duggar, the now-resigned executive director of FRC Action, and his parents and even his wife have now released statements admitting to the truth of the allegations. What’s not entirely clear though is just what happened. No charges were ever brought against Josh Duggar. And father Jim Bob apparently would not allow his son to be interviewed by police when they finally opened an investigation three years after the incidents occurred.
The Duggar Family is known for forbidding any intimate physical contact at all prior to marriage. Josh Duggar was 14 and 15 when the incidents occurred and involved fondling 5 underage girls (possibly including one or more of his sisters). But there is no detail about the ages of the girls in question. And reports are somewhat vague about exactly what Duggar admitted to. Most of the incident appear to have involved Duggar fondling the girls’ genitals while they slept, but sometimes also while they were awake. Police clearly believed that an investigation was warranted. But given the family’s extreme aversion to any intimate contact of any type prior to marriage, the uncertainty of the ages of the girls involved and the lack of more detail about consent or coercion, I think it makes sense to at least consider the possibility that the incidents in question may have been more innocent or more complicated than these published reports suggest.
To be clear, this is not meant to diminish in any way that gravity of what appears to have happened. It is simply to suggest that there are enough wildcards in play that we should be even more than usual open to the possibility that we may not have an accurate picture of what happened.
That said, local police clearly thought a formal investigation was warranted.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
Duggar at the time was a minor. But where the story takes a more complicated and perhaps sinister turn is the behavior of his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle. The Duggars apparently told the elders of their church about the incidents in question but not local police authorities.
Later they claimed that they had sent Josh to a Christian counseling program to cure him of whatever was driving his abusive behavior. But under police questioning, Michele Duggar admitted that it wasn’t a counseling program at all but rather “a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building.”
The interviewing detective asked if the remodeling guy was a “mentor” and Duggar said “kind of.”
When Josh returned from his time with the mentor in Little Rock, father Jim Bob along with a group of church elders took Josh to talk to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens, a personal friend of Jim Bob’s. Hutchens took no official action and apparently made no report of the incident but rather had a “stern talk” with Josh.
Alas, former state trooper Hutchens is now serving hard time on child pornography charges. He was originally sent to prison two years after the stern talk, released and then convicted again in 2010. He is currently serving a 56 year term. So he may not have been the best person to have Josh talk to.
Joseph T. Hutchens, Arkansas Department of Corrections
Josh Duggar released the following statement to People magazine …
“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.”
Another statement was released by Duggar’s parents …
“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives,” Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, said in a joint statement. “When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.”
Their statement continues, “Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.”