City officials in several cities around the country are sounding the whistle on what they are being taught about character at a center in Indianapolis. The center is the focus of a state investigation and a potential class action lawsuit.
The signature of Bill Gothard on a plaque was enough for some cities to turn down what Indianapolis has embraced. Gothard is the evangelist behind the now troubled Indianapolis Training Center.
Nancy Taylor, a Hayden, Idaho city-council member told the I-Team, "You can paint the 'Character Cities' program as being totally independent of Bill Gothard and his ministries, and yet through and through he is part of it."
A mayor and two city-council members from three Idaho cities came to Indianapolis two years ago for the 5th Annual International Conference for Mayors and Government Leaders. The conference was held at the Indianapolis Training Center. A letter from Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson welcomed the group and touted Indianapolis as a "City of Character."
Concerned for other cities, the three Idaho city officials talked with the News 8 I-Team. Chris Copstead of the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho city council stated that the conference "was not a politically motivated conference -- it was strictly a religious revival."
Taylor said that "when we had dinner we would sit with the young men while being served by the young women. No young women were sitting at the tables eating. They were serving the meals."
Separated by gender during part of the conference, Taylor described what the female politicians were told; "I needed to be submissive and obedient to my husband."
Upset with the message they were being asked to go back and sell to their own cities, Taylor wanted to go out for a run. She said that "at the bottom of the stairs I pushed on the fire escape door [and found] it was locked." She had to request the front door be unlocked.
Taylor also said "there was no phone, no clock, no TV, no radio, no contact with the outside world." She literally had to run downtown to the office of Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson. But "nobody knew what I was talking about," said Taylor. "They had no idea Indianapolis was a 'Character City' at the mayor's office."
But should they have known? The News 8 I-Team found the Indianapolis City-County Council even passed a resolution adopting the Gothard "Character City" beliefs in 1999.
"We were brought there under false pretense," said Copstead.
"They want cities to go into the home and tell the people how to raise their children," added Athol, Idaho Mayor Lanny Spurlock. "No government has any business telling someone how to raise their kids."
Taylor said she never did get a response from Mayor Peterson's office.
Taylor also said that they were awakened at the center to loud marching music at six in the morning. She added that she and the others watched the "youth walk about with this blank face, this blank stare and you wonder what else could be coming over and playing on the speakers all the time." When they tried to disconnect the speakers Taylor says other music, barely audible, could be heard. "I believe there really could have been subliminal messages coming over the speaker."
The I-Team has also learned there is opposition to this program in other states. In Michigan, some have formed a committee to keep lawmakers from adopting it and from putting this program into schools.
An attorney claims the Indianapolis Training Center is not affiliated with the "Character Cities" program. However, it is listed in a recent brochure for Bill Gothard's ministry. It was also on the ministry's website, but was removed when the News 8 I-Team began asking questions.
Meanwhile, the city-county council will hear a proposal Monday night to stop any taxpayer funding to the center. Public comment on that will be Wednesday, February 27th at 5pm in room 260 of the city-county building.