Alberta home-school group backs Duggars, says abuse scandal is 'old news'
In this Aug. 2, 2007 file photo, Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, second from left, after the birth of her 17th child in Rogers, Ark. (AP Photo/ Beth Hall, File)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, October 29, 2015 3:17PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 29, 2015 4:30PM EDT
EDMONTON -- An Alberta home-schooling association is standing by a controversial U.S. reality TV couple slated to speak at its upcoming annual convention.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are to give a keynote address at the Alberta Home Education Convention in Red Deer in April.
The long-running show "19 Kids and Counting" chronicled the religious Arkansas couple and their growing number of home-schooled children.
The TLC program was pulled in July after revelations that their oldest child, Josh, had fondled four of his sisters and a family babysitter when he was a teenager.
The couple has stated that, instead of going to police, they put their son in a Christian rehabilitation program and the abuse was resolved and forgiven.
The scandal grew when media later reported that the leader of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, which the Duggars followed with their home-schooling, was being sued over sex abuse allegations. Josh Duggar also attended one of the institute's facilities as a teen.
The Alberta Home Education Association, which is organizing the convention, says in a statement on its website that board members decided to keep the Duggars on the agenda.
It says the molestation happened more than a decade ago and is "old news."
"The AHEA does not condone Josh's behaviour but wishes to follow the example of the victims in this situation who have expressed a desire to 'forgive and forget,"' said the statement.
"It is AHEA's hope that Jim Bob and Michelle will share what they learned as parents from these difficult experiences -- learning of Josh's behaviour then, and now living through the recent media hysteria."
The group says that it also chooses speakers who have been through difficult times, made mistakes as parents and "been in the trenches of home education and persevered."
While it doesn't expect all of its members to agree with the decision, the association says it has received a response of almost unanimous support for the famous family.
The president of the association was not available for comment.