April 2024 Church & State Magazine - April 2024

N.C. private school gets vouchers despite controversial theology


A private Christian academy in Concord, N.C., has received nearly $600,000 in taxpayer aid under the state’s voucher plan despite holding extreme, anti-democratic views.

Daniel Christian Academy is one of several religious schools taking part in North Carolina’s voucher plan. Under the program, 88% of the private schools receiving state aid are religious.

On his blog, “Notes from the Chalkboard,” writer Justin Parmenter pointed out last month that the school boasts that its purpose is to “raise the next generation of leaders who will transform the heart of our nation” by equipping students “to enter the Seven Mountains of Influence.”

“Seven Mountains of Influence” refers to a term popular among an extreme faction of Christian Nationalist groups. Under this form of theology, “dominionist” Christians — that is to say, literal theocrats — seek to win control of American society by taking control of seven key institutions: family, education, media, government, business, arts/entertainment and religion.

As Parmenter noted, Seven Mountains theology has been around since the 1970s but didn’t really take off until 2013 when evangelist Lance Wallnau published a book titled, Invading Babylon: The 7 Mountain Mandate.

The goal of these dominionists is to take control of all facets of society, but they often don’t say that out loud. As Parmenter notes, Wallnau gave a speech in 2011 advising his followers to choose their language carefully.

“If you’re talking to a secular audience, you don’t talk about having dominion over them. This … language of takeover, it doesn’t actually help,” Wallnau said.

Parmenter asked Frederick Clarkson, senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, to comment on why we ought to care that Daniel Christian Academy is receiving taxpayer support through vouchers.

“North Carolina taxpayers should be concerned that they are helping to underwrite an academy for training children to become warriors against not only the rights of others, but against democracy and its institutions,” Clarkson responded. “The idea of the Seven Mountain Mandate is for Christians of the right sort to take dominion – which is to say power and influence — over the most important sectors of society. It is theocratic in orientation and its vision is forever.

“This is not something that is about liberals and conservatives,” Clarkson added. “Most Christians including most evangelicals, Catholics, and mainline Protestants are deemed not just insufficiently Christian, but may be viewed as infested with demons, and standing in the way of the advancement of the Kingdom of God on Earth. And they will need to be dealt with.”

Daniel Christian Academy isn’t the only controversial Christian school receiving tax funding in North Carolina. Parmenter reported earlier this year that Tabernacle Christian School in Monroe has received $3.6 million in taxpayer support since the 2014-15 school year. In August of 2023, Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle, which sponsors the school, gave a sermon asserting that women who wear shorts can’t complain if they are sexually assaulted.

“If you dress like that and you get raped, and I’m on the jury, he’s gonna go free. … I can’t help if you don’t like it, I’m right,” Leonard said. “Cause, ya know, a man’s a man. A man’s a man.”

Other voucher-receiving schools in North Carolina bar members of certain faiths. Fayetteville Christian School won’t admit “Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, non Messianic Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists” and says homosexuality is “deviate [sic] and perverted.”

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