Source: Queen City Nerve
For someone who considers themselves a man of God, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson sure has a strange way of showing acceptance and love for others, whether that’s by attacking members of the LGBTQ+ community, lashing out against abortion (despite paying for one himself), saying that women can’t be leaders, or being antisemitic and Islamophobic.
What makes his behavior even more strange is that many of the awful things he’s said were spoken inside churches. There’s a particular church that loves Robinson and supports his policies and hateful rhetoric – Freedom House Church, an influential evangelical church in Charlotte.
The reason why Freedom House Church is so eager to associate with Robinson is that the lead pastors and cofounders of the church – Penny and Troy Maxwell – share many of the same hateful beliefs, according to an investigation into the pair by Queen City Nerve.
The Maxwells founded the church in 2002 after moving from Richmond, Virginia. The couple operated satellite church services out of schools in north Charlotte before purchasing property in 2006 and opening their flagship location in 2011, Queen City Nerve reported. In April 2017, another Freedom House location opened, and then another opened in October 2019. They are looking to open a south Charlotte location but need to raise $1.6 million for a deposit on their church’s fourth campus.
In addition to their Charlotte churches, there is also a Freedom House Lodge, which is a mountain campus retreat for the church’s “Strong Men” movement. According to Queen City Nerve, “Church leaders don shirts with the slogan ‘Make Men Men Again,’ and believe the lodge will be ‘a place of life change for the men of our church.’”
They also have Freedom Academy, a private “biblically-based environment” where the lessons are rooted in right-wing political ideology.
“It’s integral that our children are able to get an education without the nonsense of woke ideaologies [sic] that directly go against Biblical principles — and Freedom Academy is our solution,” reads a Facebook post from the church in June 2022.
Penny Maxwell is well-known in Charlotte for her homophobic and transphobic views. She doesn’t hide them and is known for spouting off anti-LGBTQ+ hate in Instagram posts and videos. In June, Penny Maxwell, a woman named Lisa Metzger, and a group called Protect North Carolina Kids spent the day attacking and harassing the owner of Free Will Craft + Vine during a drag brunch. The event wasn’t anything new for the bar because, according to Queen City Nerve, they had hosted more than 30 drag brunches without incident before they became Penny Maxwell’s target.
“We’ve never had anyone physically show up. Leading up to this one, they were calling and harassing the staff, which blew my mind,” owner Joel Cox told Queen City Nerve.
Free Will + Vine recently closed, but Cox said it had nothing to do with Penny Maxwell’s attacks and in fact, the bar would have closed even sooner if not for the success of the drag brunch events.
“We would have folded a lot faster without [the drag brunches], for sure,” he said. “They were some of our biggest days. We were doing them once a month … we’ve been doing the drag brunches very consistently for two and a half years.”
On June 24, Free Will hosted a Pride Month drag brunch that brought out about six protesters who stood near the bar and held signs telling people not to attend the brunch due to the “sexualization of children.”
The call to protest the drag brunch was first posted on the Protect NC Kids Instagram account and was then shared by Penny Maxwell who encouraged her supporters to show up at the protest (Penny herself didn’t show up, though). According to Queen City Nerve, a video from the protest and videos taken from the Instagram pages of the drag queens who performed, as well as location tags, were posted by Metzger on her Instagram page and then shared by Penny Maxwell.
Maxwell wasn’t satisfied with that, though. She took it even further by posting a picture of Cox, his LinkedIn profile, his wife’s Instagram page, and pictures of several moms who attended with their children. Penny asked her followers to call Child Protective Services against the mothers. Her post was also shared by right-wing extremist David Harris Jr., who has over a million followers on Instagram.
“These parents needs [sic] to have DSS come in and investigate them. The sexualization of children is absolutely wrong. If you mess with innocent children, you should be held accountable. This is horrific! Maybe if we start calling out these woke parents, these children will have a chance! This is absolutely the parents [sic] fault just as well as establishments for hosting half-naked, gyrating, drag queens and having their babies hand dollar bills to them. This is disgusting behavior. (Account handle removed) (Account handle removed) (Account Handle removed) need a visit from DSS!,” the post read.
Penny Maxwell included the number to the Department of Social Services in her Instagram Stories. The three mothers who were tagged in the post had to deactivate their accounts due to the harassment and abuse they endured.
As Queen City Nerve notes, Penny Maxwell’s hate-filled Instagram page doesn’t double as a platform for Freedom House, but she is a public figure of the church and the church makes no effort to hide their political leanings. Freedom House has hosted right-wing politicians like ex-Vice President Mike Pence, as well as far-right extremists such as Candace Owens, Charlie Kirk and Robinson.
Penny and Troy Maxwell have also met with the twice-impeached disgraced former President Donald Trump. According to a post by Penny Maxwell, she and her husband were at Trump’s home in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Aug. 4, with other pastors from across the country. They were there to discuss policy before Trump had to leave for Washington to be arrested on his third felony indictment.
The Maxwells have also spent time with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, supported the idea that you cannot be a Christian and vote for a Democrat, pushed “Bible-based candidates” on their congregation, and expressed support for North Carolina Republican Rep. John Bradford’s reelection campaign.
According to research by Queen City Nerve, Penny Maxwell has made 69 posts either pushing a political candidate to her followers or bashing other ones since Jan. 1 of this year. During that same time, Queen City Nerve tracked 130 anti-queer posts on Maxwell’s account, along with a number of COVID, abortion and education misinformation posts, including 43 posts about Target’s Pride section between May 3-28 alone.
Penny Maxwell’s Instagram page is so full of misinformation that when a user tries following her on the mobile app they get a pop-up that asks, “Are you sure you want to follow pennymaxwell?” and explains that her account “has repeatedly posted false information that was reviewed by independent fact-checkers…”
But it’s not just Penny who has posted in support of politicians on social media, Freedom House Church has also made multiple posts supporting Republican candidates, including Tyler Lee, who ran for Congress against Rep. Alma Adams last year and lost by more than 25 points.
“God called Tyler to Congress … And if you want to help Tyler make a difference, go out and vote on November 8th!” the church’s post read.
Freedom House has hosted Mark Robinson multiple times in the last two years, “with all of the senior pastors from the church supporting and sharing his extremist ideologies on their personal pages,” Queen City Nerve reported. Robinson spoke at the church in May 2022, met with the church’s executive team this June, and in 2021 visited the home of the Maxwells for a private fundraising dinner that included members and leaders of the church.
Aside from hosting Robinson multiple times at their church, North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) records show that Freedom House Church leaders donated multiple times to Robinson’s gubernatorial campaign between 2021-2023, donating the maximum amount possible, Queen City Nerve reported.
According to NCSBE records, church staff donated a total of $10,400 to Robinson. In June, Penny Maxwell contributed the maximum amount of $6,400 to Friends of Mark Robinson. NCSBE records also show that Troy Maxwell made a $2,000 contribution to Friends of Mark Robinson, along with $1,000 from campus pastor Aaron Blanton, $500 from executive director of finance and human resources Olan Carder, and $500 from human resources director and executive assistant to the senior pastors Betty Greco.
It is perfectly acceptable for a private citizen to express support for a specific candidate or policies, no matter how disgusting they may be, but where it becomes questionable is when such prominent church figures like Penny and Troy Maxwell blur the line between their personal views and endorsements and those of their tax-exempt church.
It is illegal for tax-exempt churches to endorse political candidates when they are running for office. Under Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code a tax-exempt entity may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
Aside from the possible violation of IRS codes by Freedom House Church, the importance of Robinson’s connection to Penny Maxwell and her church is that, despite being irrelevant to anyone outside Charlotte, she is an extremist who is proud to attack the LGBTQ+ community, doxx small businesses owners and their families, and to try to get children taken away from their mothers simply because they attended a drag brunch. And Robinson is happy to associate himself with people as disgusting as the Maxwells, he’s happy to take the money they raise for his campaign, and he’s happy to show up at their church and yell transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic and antisemitic statements while also pushing conspiracy theories on the congregation. Robinson is trying to become governor for all North Carolinians and being associated with people like Penny Maxwell and churches like Freedom House should be a red flag for many voters.