During an October 2021 “Freedom Night in America” event at Dream City Church, a megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona, Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), talked about Vermont as a new frontier for organizing—and evangelizing—for the Right.
“Somebody was like, ‘What are you doing there?’” Kirk said. “Exactly. We as Christians, conservatives, have to go places that we’ve never been before, especially the ones where we’re not always in the predominant viewpoint.”
Kirk and his organization have always gone to some places where they aren’t in the majority— college campuses, where TPUSA claims 1,400 chapters across U.S. campuses that host conservative speakers, debates, and generally spread the word about Kirk’s “conservatarian” brand of capitalism. But over the last two years, Kirk’s desire to expand his empire’s reach has taken his $40 million of TPUSA revenue into a new mission field: the church.
From its founding in 2012, TPUSA has mainly focused on conservative economic themes such as the free market and limited government. But since 2020 and the global pandemic, Kirk has created a new, larger “culture war” mission grounded in the theology of Christian nationalism, and in 2021 incorporated the Turning Point organization into this battle. This new front in an old war—TPUSA has always showed signs of such a war on college campuses—has been brought on by many pressures in the larger conservative world: how to remain connected to Trump’s base, how to keep political pressure on GOP leaders without Trump in office, and of course how to raise money for coming election cycles.
While once Kirk vowed to never politicize his religion—arguing just four years ago that any push for Christianity-based laws was a losing tactic—after two years of discipleship under a California megachurch pastor, he now says the church should accept its rightful role as counselor to and moral authority of the government. And where TPUSA shunned social issues in its early years, as national fissures over the 2020 election, the January 6insurrection, the pandemic, and more have only deepened, the organization now sees its mission as helping keep that polarization alive.
Kirk’s “Freedom Night in America,” also known as “Freedom Square,” began as a monthly event last summer at Phoenix’s Dream City, a multi-site Assemblies of God megachurch that ranks in the top five of all AOG churches in the nation for attendance. The gathering, where attendees sing worship songs and hear from Kirk and other TPUSA speakers about the church’s impact on the culture, was one of the first public events hosted by Turning Point Faith, a TPUSA offshoot founded in 2021 to “restore traditional American values.”
Those values are at the heart of TPUSA’s shift to serving as “ambassadors” of Christian nationalism—the mainly White Christian movement that, as sociologist Andrew Whitehead describes it, holds “either that the U.S. was or still is a Christian nation” and that history needs to be reestablished “in order for the United States to flourish.” For TPUSA that new focus has also involved a shift in the demographic they focus on—no longer just college students, but the world of K-12 education as well. And that expansion aligns TPUSA with a long-term Christian nationalist goal: to implant in local public schools the sort of “patriotic” curriculum suggested by Trump’s 1776 Commission, on which Kirk served.
While the group has had high school chapters for several years, this August, TPUSA launched a “school board watchlist” that is “dedicated to protecting our children by exposing radical and false ideologies endorsed by school boards and pushed in the classroom.” The new watchlist features individual profiles of school board members, with names and pictures, along with links to news articles expressing outrage at board actions. For example, in late October the website linked to a Fox News piece on the “ideology war” at Loudoun County, Virginia, school board meetings, shortly before conservative attacks on public education helped lead to a Republican victory in the race for governor of that state.
TPUSA’s K-12 list closely mirrors its Professor Watchlist, begun in 2016 to target college instructors accused in right-wing media outlets of offenses such as tweeting about their pro-choice views or publishing journal articles about mathematics as a “white and heteronormatively masculinized space” and fighting “unjust language structures.” Being on the list often leads to harassment from online trolls and anonymous emails. (Full disclosure: I was one of the original names listed on the Professor Watchlist for publicly writing against a now-passed law in my state of Georgia allowing concealed firearms in college classrooms and buildings.) While the genre of a blacklist drew immediate and widespread condemnation for its similarity to the McCarthyism era, it also put TPUSA on the map, building its reputation in conservative echo chambers and helping launch a massive fundraising streak that took the organization from a shoestring operation to a revenue of $40 million.
On one hand, the TPUSA shift to target K-12 schools has the clear goal of harassing and threatening schools that teach honestly about U.S. racial history, and it also taps into popular ire around mask mandates that were re-imposed in schools across the country during the start of the fall 2021 semester, as the Delta variant caused another wave of the global COVID-19 pandemic. (Linked to that, over the summer TPUSA started a vaccine-related campaign to “Educate. Don’t mandate,” providing misleading information, and in September 2021, Kirk threatened to sue the Biden administration over its mandate that large private businesses require vaccinations.) More broadly, it asserts more forcefully TPUSA’s move toward the kind of right-wing combative populism seen in the Trump base.
The school board list is another in a long line of attacks on education that began with Kirk’s own complaints about his high school in 2012—claims that led to TPUSA’s creation and won its first Republican supporters. But the nature of those attacks have changed as Kirk has, and as TPUSA has become more of a center for right-wing content creation with many shows for its many platforms in a bid to stay relevant among its young demographic. But while TPUSA was built around millennial attention and social media virality, in order to maintain that attention, it has adopted increasingly aggressive stances, turning the organization into a sustained culture war machine.
One such stance is immigration. In 2019, Kirk and TPUSA came under attack at their events by the far-right, White nationalist group known as America First or the groypers. The groypers specifically criticized Kirk for his off-the-cuff remark that October that highly-educated immigrants should get “a green card” stapled to their U.S. college diplomas. A month later, after a series of confrontations by America First supporters at TPUSA events, Kirk wrote an apology op-ed for the far-right website American Greatness, which had earlier published criticisms of his suggestion.
In the months that followed, Kirk tracked further and further right on immigration, decrying “open borders” and undocumented immigrants changing the “White demographics in America.” Whatever level of angry White victimhood was present in Kirk and TPUSA at large in their youth, it had now become a central focus for both.
The DNA of TPUSA
Back in 2015, at the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley, Kirk delivered the original version of his, and TPUSA’s, origin story.
Wearing a yellow and gray tie and black suit, a baby-faced Kirk started by reminding his audience, in a weak Midwestern accent, of his Chicago roots. Chicago, noted Kirk, was a hub for many Democrats, including President Obama, Obama’s top political advisor Daniel Axelrod, and of course, then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—who’d grown up 15 minutes from Kirk’s hometown.
The intended picture was clear: Kirk heroically maintaining his conservative values in the heart of Democratic power, while he cherished a “dream” of attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. But when he applied during his senior year, he was rejected. The reason, Kirk told the audience, was that he’d “lost my spot out to what I felt was a far less-qualified applicant in my district that was of a different gender and a different… you know… persuasion.”
That claim drew ample attention in later national profiles of Kirk. But it wasn’t initially framed as the moment that spurred his political activism. Rather it was Kirk’s description of his high school as an “indoctrination factory,” where he claimed his teachers were “openly” Marxists and socialists and the progressive policy group Moveon.org appeared in his lunchroom consistently to recruit students. (Kirk offered few details about either allegation.)
Kirk said he was distressed that he didn’t know of any student groups presenting opposing views to such progressive voices. So in April 2012, as a senior in high school, he started one, which became the forerunner to TPUSA. That initial effort, called SOS Liberty—a name intended to invoke the international distress call for help—focused on the national debt and garnered not only a sizable Facebook group but support from Republican leaders like then-Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who introduced Kirk to Tea Party organizations the same month he launched his group. (While Walsh later joined TPUSA’s board, in recent years he has disavowed the group and publicly regretted his involvement with Kirk, calling him a “grifter’s grifter.”)
At the same time Kirk was benefiting from Walsh’s connections, he had a breakout moment with the Tea Party-linked Breitbart News, writing an article for the website condemning an Advanced Placement textbook used at his school that drew from the writing of New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman. Kirk disliked that the book critiqued the economic record of Ronald Reagan—Kirk’s then-favorite president—and gave little credence or space to Reagan’s supply-side economics. Although Kirk’s post distorted the textbook, it served as a foundation to argue that public education was engaged in an indoctrination agenda that “demonizes free enterprise while advocating top-down government, deficit spending, and class warfare,” and forces students to “turn to the government. And that is exactly what the liberals want.” That post garnered him a new status in the conservative world and by May 2012 Kirk was on Fox News talking about the national debt.
Walsh was not Kirk’s only benefactor. That May Kirk met the other while speaking at a youth government day event at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. There he was heard by William Montgomery, a retired local restaurant owner and business consultant who’d become involved in Tea Party activism. As Montgomery recalled in a profile of Kirk in 2015, Kirk woke up his sleeping peers with his commanding words. Montgomery told Kirk he needed to start “an organization to reach out to young people with your message.”
And so they did, eventually ditching SOS Liberty as a name and forming Turning Point USA. In June 2012, Kirk wrote an op-ed for Fox News claiming to have “reached over four million people” through SOS Liberty with his “message of fiscal responsibility and living within your means.” (It’s unclear how Kirk reached that figure.) Turning Point USA was officially registered as a non-profit with the state of Illinois on July 23, 2012.
In his eulogy for Montgomery, who died from COVID-19 complications in July 2020, Kirk recalled how during that summer of 2012 the pair started attending Tea Party rallies where Montgomery would convince the organizers to let Kirk speak. In July Kirk appeared on Fox and Friends to talk about the youth vote, and on Neil Cavuto’s show to discuss how his young organization was using memes to criticize Obama. Then, Kirk said, Montgomery called him with a “crazy idea” for the pair to go to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, where they “cornered” Cavuto and convinced him to host Kirk on the show live from the convention floor.
That lark paid off in another, longer-term way, when Kirk met his first donor, Foster Friess, in a stairwell at the RNC. A few weeks later the Wyoming philanthropist gave Kirk $10,000. Still, by December 2012, TPUSA was struggling, with less than $1,000 in its account, and he was looking to quit. But Montgomery again convinced Kirk to keep at it. They took another trip, this time to New York City, and again convinced Cavuto to feature Kirk on his show. And, as Kirk said, it “snowballed” from there.
Building an Empire
Over the next three years, Kirk garnered more donors and spoke at more political gatherings like the 2015 Conservative Forum in Silicon Valley. Gradually, finances grew. According to tax filings, Turning Point doubled its revenue each year from 2015 to 2017, growing from $2 million to $8 million. Kirk signed lucrative book deals, bought a Florida condo in 2019, and built an Arizona headquarters for TPUSA. By 2021, the group had generated nearly $40 million in revenue. Those same records show the rise in Kirk’s salary from about $50,000 in 2017, to $80,000 the next year, then nearly $300,000 in 2019. The money also spurred growth in staff. By 2015, Kirk claimed that TPUSA had a presence on 1,000 college and high school campuses nationwide and more than 40 full time “field staff.”
Throughout the early years, Turning Point’s messages remained consistently secular. Its first viral social media campaign, in fall 2014, was “Big Government Sucks,” which combined Turning Point’s push for limited government with catchy college student lingo. Its chapter guide from 2017 presented the group as a conservative organization interested in “free market values” and “economic issues.” The guide explicitly ruled out social issues: “no talk about abortion, gay marriage, etc.” It also suggested a range of “activism” ideas for chapter leaders to build students’ focus on the national debt, affirmative action, and free speech. The last issue usually meant the local TPUSA campus chapter parading a large beach ball onto a highly visible part of college campuses for students to write on. TPUSA publications also praised fossil fuels and attacked gun control. In a “thank you” video to donors and staff on Turning Point’s five-year anniversary in 2017, Kirk urged more action on “conservative, libertarian, smaller government ideas, values.” The organization sold itself by its success. Student testimonials in a 2016 video praised the group’s emphasis on leadership skills and networking.
Kirk’s consistent call to fight back against campus biases led to Turning Point’s “Professor Watchlist,” which began in November 2016 as an initial list of about 200 professors nationwide who allegedly promoted “a radical agenda” in one way or another. As that combative message spread, Kirk’s rhetoric became more violent. In the group’s 2017 anniversary video, Kirk describes his staff and students participating in “hand-to-hand combat” on college campuses. Later that year, Kirk told an audience at one of his many campus tours, “we are not afraid to fight back… because enough is enough.”
A Secular Kirk, A Religious Kirk
During those early years, Kirk avoided evangelizing his faith. While he nodded to the Bible in his 2016 manifesto, Time for a Turning Point, he also publicly argued that a “line was crossed” by Christianity in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s by trying “to impose those beliefs through government policy where people then inherently” reject it. Rather than replicating what he saw as these failings of the Moral Majority, Kirk said he advocated for his political positions “through a secular worldview,” because most Americans are secular, and the government established by the founders was also secular. Responding to an interviewer’s observation that Kirk doesn’t proselytize, the young activist said he talked about his faith when asked, but that he saw his job as the face of TPUSA as “no different than” being a plumber or electrician, who likely don’t tell everyone they met about their religion.
Despite this claim to secularity, Kirk began to show flashes of his religion, such as tweeting Bible verses. In Illinois, he attended Harvest Bible Chapel, an evangelical megachurch in the Chicago suburbs. In 2018, Kirk’s conversion story, or “faith testimony,” was promoted as part of events related to the church’s 30th anniversary.
In a college appearance that same year, where Kirk answered questions about atheism, he said that as a Christian he was “very, very” worried that the U.S. was moving away from “our Judeo-Christian beliefs” that “really created Western civilization.” Kirk has since often tied his faith to Western civilization, increasingly arguing that Christianity and the ideals of Western civilization helped found America. In his 2018 book, Campus Battlefield, Kirk argued that “the greatest threat to Western Civilization” is the liberal indoctrination and anti-American teachings on college campuses. He made similar claims at the 2018 Western Conservative summit.
In May 2019, Kirk premiered his podcast, The Charlie Kirk Show, and dedicated an early episode in part to his religious beliefs, describing the experience of being born again. While he again denied any overlap between his religion and politics—saying, “I’m very careful not to have my religious views and my faith inform my political decisions.”—he also stressed that humans should have the “moral capacity to flourish,” and their “moral decisions” should be free from government intrusion or coercion. A sense of accountability to a morality, Kirk continued, is what prevents people from harming others and compels them to do good, perhaps by giving to the poor. It also grounds economic and political freedoms, he added, since we get our rights from God, not any government.
Kirk also began to reframe the origin story of Turning Point. In an August 2019 interview with the conservative Daily Caller, Kirk described his rejection from West Point as “a gift that God has given me.”
The Discipling of Charlie Kirk
Kirk certainly had the Christian element of Christian nationalism. What fostered in him the second element was a personal relationship with a California megachurch pastor named Rob McCoy, pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks and a member of his local city council. McCoy ran for that seat in 2015 after a losing campaign in 2014 for the California State Assembly. McCoy’s campaigns have blended electoral politics and religion and became an example used by the American Renewal Project, a group which holds free conferences for ministers and their spouses to encourage them to run for office. The founder of American Renewal, long-time California conservative activist David Lane, has attended McCoy’s church. Running ministers as candidates for elected office is not new or unique to White evangelicalism. But this conservative version of pastors as politicians is a specific application of Christian nationalism in that these elected pastors could push the nation toward a more official Christian culture.
Kirk would say later that the first time he heard McCoy—perhaps at the 2019 CPAC event at Liberty University, where both men spoke—he was blown away by hearing directly political speech from a pastor. In that speech McCoy charged that “50 years” of Christians merely preaching the gospel in California—without engaging in the political and policy process—had left the state ridden with debt, no-fault divorce, and a nation-leading abortion rate. By contrast, McCoy said the only way to return America to its rightful place as a Christian nation would be to elect religious leaders as political representatives.
After their initial meeting, Kirk said that over a series of conversations the pastor began to “challenge” him to rethink his position separating politics and religion. By April 2019—about a month after Kirk heard McCoy for the first time—the pair again shared a stage at the Unite Inland Empire Conservative Conference in Ontario, California, which shares ideological goals with Turning Point. In his speech there, Kirk parroted McCoy. No longer merely attacking the Left, Kirk used biblical stories as cultural template to oppose its version of America. Such scriptural tales, he said, were the way “moral people” long ago had instilled values in their children and built their culture.
One important story Kirk mentions is the story of Moses, “being under slavery, obeying God, listening, and then fleeing that bondage into freedom.” Kirk then adds his political frame: “That’s the story, isn’t it, of the original religious pilgrims? …. Came from Europe to America. It’s a variation of an exodus.” Kirk even revised his own “exodus” story, reframing what he’d once described as merely his anemic church history as instead a “cultural” attack from the “left.” He said he’d “had to leave” a church that he attended in his youth because “when I went to church, it was more about” trying to justify “political doctrine,” not theology.
The seeming contradiction of refusing politics in one church but pushing it in another was presumably resolved by a McCoy logic that Kirk had absorbed: Bad government is filled with bad politics, but a good government is built by good people.
In a speech later in 2019, Kirk invited his fellow Christians into a version of culture war tinged with antisemitism. Speaking in October at a religious liberty conference at a Lutheran church in Michigan, Kirk downplayed his organization’s long-standing economic messages to build a case for “structural” issues in American culture that the “left” is winning on. He claimed that liberal philanthropist George Soros, not merely content with “winning at the ballot box,” was funding a program to put liberal pastors in churches across the country.
Two months later, Kirk spoke to the Chino Hills, California, megachurch pastored by Jack Hibbs, another Christian nationalist pastor, now perhaps best known for defending the January 6 insurrection as the result of ejecting “God from the courts and from the schools.” (Several days prior to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Hibbs told his church that there was no “president-elect” and “the Constitution will live or die this week. The Constitution could be struck with a mortal wound this week and start hemorrhaging if God allows the Constitution to perish with a lying, cheating, stealing election.”) In his December 2019 conversation with Hibbs, Kirk cemented his new Christian nationalist credentials—declaring himself a “proud” and “vocal” Christian and claiming that as people come to Turning Point and find “truth,” they often end up “finding Christ”—and pushed the church to take “declarative stands” on cultural issues such as transgender athletes in sports.
The next year, at the February 2020 CPAC convention, Kirk offered his most public endorsement of Christian nationalism yet when he praised Trump as a president who understands the “seven mountains of cultural influence”: a term frequently used by Christian nationalists to refer to various areas of society that adherents believe Christians are entitled to control as they take “Dominion” over culture and laws on behalf of God.
The Kirk Education Agenda
Kirk’s first attempt to fuse education and Christian nationalism was the short-lived Falkirk Center at the evangelical Liberty University. Kirk and then-Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. started the center in November 2019 with the mission to reinvigorate American ideals and “Judeo-Christian values in all aspects of life,” explicitly rejecting Christian “peace” rhetoric to urge supporters to see themselves at war. In its mission statement, the center charged, “Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough, and turning the other cheek in our personal relationships with our neighbors as Jesus taught while abdicating our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield is no longer sufficient.” Liberty student leaders said the center was hurting the school’s reputation, and even the widely read evangelical magazine Relevant called it an “extremely concerning” mission statement since the call to no longer “turn the cheek” contradicts Liberty University’s own mission statement.
Kirk was granted an honorary diploma from Liberty in 2019. But once Liberty and Falwell parted ways in fall 2020, following the university president’s sex scandal, the Falkirk Center was on the chopping block. That fall, Liberty quietly ended its contract with Kirk and renamed the center the following spring.
But by then Kirk was already organizing an expansion of Turning Point’s own education agenda. That March, TPUSA announced the launch of Turning Point Academy, which would “develop and distribute K-12 curricula focused on American history, our founding principles, the Constitution, and economics.” This material would contrast with what the group called the “false narrative about America” promoted by teachers and administrators in schools across the country, which they called an “anti-American ideology” that “threatens to destroy our country’s institutions and freedom.”
That work led directly into the summer of 2021, when Kirk, Turning Point, and their followers joined other right-wing activists in barnstorming school board meetings around the nation, attacking members for mask mandates and curricula about race. Kirk made his first school board appearance in June where he spoke to the Chandler, Arizona, school board, claiming without evidence that the school district’s use of “equity” in leadership training equated to critical race theory and that those two concepts were part of a “racist, vile, and evil” ideology which was “stomping on the legacy” of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kirk followed up with an angry tirade at the Scottsdale school board in late August, where he charged that board members were abusing children by implementing mask mandates. He presented misleading statistics on childhood deaths from Covid and threatened the members with their electoral eviction through a recall: “Your time is soon up. The people of this state and this school district are rising up…You have awoke a sleeping giant.”
A key move by TPUSA for this effort is hiring staff. Beyond the watchlist, it is looking to hire a manager for Turning Point Academy to build “a program centered around Constitutional education”; form partnerships with like-minded advocacy groups; and plan “the first-ever Educators Summit” to “launch Constitution events and celebrations targeting school-aged children.”
What is to come from Kirk and his organization might best be seen in another “Freedom Night in America” event he held in October 2021 at Cornerstone Chapel, a Calvary Chapel megachurch in Leesburg, Virginia—the state that became the center of the national conflagration over school politics through its recent gubernatorial election. Showcasing his new Christian nationalist rhetoric, Kirk declared, to great applause, that “if there is any hope” for the U.S. and its ideals of consent of the governed, separation of powers, an independent judiciary, individual liberty, and natural rights, “that hope is the church.” The Christian church, he continued, must take its rightful place in American culture as “counselor to the king, as it tells us in the scriptures.” 
Those applauding might charitably see the changes in Kirk’s rhetoric as the natural progression of a political boy wonder gaining wisdom as he becomes an adult leader within the conservative movement. A more skeptical eye would likely view the last two years as Kirk and TPUSA opportunistically seizing upon a new battleground that had drawn substantial attention.
Either way, this transformation of Kirk and Turning Point is gaining momentum, specifically from donors eager to latch onto its energy. Whatever TPUSA’s impact on 2022 and any future election, its empire building will continue—with all such efforts, Kirk would claim, in service of a greater kingdom to come. But also in service of growing his brand, and situating Kirk as the new evangelical whisperer and a well-funded counselor for whichever candidate asks his blessing.
 “Freedom Night In America feat. Charlie Kirk & Eric Metaxas at Dream City Church in Phoenix LIVE,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on October 19, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtfCAkmsGmc [39:01]
 “Defending Christianity & Discussing Radical Islam (Pt. 2) | Charlie Kirk | POLITICS | Rubin Report,” YouTube, posted by The Rubin Report on January 18, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhCKfxy83BQ [3:09]
 “Freedom Night in America,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnZT7Gz_VSN4tCdBVtXhCQL4qtWI2_J8U
 As noted in “2017 Largest 100 Churches,” available at https://ag.org/about/statistics
 “Turning Point Faith,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://www.tpusa.com/faith
 Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, co-authors of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, see four categories on a spectrum in relation to Christian Nationalism and Christians in the US: rejecters, resisters, accommodators, and ambassadors. See webinar featuring interview of Whitehead: “The Rise of Christian Nationalism,” Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 9, 2021, https://www/cfr.org/event/rise-christian-nationalism
 “School Board Watchlist,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://www.tpusa.com/topics/school-board-watchlist
 “School Board Watchlist,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://www.schoolboardwatchlist.org/
 Bailee Hill, “Loudoun County parent on explosive school board meeting: ‘This is an ideology war,’” Fox News, October 27, 2021, https://www.foxnews.com/media/loudoun-county-parents-demand-school-offi…
 “Professor Profile: Jennifer Begeal,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://professorwatchlist.org/professor/jenniferbegeal
 “Professor Profile: Luis Leyval,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://professorwatchlist.org/professor/luisleyva
 “Professor Profile: Asao Inoue,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://professorwatchlist.org/professor/asaoinoue
 Carolyn Gallaher, “War on the Ivory Tower: Alt Right Attacks on University Professors,” Political Research Associates, May 17, 2018, https://politicalresearch.org/2018/05/17/war-ivory-tower
 “Nonprofit Explorer: Turning Point USA,” ProPublica, 2021, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/800835023. A 2013 tax filing shows TPUSA had expenses of just over $50,000 with about $79,000 in revenue. It was spending half its budget on “travel.” The next year Kirk reported making around $1,700 from TPUSA.
 Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11), “Mandating vaccines for our 170+ full time employees at Turning Point USA? No chance. We will sue you Joe Biden, and win,” tweet on September 9, 2021, https://twitter.com/charliekirk11/status/1436077998831136785?s=20
 For example, Poplitics https://www.tpusa.com/poplitics
 For example, TPUSA Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/turningpointusa/?hl=en
 Ben Lorber, “‘America First Is Inevitable,’” Political Research Associates, January 15, 2021, https://politicalresearch.org/2021/01/15/America-first-inevitable
 Michelle Malkin, “Stapling Green Cards to Diplomas Is Stupid and Suicidal,” American Greatness, October 30, 2019, https://amgreatness.com/2019/10/30/stapling-green-cards-to-diplomas-is-…
 Charlie Kirk, “Clearing the Air on the Right,” American Greatness, November 21, 2019, https://amgreatness.com/2019/11/21/clearing-the-air-on-the-right/
 John Fea, “Charlie Kirk: Democrats are letting migrants into the country because they want to diminish and decrease ‘white demographics in America,’” Current, September 24, 2021, https://currentpub.com/2021/09/24/Charlie-kirk-democrats-are-letting-mi…
 “Charlie Kirk ~ The Conservative Forum ~ 9-8-2015,” YouTube, posted by Liberty Forum on September 10, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihaMOHCVYsQ&t=164s (:50)
 “West Point Class Profile”, United States Military Academy West Point, July 6, 2018, https://www.westpoint.edu/admissions/class-profile.
According to West Point, a little more than half of the students nominated actually are qualified academically. And only half of those qualified are accepted.
 “Wheeling High School (9-12) ACT,” Illinois Report Card, 2021; “West Point Class Profile”, 2018. While we don’t know Kirk’s test scores, Kirk’s high school ACT averages from 2012-2017 don’t generally match scores of those admitted to West Point. Kirk graduated high school in 2012.
 John Keilman, “Before Trump and Kanye became fans, Charlie Kirk battled ‘Marxist’ high school teachers in Chicago’s suburbs,” The Chicago Tribune, October 22, 2018, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-charlie-kirk-turning-point-c….
One of Kirk’s Wheeling High School classmates told The Chicago Tribune in 2018 that “people would roll their eyes at Charlie for saying ridiculous things, but it’s not like he was punished. There was no teacher who was an open Marxist.”
John Colapinto, “Armies of the Right: The Young Hipublicans,” The New York Times, May 25, 2003, https://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/25/magazine/armies-of-the-right-the-you…. This might have been true in Kirk’s school. But nationally in the early 2000s, there were a host of youth-orientated conservative groups with large followings.
 WHS Spokesman, Vol. 48, Issue 1, Wheeling High School, September 23, 2011, https://issuu.com/whsspokesman/docs/whs_issue_1/1?ff. Kirk started that group with another student who had worked with Kirk the year before to protest their school district over the cost of cookies in the cafeteria. The school newspaper’s article on the protest only mentions Kirk started a Facebook group.
 “SOS Liberty high schoolers: ‘We are tomorrow,’” Illinois Review, April 25, 2012,
 “Opinion: Joe Walsh Youth in Training,” WMAQ NBC Chicago, April 27, 2012, https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/joe-walsh-youth/1955286/
 Joe Walsh (@walshfreedom), “I helped Charlie Kirk get started ten or so years ago. And for that, I’m sorry. He is a grifter’s grifter. This is disgraceful and despicable,” tweet posted on July 21, 2021, https://twitter.com/WalshFreedom/status/1417977621837750272
 Charlie Kirk, “Liberal Bias Starts in High School Economics Textbooks,” Breitbart News, April 26, 2012, https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2012/04/26/liberal-bias-starts-in-hi…. Kirk is identified as the co-founder of SOS Liberty in the biography at the bottom of his first Breitbart article.
 In at least two September 2012 political events the now high school graduate Kirk quotes the textbook in his hand. One event is archived on the TPUSA Youtube page: “Turning Point USA 9/15/2012,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on September 17, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYN6KgA1tzs. The other can be seen here: “Freedom Fest - Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA,” YouTube, posted by DuPage Tea Party on September 25, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_AtwDW11H0
 To be fair, “supply-side” is mentioned a few times in the index and in the section Kirk aims his ire at. Art Laffer — who would go on to be one of Trump’s favorite economists — is mentioned 12 times. His “Laffer curve” — made famous by its mention by Ben Stein in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — is also mentioned.
 Kirk failed to give the full quote in his article that notes the Reagan criticism was an estimate of economic output before Reagan’s tax cuts went into effect. Kirk made it seem the criticism came after the cuts were in place. See page 357 in the book found here: Krugman’s Economics for AP, posted by Jeffrey Gao https://www.academia.edu/25564670/Krugman_s_Economics_for_AP
 “SOS Liberty educates peers about fiscal responsibility - Fox News 5-26-12,” YouTube, posted by skier137 on May 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADgEqMm1OO0
 The 2-minute speech is archived at the TPUSA Youtube page: “The Speech That Launched Turning Point USA,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on July 27, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tnrn9OKZLoY
 Rebecca Nelson, “The 21-Year-Old Becoming a Major Player in Conservative Politics,” The Atlantic, March 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/the-21-year-old-be…
 Charlie Kirk, “A high school student’s message for Washington,” Fox News, June 1, 2012, https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/a-high-school-students-message-for-wash…
 “The Charlie Kirk Show: A Tribute to My Mentor, Bill Montgomery,” YouTube, posted by Charlie Kirk on August 22, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wYj0LzRMd0 [5:06]
 Daniel Lippmann and Tina Nguyen, “Turning Point USA co-founder dies of coronavirus-related complications,” Politico, July 29, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/29/turning-point-usa-founder-dies…
 “Freedom Fest USA,” DuPage Tea Party, August 23, 2012, https://www.dupageteaparty.com/2012/08/23/freedom-fest-usa. As late as August 23, 2012, Charlie Kirk is being invited to speak under the banner of SOS Liberty.
 Noah Rothman, “Fox & Friends Use Two Young Republicans To Prove Young Voters Moving Toward GOP,” Mediate, July 5, 2012, https://www.mediaite.com/tv/fox-friends-shows-views-of-two-young-republ…
 “Turning Point USA on Neil Cavuto Show - July 7th, 2012,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on July 7, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=U0wzZhgbYWc
 Charlie Kirk, “Honoring the Legacy of America’s Happiest Warrior—Foster Friess (1940-2021),” Turning Point USA, May 27, 2021, https://www.tpusa.com/live/honoring-the-legacy-of-americas-happiest-warrior-foster-friess-1940-2021
 “Nonprofit Explorer: Turning Point USA,” ProPublica, 2021, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/800835023
 “Charlie Kirk on the Dennis Prager Show,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on November 18, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXMwDMjR-MM [1:33]
 “Charlie Kirk’s Anti-BDS Plan to Conquer Campuses,” YouTube, posted by Julia Carmel Salazar on October 9, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fidHYaI9qE [1:39]
 “The Power of Grassroots Campus Organizing — Big Government Sucks! 2014,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on December 22, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOLALi6-690
 TPUSA Chapter Handbook College Edition 2017-18, Turning Point USA, http://web.archive.org/web/20180227185002/https://tpusa.com/wp-content/…
 See the publications here: https://www.tpusa.com/publications
 “Thank You for 5 Years with Turning Point USA!,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on June 5, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFL2_imZouI [2:48]
 “Why You Should Work For Turning Point USA,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on June 24, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HehXNinQyLo
 Christopher Mele, “Professor Watchlist Is Seen as Threat to Academic Freedom,” The New York Times, November 28, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/us/professor-watchlist-is-seen-as-th…
 “Charlie Kirk On Professor Bias,” YouTube, posted by Turning Point USA on July 27, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggn35CRVcSU [1:00]
 Charlie Kirk, Time for a Turning Point (Post Hill Press, 2016), https://books.google.com/books/about/Time_for_a_Turning_Point.html?id=A…. Kirk argues in the book that the “left” hates the idea of a “morally judging God” as seen in the “Bible-based religions.”
 “Defending Christianity & Discussing Radical Islam (Pt. 2) | Charlie Kirk | POLITICS | Rubin Report,” YouTube, posted by The Rubin Report on January 18, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhCKfxy83BQ [3:06]
 Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “‘Lecherous and worthless’: Megachurch pastor from Trump’s own evangelical council denounces him,” The Washington Post, October 10, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/10/10/misogyn…. Harvest Bible Chapel’s well-known pastor James MacDonald was an early member on President Trump’s evangelical advisory council, but left that group after Trump’s comments about women were leaked in October 2016.
 “Celebrating 30 Years of Ministry, Harvest Bible Chapel’s ‘Summer Revival’ Welcomes World Renowned Apologist Ravi Zacharias,” The Kairos Company, July 26, 2018, https://thekcompany.co/press-release/release-celebrating-30-years-of-mi…
 Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11), “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, Atheism is rooted in hubris, and as the world adds more atheists the moral fiber of our civilization will continue to decay, And the more atheists there are in the world, the bigger government will grow, Atheism must be defeated,”
tweet posted on February 24, 2018, https://twitter.com/i/status/967608728282378240
 “Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens - Western Conservative Summit 2018,” YouTube, posted by
Centennial Institute on July 13, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2m4NboECfGI [32:18]
 This specific episode can be found here: https://www.podchaser.com/podcasts/the-charlie-kirk-show-845470/episode…
All episodes archived here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-charlie-kirk-show/id1460600818
 In the 2018 interview with Rubin [see note 2, 2:16] Kirk sums up his political beliefs in one phrase: “the non-aggression principle.” This Ayn Rand concept can also be found in John Locke and other political philosophers. It is not inherently a religious concept. While it primarily has been applied to private property rights Kirk applies it broadly to politics.
 Dennis Prager, “God, Liberals and Liberty,” The Dennis Prager Show, October 12, 2010, https://dennisprager.com/column/god-liberals-and-liberty/. This concept of divine rights is a key tenet of Dennis Prager, the Jewish radio host and mentor for Kirk. Prager wrote in 2010 - two years before Kirk graduates high school - that “because the Creator of the world is the source of our freedom, no state, no human being, no government may take it away.”
 “The Charlie Kirk Origin Story,” YouTube, posted by The Daily Caller, August 3, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o0Kc09dSMU [5:20]
 Alene Tchekmedyian and Carolyn Cole, “Thousand Oaks councilman, a pastor, resigns, says he’ll defy coronavirus order,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-05/thousand-oaks-counc…. McCoy resigned from the council in April 2020 to protest California’s strict pandemic rules, especially on churches.
 “Rob McCoy for City Council,” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RobMcCoyForCouncil/
 “Rob McCoy (California),” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Rob_McCoy_(California)
 “Christians needed in politics today as much as at nation’s founding,” American Renewal Project, November 2015, https://theamericanrenewalproject.org/2015/11/christians-needed-in-poli…. David Lane, “Jesus Asked, ‘Where Is Your Faith?,’” Charisma News,March 8, 2016, https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/renewing-america/55680-jesus-asked….
 Kellan Howell, “Evangelical David Lane begins effort to recruit pastors to run for political office,” The Washington Times, November 23, 2014, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/23/evangelical-david-lane…
 “Rob McCoy: CPAC 2019 at Liberty University,” YouTube, posted by Liberty University on September 3, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcCLbCuo4_U [5:00]
 “APOLOGIA: Forum with Charlie Kirk,” YouTube, posted by Westgate Chapel – Edmonds on May 2, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_2gOjyBEE8 [8:02]
 “6th Annual AM590 The Answer Unite IE Conservative Conference,” posted on April 28, 2019, https://www.evensi.us/6th-annual-am590-answer-unite-conservative-confer…
 “Liberty, Free Enterprise & a Constitutionally limited government” is the mission statement on its Twitter account: https://twitter.com/UniteIE
 “2019 UNITE IE CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE - Charlie Kirk,” YouTube, posted by AM 590 The Answer on April 29, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F18geHrRe4k
 “Charlie Kirk & Sr. Pastor Rob McCoy (9 am & 10:45 am),” Facebook, posted by Candlelight Christian Fellowship on September 27, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/events/238040384313232/.
Their relationship has grown to the point that Kirk began to call McCoy his “personal pastor” in 2020.
 “The Body of Christ and the Public Square - 2019 - Charlie Kirk,” YouTube, posted by Christopher Thoma on February 7, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vK3GI87vGY [10:10]. At a speech later that year, Kirk adds this church was like “Rachel Maddow with organ music.”
 “The Body of Christ and the Public Square - 2019 - Charlie Kirk,” YouTube, posted by Christopher Toma on February 7, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vK3GI87vGY
 “The Body of Christ and the Public Square Conference 2019,” Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, Hartland, Michigan, https://www.oursaviorhartland.org/events-2/the-body-of-christ-and-the-p…
 Kirk seems to be referring to this misleading post on a far right Christian blog: “BOMBSHELL: “Justice Democrats” Founder is THE Organizer of Evangelical Social Justice Movement,” Pulpit and Pen, July 29, 2019, https://pulpitandpen.org/2019/07/29/bombshell-justice-democrats-founder…
 “Happening Now featuring Charlie Kirk (December 2019),” YouTube, posted by Real Life with Jack Hibbs, December 5, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yT6ju5ViWa4
 Tom Gjelten, “Faith Leaders Nearly Unanimous In Condemning Assault On Capitol,” NPR, January 7, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/01/07/954581163/faith-leaders-nearly-unanimous…
 Michael Hernandez, “Calvary Pastor Jack Hibbs: ‘The Constitution will live or die this week,’” Citizens Journal, January 4, 2021, https://www.citizensjournal.us/calvary-pastor-jack-hibbs-the-constituti…
 “Happening Now featuring Charlie Kirk (December 2019),” YouTube, posted by Real Life with Jack Hibbs on December 5, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yT6ju5ViWa4 [9:24]
 Frederick Clarkson, “The Rise of Dominionism: Remaking America as a Christian Nation,” Political Research Associates, December 5, 2005, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2005/12/05/the-rise-of-dominionismrem…
 Karen Kuruvilla, “Liberty University Students ‘Embarrassed’ By Jerry Falwell Jr.-Founded Think Tank,” Huffington Post, December 31, 2020, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/liberty-university-students-falkirk-cent…
 “Liberty’s Falkirk Center Has an Extremely Concerning Mission Statement,” Relevant, January 15, 2020, https://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/libertys-falkirk-center-has-an…
 Jack Jenkins, “Charlie Kirk out at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center,” Religion News Services, March 17, 2021, https://religionnews.com/2021/03/17/charlie-kirk-out-at-liberty-univers…
 Andrew Ujifusa, “A Pro-Trump Student Group Will Launch a History Curriculum. It Could Get a COVID-19 Boost,” Education Week, March 31, 2021, https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/a-pro-trump-student-group-will…
 “Turning Point Academy,” Turning Point USA, 2021, https://www.tpusa.com/academy
 “Boom! Charlie Kirk tore apart the Radical Left’s Marxist Critical Race Theory in Just 1 Minute,” Facebook, posted by Turning Point USA on June 11, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/turningpointusa/videos/155141003266155/
 “Charlie Kirk Confronts Scottsdale School Board Over Illegal Mask Mandate,” YouTube, posted by Charlie Kirk on August 25, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODUbifmEVB4 [3:05]
 “Careers,” Turning Point USA, December 1, 2021, https://www.tpusa.com/careers
 “Freedom Night in America,” Facebook, posted by Cornerstone Chapel on October 17, 2021,
 David Armiak, “Turning Point USA Seeks $43 Million to Escalate the Right’s Culture War in American Schools,” Center for Media and Democracy, October 25, 2021, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2021/10/25/turning-point-usa-seeks-43-mill…. The Center for Media and Democracy reported in October on a TPUSA investor prospectus circulated in August that seeks to more than double TPUSA’s current $40 million budget.