Christian Schools for the Damned: Carrie Louise Nutt

By Carrie Louise Nutt

On Aug. 11, 1994, my life dramatically changed–from sport playing, vice-loving teen to locked-up inmate at Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy. MPBA’s mission was to bring “troubled teens” to the Lord. Their method: break you, mold you and re-make you according to their twisted ideology. Brother Bob and Betty Wills–protgs of the infamously corrupt Brother Roloff of Corpus Christi, Texas, and head administrators of MPBA–answered to no one but God.

My journey started on Aug. 10, 1994, when my parents trapped me in the real estate offices of a man who at the time was intimately connected with the Wills–his stepdaughter was a “worker” at MPBA, meaning she was paid very little to live in the dorms with the students and exercise her will as she saw fit. She had no training in child development or psychology. She was simply a willing devotee, like so many of the other workers the Wills employed.

I boarded a flight to Missouri, thinking I was on my way to a New England-style boarding school for the eccentric. Needless to say, I was surprised to learn that Mountain Park was a Baptist school at the foot of the Ozark Mountains that looked more like a ranch in the Midwest than an idyllic Waspish country club for high-achieving and highly-misunderstood youth.

When I entered the school, the doors shut and locked behind me. My parents, who brought me to the “boarding academy,” were there and so was a very evil and old version of Donna Reed. My first impression was that she had fallen into a black hole and time had stopped. She smiled at me and invited me to take a tour of the facilities with a girl, Tricia, who I immediately disliked. Tricia was disingenuous and evasive.

Tricia kept telling me “We don’t talk about that,” which didn’t register with a child who thought freedom of speech was a guaranteed Constitutional right. But she was insistent that I not talk about certain things, like abortion, drinking, boyfriends, jeans, pants, not liking it there, musings about whether God really existed, on homosexuality and so on. I kept getting the “We don’t talk about that.”

Needless to say, I failed to impress upon them the degree to which they erred in judgment, and consequently pursued them up a set of spiral steps, determined not to be left behind (ironically enough), and was tackled by a worker, who yelled some kind of battle cry that brought a regiment of girls down upon me. I tried to fight, but I was no match for these swarthy warriors for Christ. I ended up dragged back through the dorms and to the showers where I was screamed at to strip. Despite shock, it was still clear to me that I was not leaving with my parents.

First things first: I was put on Orientation, which I remained on for four months. I could not go further than an arm’s length from my Orientation Guide, a professed Christian, who I quickly learned relished absolute power. My forked tongue had garnered a certain degree of healthy respect and it was her responsibility to crush in me any sense of a civil right that I might feel myself entitled to, which she did, quite effectively.

My first night, Mrs. Wills or Momma, as we were required to call her, stormed back into the dorms, trailed by her entourage, to scream at me, call me a “murderer” and threaten me with physical violence. It was at this point that I learned my most important lesson: You are a rebel and a heathen and if you don’t do exactly as they tell you, they will tear you apart like angry lepers, leaving only a shell of your former self, and you still can’t go home. So, I did what any reasonably intelligent person would do; I made myself invisible by blending in. I stayed at MPBA for 365 days and witnessed many unpleasant abuses of power. I also gained weight and grew to hate myself. They encouraged self-loathing, as you are nothing without Christ.

There were girls at MPBA from all over the country: Krista, the girl whom they made give up her baby; Linda, the Mexican girl from LA who sang songs about her conditioner; Shelby, the girl with Birkenstocks who knit hats and tried to run away when she went home on a visit; Eva, who tried to drown herself in the pool; Heather, the girl who wore pants when she skied and got in trouble, and so on.

We were not allowed to talk about who we were or what we had done to get sent to MPBA; we couldn’t talk about sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll; we couldn’t look at the boys, talk to the boys or notice that they were there; we couldn’t hug; we couldn’t touch; we couldn’t have friends; we couldn’t express unhappiness; we couldn’t write; we couldn’t keep journals; we couldn’t cross off days on a calendar; we couldn’t wear “worldly” clothing; we couldn’t walk or talk like men; we couldn’t wear pants; we couldn’t say “pants;” we had to cover our knees and shoulders. All of our incoming and outgoing mail was read. We were given lines, swats, forced to carry “baby chairs” and wear pacifers, publicly shamed and called names. We had to memorize and quote three bible verses a day and were punished if we failed. Many girls didn’t ovulate. Some suffered from ongoing constipation or diarrhea and never received medical care. Others tried to kill themselves. There were no stalls in the bathroom and phone calls were monitored. We rarely went outside and had no windows in our dorms. We studied from PACES that taught us that the United States is a Christian nation. When I turned 18, I wasn’t allowed to leave. I was held for three months past my eighteenth birthday.

I was at MPBA for exactly one year and during that time I saw many abuses, not only physical and mental abuse, but also Constitutional. A murder in 1996, an attempted cover-up, followed by a visit from Child Protective Services, finally cued the state and the community into what exactly was happening under the tutelage of these God-fearing Christians, but it wouldn’t be until 2003 that the school would be finally closed.

What is noteworthy is that MPBA is just one example of a host of schools for “troubled teens” that use the same methods for breaking and remaking worldly teens in the image of God. The states of Missouri and Florida are particularly known for supporting these fundamentalists by allowing specific protections to them as religious institutions. With Bush’s voucher program, we may soon be–and perhaps already are–footing the bill.

The writer lives in New Jersey.

Freedom From Religion Foundation