Members call it a grassroots army of “joyful warriors” who “don’t co-parent with the government.”
Anti-hate researchers describe it a well-connected extremist organization that threatens school inclusiveness.
Republicans running for president in 2024 have relied on it.
GOP operatives, politicians, and fundraisers have made Moms for Liberty, a Florida organization that advocates “parental rights” in education, a 2024 candidate.
The conservative group that spearheaded the conservative fight against books that discuss race and gender identity and elected right-wing candidates to local school boards statewide is planning one of the next big Republican presidential primary events. Four will speak at the Moms for Liberty annual gathering in Philadelphia this month.
The June meeting will feature Trump, DeSantis, Haley, and “anti-woke” biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott and fringe Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who advocates anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, are being considered for the conference.
Republican voters care about gender and race. It also shows Republicans’ willingness to support an anti-LGBTQ+ group that removes diverse literature from libraries and classrooms.
In 2021, Florida school board members Tiffany Justice, Tina Descovich, and Bridget Ziegler founded the group.
Justice claimed 285 chapters in 44 states grew in two years. 120,000 members.
It has extended its activity in local school systems to target improper or “anti-American” publications, limit sexual orientation and gender identity training, demand instructors to disclose kids’ pronouns to parents, and dismantle diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives.
It promotes like-minded school board candidates. Justice said just over half of its 500 school board candidates worldwide won in 2022.
“Joyful warrior” moms established Moms for Liberty. However, its close ties to Republican groups, fundraisers, and politicians raise partisanship and grassroots concerns.
The Florida Republican Party chairman married co-founder Ziegler, who left the board in late 2021 but supports the group. Sarasota County school board member and conservative Leadership Institute director.
Republican political consultant Marie Rogerson succeeded Ziegler on the Moms for Liberty board.
DeSantis is another friend. He signed Florida’s “Parents Bill of Rights” in 2021 to safeguard parents’ education and health care rights and fight municipal student mask rules. He increased the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to 12th grade in 2022. Moms for Liberty voiced support for both proposals.
Bill signing images showed Ziegler behind DeSantis. The group gave DeSantis a “liberty sword” at its Tampa convention last year.
The Leadership Institute, Heritage Foundation, and Patriot Mobile, a far-right Christian mobile firm whose PAC has spent hundreds of thousands to take over Texas school boards, paid tens of thousands for summit places.
Former University of Massachusetts-Boston political science professor Maurice Cunningham, who examined Moms for Liberty’s history and relationships, said its ability to attract so many top Republican candidates to its second annual summit demonstrates establishment endorsement.
Cunningham said their towns have active moms. “Big-money people run this top-down, centrally controlled operation with political professionals working for them.”
Justice said the group’s engagement with conservative groups like DeSantis shows they care but doesn’t make it grassroots.
Republican leaders have helped the 501(c)4 nonprofit rise.
Moms for Liberty has allied with established Republicans, but analysts believe they are part of a growing far-right anti-student inclusiveness campaign.
Last week’s Southern Poverty Law Center annual report called Moms for Liberty and 11 other groups “anti-government extremists” for leveraging parents’ rights to undermine public education and make schools less friendly for minority and LGBTQ+ children.
The founders and chapter chairmen are accused of abusing community members and exaggerating gender issues.
Justice called Moms for Liberty’s extremist methods “alarming” and said its funding and backing of school board elections indicate it is not anti-government.
She said the organization fires chapter chairs who break its code of conduct and has an LGBT national leader.
Local inclusive education organizations want Marriott to cancel Moms for Liberty. Anti-Moms for Liberty New York organization Defense of Democracy will protest in Philadelphia.
Moms for Liberty “scare people into silence,” Defense of Democracy founder Karen Svoboda said. Anti-discrimination is a civic obligation.
Moms for Liberty promised better meeting security. Marriott hasn’t responded to the petition, and Republican candidates have spoken despite the SPLC’s “extremist” categorization.
“If @Moms4Liberty is a ‘hate group,’ add me to the list,” Haley tweeted. Ramaswamy tweeted “Selling Political Lies to Corporations” at Justice’s Thursday town hall.
Cunningham said GOP “extremist” labels are “almost a badge of honor” now.
Moms for Liberty fundsraises. Justice said the SPLC report garnered $45,000, which a larger donor matched.