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Forbes
Forbes
1 Jul 2023


Five Republican presidential candidates including former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are attending a summit this weekend hosted by Moms for Liberty, an only two-year-old parents’ rights group that has grown a nationwide membership by first fighting against school pandemic restrictions and now rallying for book-banning efforts nationwide—while increasingly coming under fire, most recently after a chapter admiringly quoted Hitler.

Election 2024 Moms for Liberty

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Friday, June ... [+] 30, 2023.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The conservative group was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2021 by Tiffany Justice, Tina Descovich and Bridget Ziegler—who later left the group—after all three served on separate school boards in Florida.

Members of the group—which calls for “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights”—initially fought against pandemic restrictions in Florida, but has expanded to 120,000 members in 285 chapters in 45 states, the group claims.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the group as “extremist” for being a “far-right organization” that advocates for book bans and “opposes LGBTQ+ and racially inclusive school curriculum,” though Justice denounced the label as “absolutely absurd.” But the group’s growth has paralleled a surge in right-wing populism during the Trump presidency that has often been linked to extremist causes and threats of violence (the group has ties to the Proud Boys, a far-right, white supremacist group whose members were convicted for their roles in the January 6 Capitol riot). Moms of Liberty have been tied with threats against school boards across the U.S., including one member who threatened the Cabot, Arkansas, school in 2022: “If I had any mental issues, they would all be plowed down by a gun by now.” A New York superintendent resigned in November, after he was allegedly harassed by members of the group, according to the Times Union, before being replaced by another superintendent who was supported by the group. In May, member Kaylee Campbell Layton wrote on Facebook calling for President Joe Biden to be publicly executed, though the post has since been deleted. The group recently apologized for using a 1935 Nazi rally quote—“He alone who owns the youth gains the future”—in a newsletter for a chapter in Hamilton, Indiana, while Descovich and Justice told Forbes the chapter “should not have quoted Hitler.”

The SPLC suggested the group works to “advance a conspiracy propaganda and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community.” Rachel Carroll Rivas, the SPLC’s deputy director for research, reporting and analysis, told NPR the group is “seeking to undermine public education holistically and to divide communities.”

Trump referred to the group as “fierce patriots” while speaking at the group’s summit on Friday, adding the group is “the best thing that has happened to America.” DeSantis also supported the group during an earlier speech, adding, “We are not going to have the sexualization of our children in our schools.” Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, “When they mentioned this was a terrorist organization, I said, ‘Well, then count me a mom for liberty.’”

Moms for Liberty is hosting its “Joyful Warriors National Summit” through the weekend, after hosting Trump, DeSantis and Haley on Friday. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are scheduled to speak Saturday. Though it is hosting Republican presidential candidates, the group has noted it is bipartisan and will not endorse any candidate. The group has been championed among conservative parents, including a Tennessee chapter that argued a textbook that included an image of two sea horses mating was inappropriate for children. A New York chapter called for children to not wear masks in school, arguing masking policies were an act of “segregation.” Several Republican candidates have started to support the group’s call for parental rights, including Trump, who said during a campaign event in Iowa he would “bring back parental rights into our schools” if elected.

Conservative ‘Moms For Liberty’ Chapter Apologizes After Hitler Quoted In Newsletter (Forbes)

Moms For Liberty Didn’t Exist 3 Years Ago. Now It’s A GOP Kingmaker. (Washington Post)