The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the controversial right-wing organization Moms for Liberty as an “anti-government extremist group” in its annual report, issued on Tuesday.
Moms for Liberty has gained recognition for actively pursuing an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda at school boards and with state-level legislation.
Billing itself as a defender of “parental rights at all levels of government,” Moms for Liberty began with some Florida women who said they had concerns over COVID safety measures in schools. However, the group has now evolved into an “anti-student inclusion movement” that actively opposes inclusive curricula on topics such as race and gender, SPLC wrote in its report.
In the report, SLPC explained Moms for Liberty’s new designation by citing factors such as disruptive incidents at school board meetings and the group’s political alliances and extremist ties.
“Since the group’s 2021 founding, Moms for Liberty members across the nation have been making waves for intimidating and harassing teachers and school officials. They have publicly battled teachers’ unions, labeling them as ‘cartels’ and ‘terrorist organizations,’” the report said.
The report also highlighted the group’s active support for Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and other bills aimed at countering critical race theory.
“Empowering parents continues to be our mission today and that has fueled our organization’s growth - like wildfire to now 45 states in the country,” Moms for Liberty’s co-founders Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich told HuffPost in a statement.
“Name-calling parents who want to be a part of their child’s education as ‘hate groups’ or ‘bigoted’ just further exposes what this battle is all about: Who fundamentally gets to decide what is taught to our kids in school - parents or government employees? We believe that parental rights do not stop at the classroom door and no amount of hate from groups like this is going to stop that,” they added.
Bridget Ziegler, one of the group’s co-founders, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that SPLC’s designation was “reckless” and without merit. “Outside of it being a leftist attack, political hit job, there’s no credibility behind it. It’s truly laughable.” Ziegler said.
Moms for Liberty joins 11 other organizations with new designations from SPLC, bringing the total count of extremist groups to 1,225 in SPLC’s annual “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2022” report. Over half of these groups are categorized as anti-government, with the remainder classified as hate groups.
“Schools, especially, have been on the receiving end of ramped-up and coordinated hard-right attacks, frequently through the guise of ‘parents’ rights’ groups,” SLPC said in the report.
While claiming to be nonpartisan, Moms for Liberty has garnered backing from Republican officials, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, establishing itself as a significant player in conservative politics. DeSantis endorsed Moms for Liberty-backed candidates in local school board races, while the group supported legislative priorities aligned with his administration’s agenda.
This influence is also evident in the forthcoming Moms for Liberty summit, where both Donald Trump and DeSantis are set to address attendees. The group boasts a membership of over 100,000 individuals across 42 states, organized into more than 250 chapters.
DeSantis signed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year, part of a broader trend in which 84 anti-student-inclusion bills were at least prefiled or introduced in 26 states by the end of 2022.
Mom for Liberty is a nonprofit group that can engage in political activity without disclosing its financial backers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is one of the most well-known research groups in the United States that tracks hatred and extremism. It has previously sued hate groups and individual extremists in civil court.