When a local or national advocacy group uses words like “freedom,” “patriot,” or “liberty” in their title, it raises my suspicions. The title may be catchy but usually disguises the true intent of the organization. This is especially true in the case of Moms for Liberty.
Moms for Liberty was founded in Florida in 2021 and began campaigning against COVID-19 protections in schools, including masks and vaccine mandates. All three of the original co-founders are Republicans (although they claim to be non-partisan) and one of them, Bridget Ziegler, is the wife of the Florida Republican Party Chair Christian Ziegler.
From the beginning, Moms for Liberty has been strongly associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his efforts to restrict school curricula, ban books and his “Don’t say gay!” campaign. Ziegler’s husband boasts that M4L (as they are known) will be a powerful help to DeSantis in his presidential run.
One of the founders, Tina Descovich, conceived of the organization in 2020 after she was defeated, fairly, in the Brevard County school board primary by a woman named Jennifer Jenkins. Jenkins had a different view of how to protect children during COVID-19. She also supported teacher raises, in contrast to Descovich. After defeat, Descovich and her supporters used the organization to show up at school board meetings, disrupt discussion, and belittle Jenkins. Since then, they have broadened their efforts to include opposition to curricula about civil rights, race, and a broad effort to ban books and even defund public libraries.
Jenkins is a speech pathologist with the school district, and her husband is a teacher. After one year on the board, Jenkins wrote an op-ed describing the harassment to which she had been subjected. She was called a Nazi and a pedophile. Her family endured protests and vandalism outside of their home. Protestors yelled at her five-year-old daughter, “Be careful, your Mommy hurts kids.” All of this in the name of “protecting kids.”
Moms for Liberty has grown rapidly over three years. The growth has come at a pace that requires large monetary resources. In contradiction to their claims of being supported by $50 memberships and T-shirt sales, Media Matters research shows they are supported by conservative political committees and high-profile Republicans. In 2021 they had 195 chapters in 37 states and in July this year they had 285 chapters in 45 states, including one in Albuquerque. Because they are organized as a 501(c)(4) they have no obligation to report their donors.
While growing as an organization, their tactics of harassment, like those Jenkins endured, escalated. Aggressive intimidation and threats expanded to teachers, parents, school officials. The New Hampshire chapter offered a bounty to members of the public who “caught” teachers introducing lessons they believed violated the new law restricting discussions of race. In 2022, Arkansas police began investigating the local chapter leader who was caught on tape saying she fantasized about school librarians being “plowed down with a freaking gun.”
Conservative Moms have a history of activism. White mothers’ organizations sought to preserve the Jim Crow order. Segregationist moms fought desegregation of schools. And, like Moms for Liberty, these mothers fought to eliminate textbooks and curricula that focused on white violence or white supremacy.
The definition of liberty is this: the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.
These Moms are not about liberty. Like parent groups before them, they want to put restrictions on what kids read and what teachers can teach to impose their views. They hope to hijack schools and libraries to erase and revise the past and ignore cultural changes. History is not on their side.