Moms for Liberty, a self-described “grassroots parental rights” group, has been labeled an “anti-government extremist organization.” Hours prior to that announcement, former President Donald Trump stated that he would be the latest Republican presidential candidate to speak at the annual Moms for Liberty summit later this month, cementing the GOP’s support for the group.
Moms for Liberty, which was founded in 2021 and has over 115,000 members across the country advocates for book bans and installs anti-LGBTQ candidates on school boards. Several VICE News investigations have found a history of disturbing behavior by the group’s members, who have violently harassed and intimidated parents, school board members, and students who have stood up to them.
Moms for Liberty has successfully lobbied to get hundreds of books banned from school libraries, including The Hill We Climb, a book adaptation of the poem Amanda Gorman recited at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The group helped draft Florida’s controversial Don’t Say Gay bill, and have forced many teachers and superintendent to resign due to constant harassment.
In its “Year in Hate and Extremism 2022” report, published on Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that Moms for Liberty were spearheading an “anti-student inclusion movement that targets any inclusive curriculum that contains discussions of race, discrimination and LGBTQ identities.”
The report continues: “Moms for Liberty activities make it clear that the group’s primary goals are to fuel right-wing hysteria and to make the world a less comfortable or safe place for certain students—primarily those who are Black, LGBTQ, or who come from LGBTQ families.”
In an emailed statement to VICE News attributed to the group’s co-founders Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, they dismissed the extremist designation as “name-calling” adding: “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.”
Many right-wing figures, including conservative activist Christopher Rufo, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, condemned the SPLC’s report, highlighting the wide support the group has garnered within the GOP.
This support is seen clearest in the line-up of speakers at the group’s upcoming annual summit in Philadelphia, which features four of candidates for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a longtime ally of the group who spoke at last year’s summit, will address the conference again this year. On Tuesday his spokesperson Christina Pushaw dismissed the SPLC’s report, tweeting, “Ron DeSantis stands with Moms for Liberty and will never back down.”
Also speaking at the event in Philadelphia, which kicks off on June 29, will be former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, both of whom are seen as outsiders for the GOP nomination.
But it is the presence of Trump, who is far-and-away the favorite to win the nomination despite his multiple ongoing legal battles, which will boost Moms for Liberty’s profile even further.
“President Trump has been vocal in supporting parental rights, particularly as he creates his policies for the upcoming campaign,” the group said in a statement announcing Trump’s appearance.
“We are excited for our parents to more fully understand the role parental rights will play in the upcoming election. We appreciate the president’s willingness to fight for us and we look forward to having him rally our members in Philadelphia in a few weeks.”
Activist groups are planning to hold counter protests outside the national summit, and a petition calling on Marriott Hotels to stop hosting the event has amassed 27,000 signatures.
“We never thought they were going to pull the plug on it,” Karen Svoboda, co-founder of Defense for Democracy, an activist group which is fighting Moms for Liberty across the country, told VICE News. “What I’m looking at is next year and the fact that any hotel that accepts the invitation to do the Moms for Liberty summit will be faced by fierce opposition.”
Marriott Hotels did not respond to multiple requests for comment by VICE News.
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