Book bans in America: What is the Moms for Liberty group?

The conservative group Moms for Liberty plays a surprisingly significant role in the national debate over book bans and classroom discussions of race and gender identity. The latest example: The Tallahassee Democrat reported a Florida teacher is under investigation by state authorities for showing her students the Disney movie “Strange World,” which features a gay character. The complaint against the teacher came from a school board member who won office after being endorsed by Moms for Liberty.

Moms for Liberty says its mission is “fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.” But it has plenty of critics. The group is “orchestrating harassment campaigns that have left people fearing for their safety,” Vice News reported. How did Moms for Liberty get its start? And how is it making itself felt in American politics?

Who are the Moms for Liberty?

The group got its start as a reaction to pandemic-era school lockdowns and classroom mask requirements, as well, Yahoo reported. The Los Angeles Times added that the group “criticizes what it regards as an agenda-driven education system that emphasizes race, gender and diversity at the expense of core subjects.” Co-founders Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich say their goal isn’t to disrupt education but to fight for parents’ rights to oversee their kids’ education. “We are disrupting the balance of power in education,” said Justice.

How does it do activism?

That disruption can be, well, disruptive. “Conservative media outlets highlight videos of members of Moms for Liberty as they turn school board meetings into raucous shouting matches,” Yahoo noted. “The group’s incredible growth over the course of two years coincided with — and helped create — a wider national debate about the politicization of the education system,” added Vice. 

But that raucousness goes hand-in-hand with more official political organizing: The group now claims 115,000 members and runs candidates in school board races nationwide, often winning: About half the group’s 250 endorsed candidates were victorious in 2022. In November, Moms for Liberty-backed school members fired a school board superintendent in South Carolina. As a result of all this, Moms for Liberty “has become a major force in Republican politics,” Vice described.

Does Moms for Liberty favor book bans?

The group has made its biggest splash advocating for “anti-woke” laws against classroom lessons and books that reference critical race theory or LGBT identities. “Moms for Liberty worked with the office of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, to help craft the state’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ legislation,” the New Yorker reported, while the Pennsylvania Capital-Star said that “thanks to efforts by M4L and its Republican allies, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation in the number of school library book bans.” (Texas and Florida rank higher.) PEN America, the free speech advocacy group, added that Moms for Liberty is one of a range of groups behind a “dramatic expansion” in book-banning efforts in the post-pandemic years.

Moms for Liberty’s leaders say some books and topics aren’t appropriate for young readers. “No one is looking to ban books,” Justice told NewsNation. “What we’re talking about is curating content in a library. You wouldn’t have the same books in a medical college that you would in a seminary, and just because a book is printed doesn’t mean that it belongs in a children’s library.” However, Tennessee members of the group drew headlines in 2022 for challenging school books about Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King Jr.

What do critics say?

There does seem to be a backlash brewing. The Los Angeles Times reported that national groups like EveryLibrary and Red Wine & Blue help “people speak out against censorship at public meetings,” while local and regional efforts like Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship have also sprung up. And President Biden seems ready to make library and classroom censorship an issue in the 2024 campaign. “I never thought I’d be a president who is fighting against elected officials trying to ban and banning books,” he said in April. “I’ve never met a parent who wants a politician dictating what their kid can learn and what they can think or who they can be.” 

What’s next?

While Moms for Liberty has focused largely on local school board politics, the group also has its eye on the 2024 presidential race. Justice told CNN that DeSantis has thrown himself into the “parental rights” movement more than other candidates. “Ron DeSantis stood up for parents when no one else was,” she said. “I think he’s a leader that way, and parents across the country have recognized him for that.”

The conservative group Moms for Liberty plays a surprisingly significant role in the national debate over book bans and classroom discussions of race and gender identity. The latest example: The Tallahassee Democrat reported a Florida teacher is under investigation by state authorities for showing her students the Disney movie “Strange World,” which features a gay…

The conservative group Moms for Liberty plays a surprisingly significant role in the national debate over book bans and classroom discussions of race and gender identity. The latest example: The Tallahassee Democrat reported a Florida teacher is under investigation by state authorities for showing her students the Disney movie “Strange World,” which features a gay…