If you’ve spent any time reading through book challenges over the last year, one of the groups you’ve likely encountered by name numerous times — and will encounter in the links below — is Moms for Liberty. But who or what exactly is the Moms for Liberty movement?
Established in January 2021, the conservative nonprofit group, founded in Florida, brags of a 70,000+ membership. Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice, two former school board members in Brevard County, teamed up with Bridget Ziegler after Descovich lost a seat on the school board to a former district employee who campaigned against Descovich’s anti-mask mandate agenda. Ziegler is no longer part of the group.
Moms of Liberty is an extremely well-connected organization to a variety of politically conservative groups and individual politicians, including Ron DeSantis, the vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party (Ziegler’s husband), conservative Florida political actions groups, conservative celebrities like Fox news hosts, Florida state representative Randy Fine, the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation (see last week’s news roundup), Parents Defending Education, PragerU, and more. Within just weeks of beginning the organization, they appeared across a host of right-wing conservative media outlets, including Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Breitbart, and more. Media Matters does a fantastic job of following the money and connections of this group.
As of writing, Moms for Liberty boasts 165 chapters in 33 states. What makes them especially powerful besides their tremendous funding is their local level efforts: they operate by county, rather than city or state, meaning that action can be quick, organized, and targeted. Their pet projects include anti–critical race theory and anti–social emotional learning in public schools, book challenges, anti-mask mandates, and other legislation relating to education and COVID-related policies.
Those involved with the organization are proud of their involvement. They often will wear associated apparel — which is how the founders claim they’ve raised their money — and they will introduce themselves as part of the group in school board meetings or in press interviews. Moms of Liberty has acted as a template for fellow failed school board candidates to create similar groups in other U.S. states.
Keep this in mind when you read about book challenges or about the bills working through states across the U.S. that focus on “parental rights.” These have taken hold in too many states to name, but among the most immediate are those in Florida, Texas, and Indiana. Watch where the money flows between and among the politicians proposing the bills and who they’re associated with. It’s hard not to see the ways they’re working in tandem to destroy public institutions like schools and libraries in order to build for-profit institutions in their place. There’s a lot of money available to them now, with untold potential wealth were these public facilities dismantled.
It’s not about the books. They, like children, are pawns in the bigger game. Yes, racism and bigotry and homophobia are involved, but that’s not the real motivation. Money, privatization, and control are. Those are all symptoms and results of white supremacy.
As always, before diving into this week’s roundup of censorship news, here’s a reminder that you can take action. Use this toolkit for how to fight book bans and challenges, as well as this guide to identifying fake news.
Book Censorship News: January 28, 2022
The Granbury Independent School District in Texas banned an array of books following their board meeting on January 25. Below are images of the list of book titles being reviewed for potential removal, which were selected from the list created by state representative Matt Krause:
The books on the following list were removed from the library without any review:
Wentzville, Missouri, schools have banned Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Lawn Boy and Gender Queer will remain on shelves in Billings High School (Montana). Three queer memoirs are currently “under review” in Orange County Public Schools (Florida). In Henrico County, Virginia, Out of Darkness and I Am A Gay Wizard are currently under review. Pitt County North Carolina schools change their policies that will inform parents about books being read in classrooms following All American Boys being read in middle schools. The book is available in the county schools still, but no longer in the middle school. It’s still censorship if it was removed from a library in the district.A Mississippi mayor is threatening to withhold funding to Madison County Library System if they do not “purge” LGBTQ+ books. This is a thoughtful piece about book challenges and bans and within it is the story of Lighter Than My Shadow being removed from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, schools. Sartell-St. Stephen School District in Minnesota saw parents pulling their students out of an English class where Dear Martin was being taught. The school responded by saying the book wouldn’t be pulled, but their students could read an alternate title. The alternate? Fahrenheit 451. Monday’s Not Coming and Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder were two of the books parents were angry about in Lexington-Richland school district in South Carolina. The titles are not named in the news story but are in the accompanying video, and the board chose to edit parts of that discussion from the recording of the meeting. Williamson County, Tennessee, school removes Walk Two Moons from their elementary school curriculum. This story is a little hard to untangle, but To Kill a Mockingbird was removed from curriculum in Mukilteo, Washington 9th grade classes. It won’t be banned but it’s no longer required reading — part of the discussion seems centered on inappropriate language but also on how the book is outdated and offers a white savior narrative. George (now Melissa) is under fire at Union Pines High School and McDeeds Creek Elementary in Cameron, North Carolina. Walla Walla, Washington, schools did not remove books being challenged there, so protesters staged a prayer vigil. So here’s why it is vital to follow the money. A teacher in Carroll Independent School District was reprimanded because she had a copy of This Book Is Antiracist in her classroom. The admonishment came from the board, not her superintendent. Turns out that members of the board were financially linked to the parent who complained. ROWVA School District in Illinois won’t allow The Hate U Give in classrooms, but it can stay on shelves in the library. McMinn County schools in Tennessee have banned Maus from the classroom.