Moms For Liberty: Meet the Far-Right Christian Nationalists Attempting to Strongarm the APS Board
While many are celebrating the drubbing MAGA Republicans received at the polls earlier this month, we cannot afford to let our guard down. Far-right Christian Nationalism isn’t going anywhere. We must prepare for the fact that it will likely remain an insurgent force within our society for years to come.
“The path to save the nation is very simple — it’s going to go through the school boards.”
These are the words of far-right insurrectionist and former Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon in his podcast last year. Bannon was speaking to a highly-funded reactionary strategy already in full swing all across the country. With the deadly mayhem that unfolded on January 6th fresh in our memories, we would be remiss to ignore the extremist forces currently mobilizing to drag the Albuquerque Public School Board sharply to the right.
At the head of the pack of conservative “parents’ rights” groups currently waging Bannon’s holy war to defend Christian White identity are Moms For Liberty (also known as M4L) — a rapidly growing organization of nearly 100,000 members made up of a network of county-specific chapters across the country, including right here in Albuquerque.
While outwardly M4L’s leadership maintains it is “non-partisan”, the organization’s stated positions and political affiliations all indicate it is orientated to the conspiratorial far-right. During a recent Moms For Liberty event about Critical Race Theory (CRT), the group went as far as to claim that “globalists, utopians, socialists, totalitarians and the UN are using public schools to undermine freedom and Christianity.” They also make no secret of their close relationship with the Trump family, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, PragerU, Parents Defending Education, The Heritage Foundation, and, of course, Steve Bannon.
Each chapter is tasked with swarming and eventually overthrowing local school boards. As Mom’s For Liberty co-founder and executive board member Tiffany Justice said on Bannon’s show recently: “We’re going to take over the school boards, but that’s not enough. Once we replace the school boards, what we need to do is we need to have search firms, that are conservative search firms, that help us to find new educational leaders, because parents are going to get in there and they’re going to want to fire everyone.”
In the crosshairs are the usual targets. Anything outside of a Gone With The Wind-style portrayal of our nation’s past is to be expunged from curriculums. Likewise, Sex Ed, as well as any and all things LGBT+, must be liquidated immediately.
Any school board members, administrators, teachers or parents who fail to fall in line with M4L’s agenda are to be targeted. Anti-abortion activist Allie Stuckey recently said the following at a speech at a M4L event: “Anyone who tries to stand between us and our children will be removed from power […] we will rally and fundraise and make noise until you are stripped of your titles and ridden of your power.”
Writing in The Washington Post, Jennifer Jenkins, a school board member in Brevard County FL, reported that after Moms For Liberty targeted the county’s LGBT+ guidelines, activists began calling school board members “pedophiles” and threatening them, saying, “We’re coming at you like a freight train! We are going to make you beg for mercy. If you thought January 6 was bad, wait until you see what we have for you!”
In Livingston County, Michigan, Moms For Liberty posted an ominous message on Facebook using coded language to insinuate that January 6th-style political violence would be waged against anyone backing President Biden’s review of threatening behavior in school board meetings: “Not a single person on the right side of the aisle better be backing this, if they are they better be prepared to be REMOVED 1776 style.”
Moms For Liberty brands itself as a grassroots movement of “joyful warriors”. They are proud “mama bears” waging a holy David and Goliath struggle against the evil, anti-white behemoth that is the American Public School System — an institution they see as rife with “groomers” out to brainwash their kids into having gender reassignment surgery. As another of the group’s founders, Tina Descovich put it when she joined Rush Limbaugh’s show: “It sounds a little melodramatic, but there is evil working against us on a daily basis.”
But just how grassroots is this organization really?
While Moms For Liberty claim their funding comes almost entirely from $50 membership fees and T-shirt sales, the truth is they are connected at the hip to dark Republican money.
The Tampa Bay Times has reported the following about Moms for Liberty’s financials:
- M4L is incorporated as an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(4) organization – a form that lends itself to dark money political shenanigans.
- The group formed three federal and one state political action committees, one of which is a SuperPAC able to accept unlimited donations.
- M4L’s press is being handled by Calvary Strategies whose CEO is a former campaign manager and chief of staff to Sen. (then-Gov.) Rick Scott.
- Two of Moms for Liberty’s National Summit sponsors, the Leadership Institute and Heritage Foundation are critical members of the Council for National Policy, a secretive network of right-wing billionaires and Christian fundamentalist leaders that underwrites and coordinates right wing politics.
Media watchdog non-profit Media Matters has emphasized that Moms For Liberty are in fact “well-connected partisans […] opportunistically manufacturing outrage and selling it to parents under the guise of empowerment.”
Former Democratic Senatorial Council Emily Amick has stated that “what feels organic is actually a well-funded effort supported by the highest levels of the conservative machine to make ‘mama bears’ the tip of the spear in their culture war.”
As we previously mentioned, Moms For Liberty is established in Albuquerque and has been active in working with right-wing school board members in an attempt to bring their agenda to Albuquerque Public Schools. Thanks to the vigilance and advocacy of our union members and community allies, M4L has not succeeded in redacting true history from our curriculums or forcing through policy changes that would endanger the safety of LGBT+ students. Under pressure from M4L there have, however, been concessionary changes to the APS Parent Rights and Responsibilities Policy that are due to be approved at this week’s Board of Education Meeting. Even though almost all of M4L’s reactionary demands have been scrubbed from the policy, they are still likely to declare victory. This does not mean they will stop. They have their foot in the door and unless we act they are going to keep coming back.
If M4L and their allies gain the majority on our school board it is game over for APS. It is our job to keep our schools safe for all students and members of our community. Our goal must be to ensure that the public in public education is genuine and has the health of our system at heart.
We’ll have our chance to push back 1 year from this month. We must VOTE in the upcoming 2023 School Board election. But, voting is only a start. We must work together to educate our families, friends, and neighbors on the importance of our public schools as the bedrock of our democracy. We must volunteer to get out the vote, making our voices heard as union educators.
Finally, from the evidence above, we can see that those who wish harm to our public schools are well-funded. We must increase our ability to get our message out to the public and support candidates who support us. If you are not a contributing member of the ATF Unified Committee on Political Education (COPE), join now. If you are a contributor, please consider increasing your dues amount. When we all give a little, it amounts to a lot. Learn more about COPE and contribute here. Any union member who contributes to COPE is invited to attend committee meetings which are held at the ATF Office the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 4:30pm. We need your activism and your voice. Our diversity is our strength.