The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left political organization, has drawn scorn for labeling Moms for Liberty and other parental rights organizations as “hate groups,” including them on the same list as neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
While often referenced in media reports as a neutral authority on hate crimes, the SPLC makes no secret of its left-of-center politics. In its report lumping parents protesting school board policies with the white supremacist militia movement, the SPLC made repeated partisan attacks against Republicans. It also claimed “backlash is a political strategy,” not a natural response from concerned parents. Among their list of indicators that Moms For Liberty is an “extremist group” is its support for shutting down the federal Department of Education, a policy embraced by millions of Americans and multiple presidential candidates every four years.
The SPLC report included 523 “hate groups” in its latest map, which includes 230 chapters of Moms for Liberty, No Left Turn in Education (based in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania), and other parents’ rights organizations. It also includes the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom, both organizations promoting religious liberty and Christian beliefs, on the “hate groups” list.
In response, Moms for Liberty tweeted, “Last year, the Biden White House worked with the NSBA to label Parents Domestic Terrorists. Today, the SPLC labels our organization – an org full of moms who care about their kids – a Hate Group. This is a coordinated attempt to silence and suppress us.”
Tiffany Justice, a founder of Moms for Liberty, told DVJournal the SPLC’s actions are “absurd.”
“They put our picture next to the KKK? How ridiculous is that?”
Asked why the parents’ rights movement is facing so much backlash, Justice said it starts at the White House. “Look at what Joe Biden said. ‘There is no such thing as someone else’s child. Our nation’s children are all our children.’ Parents are saying, ‘No! They are my children.’ We have a right to oversee their upbringing. The culture war is in the classroom, parents are getting involved in protecting our kids, and now they’re fighting back.”
That’s not the only Biden connection. The Washington Free Beacon reports the author of the new SPLC report met with Biden’s National Security Council counterterrorism director John Picarelli at the White House earlier this year.
Locally, Moms For Liberty members are bewildered by the SPLC label.
“We are an organization of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, concerned citizens who are fighting to have a say in our children’s public education,” said Vicki Flannery, founder of the Montgomery County chapter of Moms for Liberty, told DVJournal in a podcast interview Wednesday. “You would think everybody would be pro-parental rights,” said Flannery. “Everybody who’s a parent wants what’s best for their child. And it’s baffling that something so simple has become so complex.”
Flannery got involved in 2021 when she saw that her nieces and nephews in Florida did not have to wear masks at their elementary school, but her 3-year-old’s preschool in Pennsylvania required them.
Guy Ciarrocchi, a Republican who ran for Congress in Chester County last year, called it “yet another sad chapter in the history of the 2020s, where so much is upside-down. An organization created to fight back against actual hate desecrates its own history by labeling an organization of moms standing up for their own children as ‘hate.’ After years of being told that parents don’t care enough to get involved, these moms stand up and speak out for their own children—only to be vilified. Sad indeed.”
Jeremy Tedesco, Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior vice president of corporate engagement, said, “The Southern Poverty Law Center is a thoroughly discredited, blatantly partisan activist outfit known for sexism, racism, and condoning domestic terrorism. No one should be listening to the SPLC. It is preposterous to now see the SPLC target moms and dads who simply want to have a voice at school board meetings—this is an organization that has lost its way entirely.”
Hugh Brown, vice president of the American Life League, called the SPLC “a joke.”
“It’s something that began with genuine intent when there was a need to combat racism in the 50s, 60s, perhaps the 70s during the Civil Rights movement. And now, what you see is the perpetual hunt for the next created civil right. Because they have to justify their existence, they are very much just a left-wing, nonsensical group that takes its orders, more than likely, from Washington.”
“We saw the FBI, the Department of Justice target parents here in Virginia and other places, parents attending school board meetings,” said Brown. “So, they’re just following suit. Parents advocating for children is our God-given responsibility.”
Asked about accusations that the Moms for Liberty “hate teachers,” Flannery pushed back, saying her members just want “transparency in the curriculum. Let us know what’s happening. Please stop keeping things from us. We want to work with teachers. We want a good relationship with teachers. We love teachers. We appreciate them. We want to see public schools, and schools, in general, just focus on what kids need to succeed in their future. That is math, science, reading, writing, and things like that. The basics.”
When members talk at school board meetings, they are polite and smiling “joyful warriors,” said Flannery.
In fact, that’s the name of the organization’s national summit, being held later this month in Philadelphia. The scheduled speakers include Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former President Donald Trump.
In a statement, Justice and fellow co-founder Tina Descovich noted, “Two-thirds of Americans think the public education system is on the wrong track today. Calling parents, who want to be a part of their child’s education, ‘hate groups’ or ‘bigoted’ just further exposes what this battle is all about: Who fundamentally gets to decide what is taught to our kids in school – parents or government employees?
“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.”