Moms for Liberty has gotten away with repeated instances of targeted harassment while maintaining some semblance of outward innocence and respectability because it falls back on the tired excuse of just being a group of concerned parents. But in reality, Moms for Liberty wields an image of caring mothers in order to covertly — and often with impunity for its public image — spread bigotry, hate, and sometimes messages of violence.
The group’s history of harassment started at the top, with co-founder Tiffany Justice, a former Florida school board member who has been described as an “antagonizing and disruptive force” who has frequently made “inappropriate outbursts.” But it has spread well beyond her, with members — and often leadership — of various Moms for Liberty chapters harassing community members and school officials across the United States.
Justice once visited her son’s elementary school to oppose the district’s COVID-19 mask mandate, and her conduct with teachers and administrators was reportedly “so disruptive and disrespectful” that the superintendent “warned she could be barred from the campus.” Justice also went after a local news outlet that critically covered the school board, writing in leaked texts that she was “starting the takedown” of the outlet.
Jennifer Jenkins, a Brevard County School Board member who unseated Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich, traced harassment in her district back to the beginning of Moms for Liberty protests at school board meetings.
Jenkins noted that the group first targeted the county’s LGBTQ guidelines that protected students by allowing for “the right to dress and use bathrooms according to the gender they identify with.” According to Jenkins, parents reportedly 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!”
Someone even falsely reported Jenkins for child abuse, she said, prompting an investigation from the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The harassment has since spread. Here are some of the most egregious examples of Moms for Liberty’s harassment problem:
- The chairperson of the Monroe County, Pennsylvania, chapter was arrested on a “summary charge of harassment” after allegedly repeatedly harassing an individual with messages.
- The head of communications of the Lonoke County, Arkansas, chapter threatened gun violence against librarians. In audio obtained by Media Matters, the chapter’s head of communications and media, Melissa “Missy” Bosch, threatened librarians in the district, saying, “I’m telling you, if I was -- any mental issues, they would all be plowed down with a freaking gun by now.”
- The chapter chair of the Livingston County, Michigan, chapter allegedly led a harassment campaign against a community advocate and was issued a restraining order. Moms for Liberty chapter chair Jennifer Smith led an alleged harassment campaign against Sarah Cross, an advocate for tougher COVID-19 protocols. Cross said Smith and other members of Moms for Liberty “prayed for her soul and equated her to doing the work of the devil during public comment at an election commission meeting,” as Livingston Daily described it. The outlet also reported Cross’ claim that Smith, under a pseudonym, “published Cross' home address on the recall election website, posted online that Cross would be collecting signatures alone, has made allegations that Cross has harassed her children, made comments with various pseudonyms on the blog Livingston Lantern about how Cross and other community members had child pornography.” In 2021, Smith told Brighton Area School Board members that “we’re coming for you. Take it as a threat. Call the FBI. I don’t care!” According to a local Livingston news outlet, Smith adheres to the QAnon conspiracy theory and screenshots of her TikTok page show her using the acronym “WWG1WGA.”
- In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Moms for Liberty members harassed an opposing group and threatened to report them for child abuse and called them “pedophile sympathizers.” Moms for Social Justice — a group that predates Moms for Liberty by three years — spearheaded a campaign to diversify reading lists to include “protagonists of color, and LGBTQ protagonists, and queer authors, and authors of color.” Following this, the group reportedly received “constant harassment” from Moms for Liberty members who “threatened to report them for child abuse or distribution of pornography, publicly accused them of grooming children, and tagged them as #PedophileSympathizers in their closed Facebook group.”
- Moms for Liberty harassment at a school board meeting in Wauwatosa County, Wisconsin, prompted police presence. Police presence was eventually needed at a Wauwatosa School Board meeting when members of Moms for Liberty and Gays Against Groomers “accused attendees of being groomers, not actually being gay and wanting to show explicit pictures to children. The group’s members even brought a 10-year-old student to tears.”
- A Moms for Liberty-affiliated school board member in Charleston, South Carolina, said he would show up at an educator’s doorstep with a gun if his child’s teacher came out as transgender. Charleston County School Board member Ed Kelley attended a Moms for Liberty meeting and publicly stated that he would bring a gun to the home of his child’s teacher if the teacher came out as trans.