The founders of Moms for Liberty, a parental rights group, plan to sue the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for defamation after it labeled the coalition an extremist group.
The Florida-based Moms for Liberty launched in 2021 after COVID restrictions paused typical schooling and moved education behind masks or online. The results for students caught in the pandemic were disastrous as mental health issues jumped and test scores slumped.
Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice co-founded Moms for Liberty with Bridget Ziegler, who has since exited the group, leaving Descovich and Justice in charge. The trio founded the group not only to push back against detrimental health policies, but to reinforce parental authority over a child’s education as well. Since its founding, Moms for Liberty has expanded to include hundreds of chapters across almost every state in the U.S.
In 2022, the SPLC in its annual Year in Hate and Extremism report called Moms for Liberty an “extremist” coalition of “far-right antigovernment parents” known for “intimidating and harassing teachers and school officials.” It said Moms for Liberty is “one of the most recognized names in the anti-student inclusion movement” for the group’s opposition to explicit and Critical Race Theory materials being available and taught to students at school.
The designation is false and libelous, Justice told The Daily Wire. Descovich and Justice are in the early stages of planning a lawsuit against the SPLC for defamation.
“We’re not threatening to do it, we’re going to do it if we feel that we have an ability to do that,” Justice said. “Defamation is a hard claim in court, but it is certainly affecting our chapters and hurting our chapters all over the country, and intentionally so is the point. And it’s totally unfounded.”
The SPLC’s designation places Moms for Liberty alongside neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, as well as conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council, an example of critics’ observation that the SPLC often conflates mainstream conservatives and activists with racists and bigots.
“The designation is being used widely by the media. There are people, liberal activists, that are using it to try to hurt our chapters, to try to hurt our moms,” she continued. “The SPLC has put a target on the back of every American mom and dad. Shame on them.”
Justice said the main Moms for Liberty office in Florida is receiving examples of how the SPLC designation and description of the group is impacting members’ ability to conduct outreach. In one example reported in The Wall Street Journal, a Moms for Liberty event planned to take place at Milwaukee’s Italian Community Center was canceled after a reporter inquired to the event space’s booker about the group. In the ensuing article about the cancelation, the reporter described Moms for Liberty as “a group designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist antigovernment organization.”
“The SPLC needs to be held accountable,” Justice said, “and we’re going to work to do everything we can to make sure that they’re held accountable.”
Justice said she also suspects that Moms for Liberty has been singled out for pressure from the federal government. She said she has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Justice and the White House for information on how the SPLC listing might be used.
“We want to know, how is this list being used? How is the federal government using this list? Are they using it?” Justice said, pointing out that President Joe Biden has met with representatives of the SPLC multiple times in the White House. “What are they discussing? What are they talking about?”
“The American people want to know. American people are tired of the federal government being weaponized against us. We will not be shamed or silenced out of defending our parental rights and our children and the future of our country. And so we’re going to do everything that we need to do to get the right information to be able to hold the SPLC accountable,” she said.