Two different chapters of Moms for Liberty faced stinging losses this week in two strongholds, the latest events in the once powerful organization’s steady decline.
Moms for Liberty experienced a meteoric rise at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as local chapters sprang up to push back against coronavirus restrictions in schools. The organization soon expanded to pushing book bans and opposing discussion of LGBTQ issues and race and diversity in classrooms, prompting the Southern Poverty Law Center to categorize Moms for Liberty as an extremist hate group.
But on Tuesday, the local chapter in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, shut down due to lack of interest. The chapter had 200 members when it first formed in 2021, but just three showed up at a diner in Allentown to vote to dissolve the group, The Daily Beast reported.
Members had begun drifting away after Covid-19 mandates were lifted nationwide, but the biggest blow came in November when the chapter’s preferred candidate in a school district board election lost badly. Attendance at chapter events nose-dived, with just 20 people showing up to the holiday party.
“I guess there wasn’t as much willingness to do the work that’s required to propel the movement forward,” the chapter founder, Janine Vicalvi, told the Beast in a story published Wednesday.
Participation also appears to be flagging for a key Moms for Liberty chapter in Florida. The Brevard County chapter was the national organization’s first chapter. A local group was already in action against Covid-19 regulations in schools when Tina Descovich, Tiffany Justice, and Bridget Ziegler founded Moms for Liberty in Florida. Descovich approached the Brevard County group about merging with Moms for Liberty, and the local group agreed.
But on Wednesday, the Brevard County school board held a meeting, in part to discuss a challenge to the books The Kite Runner and Slaughterhouse-Five. Only one Moms for Liberty member showed up.
All the other attendees spoke in favor of keeping the books on the shelves—and heavily criticized the parental rights organization. One attendee compared “the growth of the Taliban and its repressive autocracy in the name of religious nationalism” in The Kite Runner to “the rise of parental rights groups that want to limit what students learn.”
The Moms for Liberty member did not speak and eventually snuck out of the room. The books were not banned.
The national Moms for Liberty organization still holds a lot of influence among politicians, with many Republican primary candidates speaking at the group’s annual summit last year. But Moms for Liberty has started to see its power wane in the past year, as the group was rocked by a sexual assault scandal.
Moms for Liberty endorsed 130 candidates for school boards nationwide during the 2023 elections. The vast majority of them lost. Meanwhile, Ziegler was ousted from the organization after she and her husband admitted they had had a consensual sexual relationship with another woman.
That woman accused Ziegler’s husband, Christian Ziegler, of assaulting her on a separate occasion. Christian Ziegler was voted out as Florida Republican Party chairman in January over the allegations.