“Moms for Liberty” and Book Banning
The opinions expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect opinions or positions held by Indivisible Northampton-Swing Left Western MA.
Over the summer, I have been encouraged to see our local independent bookstores display “banned books,” so I was heartened by the idea that the Northampton area chapter of the League of Women Voters will include a special banned books section in its annual book sale on Sept. 30 Although this corner of Massachusetts has been largely overlooked by the MAGA book banning frenzy, as a recent article notes, in the last year, led by their respective governors, Florida (300 titles) and Texas (800 titles) have been plagued by bigots banning books in school curricula and in town libraries. [“Get your banned books here,” Gazette, Sept. 23].
These book bans have been led by Moms for Liberty, formed in Florida in January 2021, after many of them had protested COVID mask policies. They then turned their self-righteous wrath on school curricula that mention “LGBT rights, race and ethnicity, critical race theory, and discrimination” (quoted from their website).
They seek to ban African American, women’s, and LGBTQ history, literature, sociology and psychology from school curricula and public libraries. In the name of “parental rights” and often accompanied by the Proud Boys, Moms for Liberty chapters in Florida and elsewhere (Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, to name a few), have stormed school board and library board meetings, demanding certain titles be expunged.
As a consequence of their presenting these boards with lists of 100 or more titles, their refusal to follow standard procedures for the discussion of curricula and titles, and their threats against board members who don’t accede to their demands, the Southern Poverty Law Center has put Moms for Liberty on their list of antigovernment extremist organizations in its 2022 annual “Hate and Extremism” report.
Their extremism has been embraced by the Christian right and right wing and moderate Republican politicians who seek to court the MAGA vote by undermining the public education system, a long-term Republican goal. After attracting the attention of conservative Republican think tanks who write some of their scripts for public meetings, in June at its national meeting in Philadelphia, Moms for Liberty was courted by Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, who lauded their efforts to “combat indoctrination” around diversity and inclusion in the schools.
Their embrace by the Republican establishment has meant that they have multiplied their mailing list exponentially, as they have tried to edge closer to respectability. At the convention in Philadelphia, they announced that one of their goals for the next two years is to run candidates in school board elections throughout the country who will “correct” school curricula and library content.
Fortunately, the Moms for Liberty censorship drive is attracting pushback in many states. In Ohio, suburban women have created an organization in response called “Red Wine and Blue,” contending that the more effective response to angry, vitriolic groups is to calmly and humorously assert their own “parental rights” and present the true defense of liberty in defending all students’ rights to an open library and to a comprehensive curriculum that prepares them to be knowledgeable, compassionate, and responsible citizens.
Locally, in June, the Ludlow schools’ library policies were challenged by one of their own School Committee members who wanted to rid the library of its “pornographic policies” (i.e. LGBTQ titles). Fellow members never seconded the motion, and so it never came up for a formal vote and was defeated.
The American Library Association and PEN America have been keeping careful track of book-banning incidents state by state and those titles most often targeted in the fields of African American, women’s and gender studies. Given the conservative Christian hostility to LGBTQ people and culture, and the Republican-initiated anxiety about critical race theory (which they can’t define) and the teaching of African American history and literature, we will need to assert our own parental and community rights and be vigilant in keeping our schools and public libraries free from right-wing coercion and violence.