Moms for Liberty, whose local leader is now chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, has been labeled as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The SPLC, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization known for its classification of hate groups and other extremist organizations, listed the Florida-based Moms for Liberty and 11 other right-wing “parents’ rights” groups as being “extremist” in it’s annual report released on Tuesday.
Founded in 2021 by former Florida school board members, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, Moms for Liberty is classified by the SPLC as an “antigovernment organization whose nationwide chapters combat what they consider the “woke indoctrination” of children by advocating for book bans in school libraries and endorsing candidates for public office that align with the group’s views. They also use their multiple social media platforms to target teachers and school officials, advocate for the abolition of the Department of Education, advance a conspiracy propaganda, and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.”
Locally, the Livingston County chapter has been led by Jennifer Smith, who was also elected last year to be the Chair of the Livingston County Republican Party. Smith, who has advocated the QAnon conspiracy theory, made headlines throughout the pandemic for her contentious advocacy against masks and vaccines.
In November of 2021, she threatened members of the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education during a discussion over mask usage and quarantining students. That threat ended up being reported to the FBI, which questioned Smith, but took no action.
Smith was also involved in filing complaints in December of 2021 in Livingston County Circuit Court against Brighton Area Schools Board of Education President Roger Myers, then-Vice President Alicia Reid, Treasurer Angela Krebs and then-Trustee Laura Mitchell seeking an injunction to halt the activities of the Health, HR and Policy Committee, alleging they were in violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act by not being open to the public while developing policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
However, she later filed to dismiss the lawsuits after the district requested the plaintiffs produce all emails or other communications with Trustees John Conely and Bill Trombley, who at the time were the subjects of proposed recall petitions and were believed to be coordinating efforts with the group against the district.
Conely is a member of the Livingston County GOP’s Executive Committee.
The recall was initiated by Brighton attorney Sarah Cross, who later was granted a Personal Protection Order against Smith, who said she had been harassed and her family threatened by Smith. The PPO was eventually dismissed by a Washtenaw County judge who determined there was not direct evidence to prove Smith was behind the harassment.
A request for comment has been made to Smith about the SPLC designation, but has yet to be returned.
The SPLC says that since its inception, Moms for Liberty has “encouraged its chapters and members to become watchdogs and gain positions in local school districts, usually by seeking open school board seats, in order to stop what it describes as school districts disregarding the opinions of parents and “abdicating their authority to bureaucrats, to medical committees, to Departments of Health to other people where the decision making really did lie with the school board local control.”
In Livingston County, a wave of candidates using the parental rights banner ran for seats in all five public school districts, with three so-called “Clean Slate” members winning seats on the Hartland Consolidated Schools Board of Education.
The latest SPLC report adds 11 other groups along with Moms for Liberty to the extremist list, bringing the total to 1,225 nationwide, 702 of which are designated as anti-government groups and 523 as hate groups.