In the June 2 issue of the Delaware Valley Journal, News Editor Linda Stein ran a by-lined article about Lower Providence Township Board of Supervisors Chair Cara Coless. In the article, Stein described how Coless was “under fire” for various activities she had undertaken in opposition to members of the Montgomery County Moms for Liberty. These activities social media posts targeting the group.
In the story, Stein’s principle source, in fact her only quoted source for this allegation, was one Vicki Flannery, identified as the founder of that county’s chapter of M4L.
When contacted by PGN for a response, Coless, familiar with the Journal’s story, explained how surprised she was adding she has never met Flannery, encountered her or had any dealings with her prior to that story’s publication.
Who are the Moms for Liberty? What are they? That depends on who you ask.
According to the Journal, which quotes the MontCo M4L website, they are “dedicated to the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”
However, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, M4L — both the national organization based in Florida and the local county chapters — is a far-right anti-government extremist group whose agenda includes book bans in school and public libraries and a variety of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-diversity initiatives.
As the presence and influence of M4L has grown nationally, so too has the grassroots opposition to M4L and its agenda has grown. This includes, among other efforts, the growth of various state STOP Moms for Liberty groups.
Coless freely admits to being a member of Pennsylvania STOP Moms for Liberty, but she maintains that much of what Flannery accuses her of is deceptive, misleading or outright false.
In the little over two years since its inception, M4L has become known for employing tactics of deception, intimidation and outright threats in its pursuit of its agenda. According to the watchdog group Media Matters, “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.”
One woman has witnessed firsthand the nature of M4L’s strategy, having covertly attended organizational meetings (and who insists on anonymity so that she may continue to do so). She says, “The very design of this national organization — one led using hate and threats of violence — is to perpetuate Christian nationalism and white supremacy. [It’s] a threat to our liberty and worse — our safety.”
Unfortunately, all too often, M4L chalks up considerable success using such tactics. But with success has come increasing reports of just how dangerous this group’s members can be.
M4L has always used deception and intimidation in order to get its way. Cara Coliss reports that part of M4L’s campaign to remove her from the Lower Providence Board of Supervisors was to submit a petition with hundreds of signatures calling for her removal, except, on closer examination, it was discovered that most of the signatories were not residents of the township. It was a tactic to make it appear that M4L had more support than it actually did.
Deceptively inflating their appearance of support is a common tactic, especially when they seek to disrupt school board or city council meetings. Robert Jacobus, the controversial M4L-allied councilman in Telford — a borough in Bucks County — routinely packs council meetings with out-of-town speakers and agitators, including members of M4L, whenever he brings up another far-right proposal.
One of the more disturbing developments has been the increasing reports in media across the country about M4L members engaged in harassment and other threatening behavior. A recent local incident involved Nicole Prussman, head of the Monroe County M4L chapter, who was charged and convicted of criminal harassment. Incidentally, Prussman was signed out for praise by the national organization at their National Summit in Philadelphia.
Another incident of harassment was recounted by Amanda Pauley, a member of the local activist group Red Wine & Blue. She said she was out shopping with her 11-year-old daughter when she and her daughter were approached by a member of M4L.
“[She] walked into the shop and said ‘Oh look the pedophile queen is here.’ She shouted it so my daughter instantly went to the next aisle to hide her face,” Pauley said. “The woman told an older couple to keep their children away from me, that I was a pedophile and groomer. My daughter was hysterical, crying.”
“My kids have been a target,” Pauley said. “My son has been called a pedophile and a groomer. He’s 17 years old.”
One woman [name withheld] who lives in Northumberland County has been dealing with a public campaign of harassment and vilification of both her and her trans daughter. Clarissa Paige, head of the Northumberland chapter, and other M4L members, have taken to social media to foster a hostile and toxic atmosphere at the trans daughter’s school. One social media post by Anthony Beachel, an M4L ally, read, in part, “Adults who push their sexual beliefs on their children and try to push their sexual beliefs on others’ children are like you, a pervert. Children don’t choose to be trans, they are pushed into it by adults like you.”
The toxic atmosphere has gotten so severe that the trans daughter has had to endure unremitting bullying, even sexual assault, with little recourse from unresponsive school authorities.
The increasing aggressiveness of M4L’s intimidation tactics coincide with the members’ increasing close affiliation with groups like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and Rod of Iron Ministries, a new right-wing church that literally worships guns. There are reports on an almost daily basis of M4L members showing up to school board meetings and city council meetings accompanied by armed members of the Proud Boys or other right-wing militias.
M4L’s attacks on schools and public libraries have become so vitriolic, hurling attacks of obscenity and grooming. In several states, like Texas and Florida, M4L has attempted to get recalcitrant librarians criminally charged as pornographers. There was even one incident in Arkansas where a member threatened a librarian with a gun.
At the national summit here in Philadelphia, M4L members called themselves “joyous warriors.” If incidents in Arkansas or even in Northumberland County are any indication, the Moms for Liberty take that appellation very seriously.