Search

Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

Moms for Liberty is a re-branded lobbying group with underreported ties to Christian nationalism.
Screenshot of Erika Donalds and her husband, Rep. Byron Donalds, speaking at a Florida event hosted by “Truth & Liberty.”

On February 14, 2021 (Valentine’s Day), Moms for Liberty (M4L) advisory board member Erika Donalds stood with her husband, Representative Byron Donalds (R-FL), on a brightly lit stage inside a darkened Florida church. Clutching a microphone, Erika declared that, “We will … rise up as the most powerful voting bloc and political force in the entire world as Christians!” 

- Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

The event was hosted by Truth and Liberty Coalition, a Colorado-based Christian Right nonprofit that seeks to take over public school boards in Colorado and beyond. The video from the event (which I recently unearthed) began with an announcement: “We believe we have a mandate to bring godly change to our nation and the world through the seven spheres or mountains of influence.”

M4L is a nationwide “parental rights” organization. Like Truth and Liberty, M4L strives to take over and transform public school boards in their own Christian “conservative” image. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated M4L as an extremist group due to their anti-LGBTQ+ policies and ties to the Proud Boys, which led the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

The organization’s ties to religious zealotry, however, have received less attention. 

“Truth and Liberty,” the nonprofit that hosted Mr. and Mrs. Donalds, was founded by pastor Andrew Wommack, who has said that gay people should wear warning labels on their foreheads. Its board of directors includes Lance Wallnau, a self-described Christian nationalist, who said in 2020 that America “must destroy the public education system before it destroys us.” 

Wallnau also popularized the “seven mountains” mandate trumpeted by Truth and Liberty. The mandate is a supposedly divine strategy used by Christian supremacists in order to achieve societal dominion for God, as I’ve reported previously. They seek control over these seven “mountains” or “spheres”: business, government, family, religion, media, entertainment, and education. 

In addition to Wallnau, Truth and Liberty’s board of directors includes David Barton, a “seven mountains” proponent with a dubious “doctorate” whose books and lectures teach that the separation between church and state is a myth. Barton had one of his books pulled in 2012 because the “basic truths just were not there,” according to the publisher. 

Barton interviewed M4L co-founder Tina Descovich last year. His son, Tim Barton, spoke during M4L’s 2023 summit

The younger Barton has said that “God never intended education to be secular.”

***. 

M4L was founded in December 2020, about two months before Mrs. Donalds spoke during Truth and Liberty’s event. Their founding documents list Tiffany Justice, Tina Descovich, and Bridget Ziegler. The group has said that “Ziegler resigned from her role as co-founder with Moms for Liberty within a month of our launch in January of 2021.”

Ziegler nonetheless retained a less visible position on M4L’s advisory board, which also includes Donalds.

Both Donalds and Ziegler are married to GOP insiders, perhaps explaining why they eschewed spotlight roles in M4L, which claims to be “grassroots.” Congressman Donalds, for example, is a close ally of convicted felon Roger Stone, former president Donald Trump’s longtime unofficial advisor. Byron also has a criminal history, but reportedly “became a Christian after attending Erika’s evangelical church.” 

As for Bridget, she’s married to Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler. Christian was recently accused of rape by a woman who reportedly had three-way consensual sex with both Zieglers on another occasion. (More on that later.)

In 2015, Erika and Bridget co-founded the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCBSM), a lobbying group for “school choice,” which redirects taxpayer money from public schools to private (often religious) schools and charter schools. “I as a [public] school board member should be able to make that choice, where those taxpayer dollars are going,” Donalds declared at the time. 

FCSBM’s members included Descovich (who served as president), Eric Robinson, who is sometimes called the “Prince of Dark Money,” and other well-connected Florida Republican operatives. Robinson reportedly ran an out-of-state PAC that funneled $45,000 in donations to Bridget’s 2014 public school board campaign, which doesn’t sound very “grassroots.”

FCSBM’s founding documents also listed political strategist Shawn Frost whose public school board campaign in 2014 was supported by the Indian River Conservatives for Better Schools (IRCBS), an electioneering communications organization. During the campaign, IRCBS received a whopping $20,000 donation from the American Federation for Children (AFC), which was led at the time by Betsy DeVos, who later served as Trump’s education secretary.

DeVos also made a personal $1,000 donation to Frost’s 2014 campaign, as did John Kirtley, who is vice chairman of AFC and co-chair of the Florida Federation for Children, AFC’s state affiliate. (Link to tweet.)  

tg7jKMKSEVGFWZehSHaF7is49Hrni8XqzJGldyV5ndpjFl7HJgdOacVaAGlv7TLx7lR WlM2lyn9TTKN3uu9x DrktJB103uH5OteaUKtPmv1Zta2AQgxP6qsRiib0FV Fk6VJdNOYc8nMYGGZK wA - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

The ties between DeVos and FCSBM are noteworthy because DeVos, a wealthy “school choice” proponent, is the “Crown Princess” of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a powerful umbrella organization for Christian Right operatives and their wealthy financiers, as detailed by author Anne Nelson in her book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right

The CNP is not exactly enamored of public (secular) education. The group’s co-founder, Gary North, once said that, “We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

Soon after Trump selected DeVos as his education secretary, the CNP again gave away the “game” in a report advocating the replacement of public (secular) schools with “private schools, church schools, and home schools as the normative American practice.”(Italics in original.) 

DeVos’s late father in law, Richard DeVos, was a CNP president. Her mother, Elsa Prince, has belonged to the CNP’s “gold circle.”

DeVos’s father, Edgar Prince, helped start the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian Right behemoth whose president, Tony Perkins, is a former CNP president

FRC collaborates with Truth and Liberty (whose board member, William Federer, is listed in the CNP’s 2020 directory) and other Christian Right groups to train right wing pastors and their flocks to take over public school boards and local government. It’s been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. FRC has also said that “abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother.”

M4L sent a representative, Quisha King, to FRC’s 2021 conference, which was sponsored by Truth and Liberty. King had previously worked for the Republican National Committee. In October 2021, she infamously called for a “mass exodus” from public schools.

FRC also collaborates with the Leadership Institute, which was founded by CNP Board of Governors member Morton Blackwell and has taken M4L under its wing. The Leadership Institute has co-hosted a training session with M4L, sponsored M4L’s 2023 summit, and employed Bridget Ziegler (until recently). Erika Donalds is a Leadership Institute “faculty member” per her LinkedIn profile. 

Likewise, FRC is an ally of Hillsdale, a private Christian college, which is building a network of K-12 charter schools with funding from DeVos. Hillsdale College has been called one of the “absolute worst” colleges in America for LGBTQ+ students

f3fQJuumt0ivl4bw z2oIUBrrbSHyvNHMkK3XKNV4cqClMz6ecWhwvjsSjBFIkoYwk7SItecSMZ5bRgByvv8mDo6S0TFZOh7GMWk7pJ3imwT8sBBZ qXCBIUsC4aARpY zV1ZBstFXYRSqchPtmuW I - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

Hillsdale was founded by CNP member Larry Arnn, who spoke on a panel with Erika in 2019. 

tMfVe AaQ5Z8u 4FslBEMBgJDGvLiA7JCBt DrM1JuMk940WnLg07DGMIXaHO1QucfAw3F9aA1nJDmy23JABqx4Tic1bTDTjU4UIBg1FpIasiAoEbTkIvKhXjy0Acf HqX0VyHgL Pd4EsOOkHNNJAE - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

During her tenure at FCSBM (the “school choice” lobbying group), Erika had launched OptimaEd, a “for-profit company with the explicit intention of expanding Hillsdale’s network of schools,” according to Mother Jones. OptimaEd boasts six “current and announced” charter schools and four more planned for the “future.” All of them offer a “classical” education.

A “classical” education “emphasizes systematic Bible reading” and “the fact that history is under the providential hand of God,” according to Jeremy Tate of Christian Learning Test, where Erika sits on an advisory board. (One of Erika’s schools, Optima Classical Gladiolus, re-posted Tate’s post.)HCnsV8m8BNnZtlbrzV23QWt3JYgmiobMibfhRiIoEiHieVqOCW3DTW4hqPutR8tc URi1kn2MBIjHRvGeurilnAKJrN7TJghK5d0 BRiKMzzrzqLN16IruVk69pa4Hnt eIAIAV1DC5wqOinqE14aI - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

As one might expect, Erika believes in an intolerant God. In 2017, she wrote that, “What you call ‘anti-LGBTQ curriculum’ we call Christianity – the Bible. So yes I believe religious schools chosen by parents should be able to teach the Bible. (As opposed to traditional public schools which actively promote alternative lifestyles against the will of the parents.)” (Archived.) 

SWJQ9Z Rbl12jImUS xbDHK2uWE9elg3a7xhqwoB8LdslB2ZYbDxCVKjVJyz bUXA1rUj2hpzkMtrSQNCd 051y8397bbMrqPrNv2uttZ4ThoOtFDmRS - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

Intolerance is also a hallmark of M4L, which championed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022. 

M4L has thus been subjected to brutal mockery following reports that Bridget had three-way sex with her husband and another woman, the one who accused Bridget’s husband of rape.  

Dyj9cXS5jMU0jfATPwtCo ULriPzbETmeF9hFYOTdaqDD2xZ5RJ QnXYOPhlKWwgQtKzQ joz70ybabKjAExPGhXw651BwRLveCzRR v5onu4t2P1lPE6RsJR4uDJFabF2kbJQyFoX9MyoC464vcgwA - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

While Christian Ziegler has rejected calls for his resignation from the Florida GOP, Bridget has resigned from the Leadership Institute, which has scrubbed her name from their website. She has thus far refused, however, to resign from the Sarasota School board despite all of her fellow board members asking her to do so.

Even Shawn Frost has kicked Bridget to the curb. On Dec. 6, he wrote in a reply on X (formerly Twitter) that he had been a “principal” of both FCSBM and M4L and that Bridget had “contributed very little to either venture.” He also claimed that FCSBM had “folded” when he and Erika left and that he had trained M4L “in their early stages.” He has since deleted these posts.

kkdt1ugvYa1tme8GIuCM30Tcy77266ypk0i2x5xIP6MuzO0DF4bEo5ulGut5otUAh3vj3Nn0 Ez1ORPCuiGB8WqBISZF3 nxNi4UD0y2oaAdvFZlTgu5bweZR7eaDf51Yy9rX - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda
wZcVw6KzMIzyIz4b7z3c04zasQEdJgLW1dSKqONCIPWR nR0p51y1QRIsdLf2D sNdMOvAVRIRcow32VK1A mhg2CFQdKiClyhgAuPGc0PDBlZysaW5tIBEaeus SpeLYujsd5gTZ zljAazJWPD5hw - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

On Dec. 17, however, Frost further revealed that he had helped write M4L’s business and communications plan after Descovich lost her November 2020 school board race. 

gJukjVoIiFvlX08VvBY73Mk tQbQ - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

As far as I can tell, M4L has never mentioned Frost’s status as a “principal” in their organization. It’s easy to see why. In addition to his financial support from DeVos, Frost has his own political “strategy shop,” MVP Strategy, which he opened in 2015. MVP’s website calls Frost “the ‘secret weapon’ or ‘strategy sneaky link’ behind candidates and causes you see on television every day.” 

Frost whiffs of astroturf. 

So does Erika, who gushed in September this year that she was scheduled to speak “on not one, but two topics” with the CNP

LGqpsjyH3W7X I dTG4 nJQZElOkn5OTzSKStLaTqMMvEAfGbAql WAVC5DDxaFvJ0Rp5SgFtbUU ZN - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

Erika also recently joined the Heritage Foundation (founded by CNP member Ed Feulner) as a “visiting fellow on education freedom.” It was Heritage that organized “Project 25,” which seeks to (among other things) dismantle multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Education, a cause championed by the CNP, Heritage and M4L

Meanwhile, Trump has cozied up to both Erika and Byron, prompting speculation that he might choose Byron as his vice presidential running mate and Erika as his education secretary if he wins in 2024. (Link to image 1; image 2; image 3.)

CXMbBePUGFZQ60acRRaYSM0VE5jncpWd43rmuSvXYFYo8QuJofGAAV3 OpRYeHySm0M6NomRkJto1E5qhOPo2SvQYbM5hKHFECfIFQL8UJ cJ8YIhJXwX 5cg4bcd1EjFLX46rlq312ojQUHe21dLio - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda
BqdytuM4S9 dVycPqw3mvlvTsW1TXWoH Upi4p0L KWWBJhsq71hg8hC2bNbYDqBGKRacSeVCD59qPHmryJUIgCwE4JvfsNJNt4ZH3 - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda
uHecKp9FQVoEVnoAnnas8x79qs7m nrYru46S8i0Jnegd vpDGq25m3CMpnw 6amgOBPd1E7wZ TtmG1GQ 3Us00ebhgwtdpvIUIkK2U39Y6ft1pxyMIeGS 2dXylQKCqS73UbNRyYg Gt KWULySyk - Bucks County Beacon - Newly Surfaced Video of Moms for Liberty Advisor Reveals Religious Extremist Agenda

It’s an appalling “two-fer” possibility that would give the Christian Right substantial influence over America’s “education mountain” and “government mountain.” It should alarm everyone who cares about secular education and the separation between church and state. 

Jennifer Cohn

Jennifer Cohn

Jennifer Cohn is an attorney, election integrity advocate, and political writer whose articles have appeared in the New York Review of Books, Who What Why, The Independent, TYT Investigates, The Brad Blog, and Salon. You can follow her on Twitter at @jennycohn1.

Top 5

Follow Us

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

* indicates required

Democracy can’t survive without local media. Support the Bucks County Beacon and protect democracy. 

Fundraising Goal - 100 New Monthly Supporters
3%