The last three members of the Lehigh County chapter of Moms for Liberty met on Tuesday at the Starbrite Diner in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The membership had dwindled from a high of 200 in the feverish days of 2020, when Janine Vicalvi first formed this local branch of what the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an extremist hate group that grew out of heedless opposition to COVID mask and vaccine mandates.
She decided she had reached an end point.
“Between homeschooling and working two jobs, it’s just a lot,” she said. “And I guess there wasn’t as much willingness to do the work that’s required to propel the movement forward.”
The other two at the meeting felt the same and they voted unanimously to dissolve the chapter. She posted an announcement on the group’s Facebook page:
“So we had our meeting this evening and are going to dissolve our chapter.”
She added that the chair was vacant if anybody wanted to take over.
“Please let me know. Thanks!”
As of Wednesday evening, there were no takers.
Post-pandemic, Moms for Liberty has sought to keep its nationwide ranks fired up with bogus calls for parental rights. The leaders claimed that schools were indoctrinating and sexualizing children with “woke” ideology. They decried the teaching of critical race theory, which was never actually taught in public schools. Moms purporting to champion freedom called for banning books and declared LGBTQ+ acceptance to be unacceptable.
Vicalvi shared the organization's views on book banning, in particular Push, a 1996 novel by Sapphire about a 16-year-old in Harlem who is pregnant with her second child. Vicalvi—who says she is not anti-LGBTQ or racist—was more conflicted when it came to Moms for Liberty’s opposition to gender-neutral bathrooms. But that was not out of compassion for transgender or gender non-conforming students; her 12-year-old son is severely autistic and she accompanies him into public bathrooms.
“I don't know who’s in the men’s room and he can’t speak for himself,” she explained.
As other members lost interest and drifted away from the chapter—the war on woke apparently not grabbing them the way the fight against COVID mandates had—Vicalvi stayed on as chair.
“I think that most successful political movements are one-issue movements,” she said. “And unfortunately, parental rights is kind of amorphous. Everyone has a different idea of what parental rights looks like.”
The national organization preached that the way to power was through the local school boards, and Vicalvi’s chapter endorsed a like-minded woman named Laura Warmkessel for a seat on the Parkland School Board. But there were just not enough haters, and Warmkessel lost badly in the November election.
That didn’t help morale. At the chapter’s holiday gathering in December, 20 moms showed up.“[But] January was low turnout. February was low turnout,” Vicalvi said.
By Tuesday, the chapter was down to just the three who voted to call it quits.
We can hope that the whole organization collapses under the weight of its own monstrousness. But a chapter-by-chapter dissolution would also be welcome.
Among those cheering the disappearance of the Lehigh County chapter was Jennifer Jenkins, a school board member in Brevard County, Florida, who was harassed, vilified, slandered and generally terrorized by Moms for Liberty for her science-based approach to the pandemic.
“Another one bites the dust,” Jenkins posted.