Log In

Reset Password
Opinion Editorial Cartoons Op-Ed Editorials Letters to the Editor

Our View: Durango VFW squeezed with parents protesting Mothers for Liberty

Durango’s Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 4031, found itself in a tricky spot last night.

Moms for Liberty, a conservative parental rights group focused on education, had joined the La Plata County GOP meeting inside, with demonstrators who opted to be outside loudly voicing opposition to MFL’s presence and message.

To its credit, earlier in the week, VFW leadership deftly handled the situation, which quickly fanned into a firestorm, and accommodated all groups. Emily Rodman, the mother of an eighth-grader and a junior, said she was “impressed with VFW’s leadership” and its understanding of local parents’ right to protest.

We were, too.

Like its own personal shield, each group involved stands behind the First Amendment. The situation does, though, raise the question: At what point are we complicit to speech that can harm others?

For starters, we have to pay close attention to the actions of a particular group. This goes for all of us – local GOP party leadership, the VFW, as well as demonstrating moms and dads, community members and teachers. Who is renting space to whom, who is handing out donations to whom, and what does any level of support – financial or otherwise – mean underneath it all? Whether giver or taker, what are we endorsing?

It’s a good test of the neutral party – VFW – along with our local GOP and its choice of guest, next to parents who don’t want to see MFL take root in this community.

Besides Durango School District 9-R’s vision of inclusivity for all students, there’s reason for concern.

MFL’s website says it is “dedicated to fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.” Founded in early 2021 by conservative women in Florida, MFL has expanded its nationwide reach and landed national media attention in efforts to fight COVID-19 safety measures in schools, ban books, limit discussion about race and LGBTQ identities, and load school boards with conservatives of the same ilk.

In June, an Indiana chapter of MFL learned the hard way it was a terrible idea to quote Adolf Hitler from a 1935 rally in its newsletter with, “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future.” The chapter has since apologized.

The Southern Poverty Law Center had already labeled MFL an anti-government extremist group. According to USA Today, MFL swung back with “Moms for Liberty will not be intimidated by hate groups!” Weirdly, in the newsletter, this wording appeared directly under the Hitler quote.

VFW didn’t seem to know about MFL’s background and fierce, short history, with ties to the Proud Boys, and other groups and individuals responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Commander Mike Benton at VFW Post 4031 said: “Up until now, our hall rental policy has been very open as one of our key values is serving our community. We don’t want to embrace anything that divides our community.”

Benton did say, though, that Durango VFW’s rental policy is “long overdue for a review.”

We agree.

As fervent First Amendment defenders, we can’t help but think about VFW members who actually fought Hitler’s forces and gathered in this very building on Main Avenue. If they were still with us, what would they say?

That same Hitler quote has been embraced by a Colorado Springs-area school board member. In November 2022, Ivy Liu of D-49 was censured after posting it on her personal social media page. Liu had also claimed students were being “indoctrinated” by critical race theory and social-emotional learning programs – two of MFL’s positions.

VFW, beloved in Durango, won’t be the last organization to find itself squeezed. We just hope other organizations handle it as well. And, in the future, consider what it means to open doors to any group that wants in.