Smiling moms and their kids held homemade signs that spelled out an anti-discrimination message.

“We. Stand. With. All. Moms. And. Pledge. That. Racial. Discrimination. Will. Stop. With. Our. Kids.”

And these moms from the MOMS Club of Rancho Santa Margarita did what moms do, they made a collage and put it all together in one photo they could post on social media platforms.

That’s when things got ugly.

The International MOMS Club, a non-profit organization that was founded 37 years ago and has about 20,000 members in its Facebook group, refused to post the collage on its Facebook page, saying it was too political. A Facebook message from “MOMS Club support” to members says the club’s non-profit status prevents them from making political statements.

The message also says: “Unfortunately, situations with the police and racism in general have been politicized by others outside the MOMS Club. Any statement we make could be considered political because of that.

“And, graphics like that collage … imply that our members have been racists before now. The MOMS Club has never been a racist organization and never will be. To imply otherwise is not acceptable.”

In response, hundreds of moms around the world resigned from the club last week.

The first resignation, and the spark for so many others, came from Jill Coene, the president of the RSM MOMS Club for the past two years. It was Coene who came up with the idea for the anti-racism collage after seeing other MOMS Clubs posting collages in tribute to hospital workers and teachers.

Another RSM MOMS Club member, Melissa Benvenuti, wrote the words that appeared on the collage.

“How can the MOMS Club think that our message to stop racial discrimination is political in any way?” Coene said. “All we’re saying is that we’ll raise our kids not to be racist.”

Coene resigned on June 12. She and some of her supporters have formed a new group: RSM Moms Gone Rogue.

Mary James, founder of the MOMS Club, did not return phone calls to her home and office numbers. Club members said has not made any public comments since the mass exodus from her chapters.

The MOMS Club, which is an acronym for Moms Offering Moms Support, charges $5 per member per year. The members get together for play dates with their children. They also raise funds for charitable causes. In Rancho Santa Margarita, the MOMS Club raised $1,200 for the local food pantry. The members attend regional conferences each year (this year’s conference was canceled because of the coronavirus).

“It was an amazing resource for all moms,” Coene said.

Today, members from all over Orange County and some as far away as Middletown, Connecticut, and Ithica, New York, have resigned from the MOMS Club.

“I have chosen to resign completely from the club because I cannot be a part of a group that chooses to silence the voices of anti-discrimination and therefore support the oppressor,” said Angela Amberden, who lives in Northern California and was the MOMS Club state coordinator.

“Racism isn’t political, it’s racism,” Adrea Pino of Lakewood said via a Facebook message. “It affects members and their children (I’m a mom of a Black daughter). The refusal to address and remain silent on these critical issues shows me where the leadership stands. The message it sends to Black (and all women of color) members and their children is loud and clear. Seems they’re hiding behind the (non-profit) status. In light of everything going on, organizations that demonstrate unwillingness to confront hard topics and change, is unacceptable for me and my family.”

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(c)2020 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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