Manhattan venue doubles down amid anger over planned Moms for Liberty event

The Bohemian National Hall is located on the Upper East Side at 321 E. 73rd St.
The Bohemian National Hall is located on the Upper East Side at 321 E. 73rd St.
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The Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association (BBLA) in Manhattan has come under fire domestically and internationally for allowing Moms for Liberty — a conservative group fighting against LGBTQ inclusion in schools — to rent out space for an event there on Jan. 18, but the venue is refusing to back down in the face of pressure from political leaders, locals, and even diplomats.

BBLA, which aims to preserve Czech and Slovak culture in the city, drew attention in recent weeks as word started to spread that it was renting out space to Moms for Liberty, which has sought to ban books on LGBTQ rights, race, and other topics and has aligned with conservative leaders who have stood firmly against queer rights.

The event plans prompted criticism from city, state, and federal lawmakers, as well as the Czech Republic’s foreign minister, Jan Lipavský, who told Czech-based media outlet Seznam Zprávy that he did not agree with the event and would not have planned it if it were up to him, according to the Los Angeles Blade.

Activists are planning to protest the event, which is scheduled to take place at 321 E. 73rd St. A demonstration at the site of the venue is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 if the event is not cancelled before then. The event itself is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Congressmember Jarrold Nadler of Manhattan denounced the event in a Jan. 8 post on X.

“Despite their catchy name, Moms for Liberty is nothing more than an alt-right hate group vilifying the LGBTQ+ community,” Nadler said in the social media post. “There is no place for hatred or bigotry in New York, which is why I’m deeply troubled by their planned event on the Upper East Side. We cannot allow this fringe group to dictate what books are in our libraries or the version of our nation’s history that fits their preferred narrative.”

Out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal of Manhattan also took to X to voice his opposition to the event with a message directed to the Czech Republic’s prime minister, Petr Fiala.

“I urge you to reconsider hosting #MomsforLiberty, a far right and anti- #LGBTQ extremist group, at the Czech Consulate in NYC on January 18,” Hoylman-Sigal wrote.

Manhattan Councilmembers Julie Menin and Keith Powers wrote a joint letter “asking [BBLA] to reconsider hosting this virulently anti-LGBTQ organization,” Menin wrote on X.

In the face of mounting pressure, BBLA issued a statement on Jan. 14 acknowledging that it failed to abide by its tradition of renting out space for non-political events. Still, it vowed to move forward with the event nonetheless.

“Based on strong and thorough advice from our counsel, we concluded that we are not in any position to break the contract,” Joseph Balaz, BBLA’s president, said in a public statement posted online. “Notably, some who initially reached out to us requesting that we cancel the event now strongly recommend we let it pass, thus not giving legitimacy to it by attempting cancellation. We are also very grateful to many of our regular visitors for their kind words throughout this and for their understanding.”

Balaz added: “Be aware that BBLA is neither organizing, hosting, nor supporting this specific rental event. Furthermore, as a first-generation immigrant who years ago escaped a dictatorship and absolute censorship, I am personally very sensitive to concepts like book banning, thought, and expression controls, and so on, which this highly politically charged turmoil around this event brings out.”

In an apparent bid to assuage the anger of critics, Balaz vowed to “personally match the rental fee BBLA received for this event, and this ‘double-sum’ will be donated to one of our organizations which actively supports young, future leaders.”

A flyer for the event labels it as a “Giving Parents a Voice Town Hall,” hosted by co-founder Tiffany Justice. Confirmed names on the event are Mona Davids of New York City Parents Union; Charles Love and Maud Mauron of Community Education Council, District 2; Natalya Murakhver of Restore Childhood; Wai Wah Chin of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York; Corey DeAngelis of American Federation for Children; Nicholas Giordano of Suffolk County Community College; and Bilboard Chris.

Other Moms for Liberty events slated for the same week offer more insight into the group’s political priorities. A Jan. 16 meeting, for example, will focus on “gender ideology” and “how to defeat it,” while a Feb. 17 event scheduled to take place in Alabama will feature Riley Gaines, a former college athlete who once competed against out trans swimmer Lia Thomas and has since become one of the most vociferous anti-trans voices in the sports world.

Moms for Liberty did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Jan. 15.