As right-wing groups go, the Oath Keepers organization is more alarming than most. The group says its members – former military, police and first responders – pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” And while that hardly sounds objectionable, it’s how the organization perceives its duties that’s unsettling.
A few months ago, for example, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a conservative gathering that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) should be tried for treason and “hung by the neck until dead” for going “along with the program of the destruction of this country.”
A month later, Rhodes was in New York, insisting that President Obama is “trying to” create “a race war.” He added, “[T]he leftists in this country hate this country, they hate it, and they will get in bed with radical Islamists because they have a common enemy, western civilization.”
We last saw very well armed Oath Keepers activists carrying assault rifles in Ferguson, Missouri, and stationing themselves outside military-recruitment centers in Chattanooga. But this week, as Right Wing Watch reported, the Oath Keepers organization offered a “security detail” for anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes announced [Wednesday] that he had reached out to Davis’ lawyers at Liberty Counsel to offer the protection of his group, which he says is already forming a presence in Rowan County, Kentucky, where Davis was recently released from jail after prohibiting her office from issuing marriage licenses. Rhodes said in a statement that his position has nothing to do with gay marriage, but rather his conviction that Davis had been illegally detained by the federal judge who held her in contempt for violating multiple court orders.In a phone call with Jackson County, Kentucky, Sheriff Denny Peyman and other local Oath Keepers activists, Rhodes said that he was on his way to Kentucky to help with the Davis operation.
Just so we’re clear, the Oath Keepers group isn’t offering protection for Davis from potentially dangerous critics. This is a situation in which Oath Keepers intend to “protect” Davis from American law enforcement if she defies the law and faces arrest again.
As far as the right-wing organization is concerned, Davis, who was jailed on a contempt-of-court charge last week, should never have been detained. With the very real possibility that the clerk will again defy court orders, and face jail time once more, the Oath Keepers’ Stewart Rhodes says his group is prepared to intervene.
“[T]his judge needs to be put on notice that his behavior is not going to be accepted and we’ll be there to stop it and intercede ourselves if we have to,” he said.
In other words, if Davis defies court orders, and a judge orders U.S. Marshals to take the clerk into custody, well armed Oath Keepers activists intend to stand in the way of the legal process – as if it’s up to Oath Keepers, not American courts, to determine how the justice system should operate.
What this group is describing is the prospect of an armed confrontation between law enforcement and right-wing activists who believe Kim Davis should be allowed to ignore laws she doesn’t like.
Much of this, of course, is speculative. Maybe Davis will start honoring her oath of office and court orders. Maybe she’ll get a different job. Perhaps the Oath Keepers are just posturing and the group has no intention of picking a dangerous fight. Who knows, maybe Davis and her allies will tell the right-wing organization, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
But for now, the scenario Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes described is troubling, to put it mildly.