'Oath Keepers' offer Kim Davis a security detail: Who are they?

The right-wing group say they are interested in protecting the rights of Kim Davis, the county clerk made famous for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Jonathan Palmer/The Courier-Journal/AP
Rowan County (Ky.) clerk Kim Davis hugs her attorney, Matt Staver, with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee next to her, after being released from the Carter County Detention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Grayson, Ky.

The Oath Keepers have offered to place boots on the ground in Rowan County, Ky., to protect Kim Davis from being arrested again.

Ms. Davis, the county clerk made famous for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky, pursued her case up to the Supreme Court, and at every level was ordered to issue the marriage licenses. When she continued to refuse, citing "God's authority," she was found in contempt of court and briefly jailed.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, issued a written statement saying in part, "We believe Federal District Court Judge David Bunning grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Mrs Davis’ due process rights, and in particular her right to a jury trial.... [W]e see the rise of an imperial judiciary that not only legislates from the bench but is attempting to expand their 'contempt' power to likewise swallow up our Bill of Rights and circumvent jury trial."

While Davis's legal team has declined their offer of armed assistance, this is not the first time the Oath Keepers have stepped into a politically charged situation. The armed vigilante group supported rancher Clive Bundy during his standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in April 2014 and carried high-powered weapons in Ferguson during last month's anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting.

Who are the Oath Keepers?

The Oath Keepers describe themselves as "a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to 'defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' " They have no declared political allegiance.

In keeping with their professed nonpartisanship, Mr. Rhodes stressed in his statement that "we are doing this not because of her views on gay marriage, but because she is an elected public servant who has been illegally arrested and held without due process."

Many Oath Keepers have expressed their concern about what they feel is the dismantling of the Constitution’s original intentions for this nation. In a testimonial published on their website, Oath Keeper Gregory Bennett wrote, "America needs to wakeup."

One of the group’s preferred tactics is the use of psychological warfare, as outlined in the book MindWar, written by a founding member of the Army’s PsyOps group. The Oath Keepers believe that they need to protect against the invasion of foreign thoughts and influences from domestic and global enemies. Shielding Kim Davis from what they consider unfair legal proceedings falls into this category.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, describes the Oath Keepers as a "far-right ... fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group that improbably claims more than 30,000 law enforcement officers, soldiers and military veterans as members."

The SPLC notes that while the Oath Keepers swear to uphold their oath to the Constitution, just as central is the group’s list of 10 'Orders We Will Not Obey,' a compendium of much-feared but entirely imaginary threats from the government — orders, for instance, to force Americans into concentration camps, confiscate their guns, or cooperate with foreign troops in the United States."

Following a conversation with Kim Davis’s legal team, the Oath Keepers retracted their offer of an armed security detail, but allowed group members to travel to Rowan County to "peaceably assemble to express your support for her due process rights and your opposition to arbitrary arrest."

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