Johnathon Irish, fiancé and baby
Officials for an organization that promises its members will fulfill their sworn oaths to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies – in or out of the United States – say a New Hampshire court’s decision to make an abuse case defendant’s political affiliation part of the accusations sends a seriously troubling message.
“The use of a father’s political association and his gun ownership is also important to many other Americans who don’t even associate with Oath Keepers because what happens in this case can impact the free speech and association rights of all of us, across the nation, of whatever political or social orientation,” said Stewart Rhodes, chief of Oath Keepers on his website.
“And that is why we must stand firm, now,” he said.
“Whether it is a criminal or a civil proceeding, the political affiliations of the accused are both irrelevant and prejudicial. For example, if I had a criminal defense client accused of beating his wife, what relevance would his NRA membership have to the question of whether he beat his wife?” questioned Rhodes.
“And what relevance would there be if he were a tea party member, or belonged to a 912 group, or was a member of Rush Limbaugh fan club, or a member of Glen Beck’s ‘Insider Extreme’ which includes a message board? Or what if he were a member of the ACLU, or Answer, or ACORN, or Code Pink, etc.? What relevance would any such associations have to the question of whether he assaulted his wife? The political associations of the accused in a child endangerment case are no less irrelevant to the question of whether [the father] or the mother are guilty or whether the child is endangered,” Rhodes said.
WND previously reported on the case when a newborn baby was snatched from her parents by authorities in Concord, N.H., after social services workers listed a series of allegations, including that the father is a part of Oath Keepers.
The father, Johnathon Irish, told WND that the affidavit signed by Child Protective Service worker Dana Bickford seeking government custody of newborn Cheyenne said the agency “became aware and confirmed that Mr. Irish associated with a militia known as the ‘Oath Keepers.'”
Irish, in interviews with WND, has confirmed there are other allegations and issues included in the charging document, a copy of which has been posted at Oath Keepers with blocks of information unrelated to the Oath Keepers allegation redacted.
But it is the reference to Oath Keepers that is troubling for Rhodes, who told WND in an interview today he’s preparing a formal letter to the court asking for an amendment or correction to the documents in the court file. He said he has several active-duty and retired members of law enforcement who will be signing onto the formal request.
He said he and other Oath Keepers also would be rallying in support of the 1st Amendment’s protected right of freedom of association on Oct. 14 at the Rochester Family Division Court in Dover, N.H., where the Irish family is scheduled for a hearing.
He said he was calling for a “peaceful gathering in support of both the due process rights of the parents … but also to stand in support of the rights of free speech and association, free from persecution, for all Americans.”
While state officials, through spokeswoman Kathleen Demaris, refused to comment on the case, Rhodes revealed in the online posting of the case documents that the allegations were made as though being part of a patriotic organization was somehow a fault.
“Mr. Irish was court ordered to attend Ending the Violence with Scott Hampton, however, to date, has not completed this program,” the court affidavit states. “The Epsom Police Department stated they were very familiar with Mr. Irish, as they have responded to multiple calls, which involved Mr. Irish and firearms, one of which resulted in a pending charge for possession of a concealed weapon without a permit,” the document states.
He ‘associated with ‘Oath Keepers’
“The division became aware and confirmed that Mr. Irish associated with a militia known as the, ‘Oath Keepers,’ and had purchase several different types of weapons including a rifle, handgun and taser,” the court documents said.
Rhodes said Oath Keepers is not a “militia,” but it wouldn’t make any difference if it was, because voluntarily being part of an organization is not yet illegal.
“Talk about chilling speech! If this is allowed to continue, it will chill the speech of not just Mr. Irish, but all Oath Keepers and it will serve as the camel [nose] under the tent for other associations being considered too risky for parents to dare,” he said when the issue first arose. “‘Don’t you dare associate with such and such group, or you could be on ‘the list’ and then child protective services might come take your kids.'”
Rhodes said it’s clear there are other issues in the case that must be addressed.
“But the fact that the political association of the father with Oath Keepers, and his gun ownership, were even among the reasons given for the taking of this baby takes this case beyond the realm of your mundane family court matter and turns it into something that could affect the rights of us all, nationwide,” he said.
“Such a listing of a parent’s political associations as one of the reasons to remove a child from her parents should not happen in any case, regardless of whatever else is going on,” he said.
“A law or government practice that targets people for their speech and association, based on the content of their speech, or that MAY be used in such a way, is unconstitutional and harms not just that individual, but also all others who thereafter are ‘chilled’ or dissuaded from engaging in similar speech or associations,” he warned.
“The chilling works even it if is rarely applied since just the knowledge that it can be done will chill speech and association. All the government needs to do is make an example out of one person, and others will refrain from sticking their heads out,” he said.
He noted the man in the case “was not even a dues paying member, but merely a forum user on the Oath Keepers Ning forum system, which was open to the general public.”
“Let’s flip the political paradigm: Imagine the same thing being done in a case involving members of PETA, Earth First, or the Anti-War Committee (AWC) which recently had their homes and offices raided by the FBI,” he continued. “Would it be acceptable for Child Protective Services to list those affiliations when investigating potential child abuse or neglect, or would that be both irrelevant, and prejudicial?”
Oath Keepers’ members promise not to obey any order “to disarm the American people,” conduct warrantless searches, “detain American citizens as ‘unlawful enemy combatants,'” work to impose martial law, invade or subjugate any state, blockade American cities, put Americans in detention camps or “make war against our own people.”
That such circumstances could develop has been suggested by the government itself, in an earlier DHS document that cautioned about the possibility of violence from a variety of “extremists,” a label that apparently now is being applied to Irish.
WND reported when a Department of Homeland Security report warned against the possibility of violence by unnamed “right-wing extremists” and singled out returning war veterans as particular threats. The report characterized the extremists as people with concerns about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion and the loss of U.S. sovereignty.
The report, “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” dated April 7, 2009, stated “threats from white supremacist and violent anti-government groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts.”
However, the document, first reported by talk-radio host and WND columnist Roger Hedgecock, went on to suggest worsening economic woes, potential new legislative restrictions on firearms and “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”
The report from DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as “divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
Most notable was the report’s focus on the impact of returning war veterans.
“Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right-wing extremists,” it said. “DHS/I&A is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize veterans in order to boost their violent capacities.”
Rhodes’ website states the organization does not look to overthrow any government, does not advocate violence or the removal of people from elected officers. It simply seeks a return to the constitutional Republic “which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution defined and instituted.”