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Oath Keepers statement about video titled, “Government Agents Seize Oath Keeper’s New Born From Hospital”

Oath Keepers
Oct 8, 2010

Stewart has just now as of 7:45PM PST, spoken to the father and he is faxing documents to Stewart. We are establishing a legal defense fund. Once it is confirmed through documentation that the father’s association with Oath Keepers was listed as a reason, even if among several reasons listed, for taking the child, we will actively pursue aggressive legal remedy and redress. We will assist in locating competent local legal counsel in New Hampshire and additional expert legal counsel from around the country in First Amendment and child custody law. Stewart, who has worked on several First Amendment  cases in State and Federal court will also volunteer his services to assist in the case Pro Bono.

Here is Stewart’s statement for now: 

We are doing all we can to confirm and document this.  But if is IS accurate, and a newborn child was ripped from her mother’s arms because the parents were “associated” with Oath Keepers by simply being members of our online ning  discussion forum, then this is a grave crossing of a very serious line, and is utterly intolerable.  It cannot be done.  It cannot be allowed to stand. 

If it is true, then I will do all in my power to stop it.   We will pull out all the stops, every lawful means of seeing that this child is returned to her parents and that all persons responsible are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.   There can be no freedom of speech, no freedom of association, no freedom to even open your mouth and “speak truth to power,” no freedom AT ALL, if your children can be black bagged and stolen from you because of your political speech and associations — because you simply dare to express your love of country, and dare to express your solidarity and fellowship with other citizens and with active duty and retired  military and police who simply pledge to honor their oath and obey the Constitution.  It was to prevent just such outrageous content based persecution of political dissidents that our First Amendment was written. 

If true, then this is as bad, and in fact worse, than any of the violations of liberty that our Declaration of Independence lists as the reasons for our forefathers taking up arms in our Revolution and for separating from England.  We no longer have freedom at all if this is allowed to be done.   And we will not let it stand. 

Stewart Rhodes
Founder of Oath Keepers 

Stewart will post additional statements and info as this situation develops. Please be ready to flood the responsible parties with phone calls and emails to put public pressure on them in the court of public opinion. 

UPDATE : 10/07/2010 10.53PM PST — We have confirmed that the affidavit in support of the order to take the child from her parents  states ,along with a long list of other assertions  against both parents, that “The Division became aware and confirmed that Mr. Irish associated with a militia known as the Oath Keepers.”     Yes, there are other, very serious allegations.  Out of respect for the privacy of the parents, we will not publish the affidavit.  We will leave that to Mr. Irish.   But please do remember that allegations do not equal facts — they are merely allegations (and in my  experience as a criminal defense lawyer in small town Montana I saw many allegations that proved to be false). 

But an even more fundamental point is that regardless of the other allegations, it is utterly unconstitutional for government agencies to list Mr. Irish’s association with Oath Keepers in an affidavit in support of a child abuse order to remove his daughter from his custody.    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 under the tent for other associations being considered too risky for parents to dare.   Thus, it serves to chill the speech of all of us, in any group we belong to that “officials” may not approve of.   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. 

Note that there is no allegation that Oath Keepers is a criminal organization or that Mr. Irish, in the context of his association with Oath Keepers, is committing any crime.  We are not advocating or planning imminent violence, which is the established line where free speech ends and criminal behavior begins (See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), which, as Wikipedia notes, “held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action. In particular, it overruled Ohio’s criminal syndicalism statute, because that statute broadly prohibited the mere advocacy of violence.”   We don’t even advocate that the current serving use violence of any kind, let alone imminent violence.  We ask them to merely stand down. 

Neither is Oath Keepers a militia, for that matter.   However, EVEN IF WE WERE, that also would not be a valid reason to take someone’s child away.  PRIVATE MILITIAS, JUST LIKE  OTHER VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS, ARE NOT ILLEGAL, and it is not a crime to associate with them.   To the contrary, we have an absolute right, won by the blood of patriots, and protected by our First Amendment, to freely associate with each other as we damn well please so long as we are not advocating or planning  imminent violence or directly harming our children (and no, teaching them “thought crime” like “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” or that those who swear an oath should keep it, does not count — at least not yet).   A parent associating with a militia is not  engaged in child endangerment  and is not evidence of child endangerment (despite the shrill screeching of people such as Mark Potock of the SPLC, who desperately wants it to be so).   Just recently a Time Magazine article described how the reporter visited the happy home of a militia member and his family — and those kids are still at home, where they belong, as is the case with many th0usands of children across this country who have parents who “associate” with private militias and all manner of other non-criminal groups.   You had damn well better defend the rights of those parents to freely associate in their militias and keep their kids while doing so.   You can bet that if you let such an association be listed as grounds for taking children from their parents that it won’t only be militia folks who have their rights violated.   Homeschoolers, evangelical Christians, gun owners, etc. will also be on the hit list.  Just wait.  Remember Pastor Niemöller’s timeless warning: 

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. 

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. 

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. 

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up. 

A modern version might read like this: 

They came first for the militia members,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a militia member. 

Then they came for the three percenters,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a three percenter. 

Then they came for the Oath Keepers,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Oath Keeper. 

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up. 

So, defend the right of even the most hardcore militia members to freely associate without that right being chilled and suppressed by means of the threat of taking their kids. 

But this particular listing of an association with Oath Keepers as one of the reasons for taking a child from her parents is all the more absurd, taking it to a whole other level of Alice in Wonderland “down is up” and up is down,” when you consider that a significant percentage of the members of Oath Keepers are current serving  police, fire-fighters, and military personnel.  Three of our state chapter presidents are current serving  police officers.   How can “associating”  with such fine men and women who are daily trusted with tremendous power and responsibility constitute  evidence of child endangerment?   How can it be that a New Hampshire police department can consider someone associating with other current serving police officers as evidence of child abuse and endangerment?   Only in the bizzaro world of the SPLC are public servants who commit to simply following the law, keeping their oaths by refusing to violate your rights ,considered “extreme” and “dangerous.” 

This is the camel’s nose under the tent.  We need to fight even this one instance of such a violation of the right to associate and to peaceably assemble, and we need to push back against the new world of thought crime that is being relentlessly pushed upon us.   If this listing of mere association with Oath Keepers is allowed to be used in this case to justify, even in part, removing a newborn from the custody of her parents, with nothing else alleged about Oath Keepers except that the father “is associated” with this organization, that will have a sweeping chilling effect on the First Amendment protected rights of freedom of speech, peaceable assembly, association, and petition for redress of grievances for all of us — and it will only be the beginning. 

OK, now it is TIME TO PUSH BACK — peaceably, of course, using our voices and pens.  Let the officials in question know that you strongly oppose their listing of an association with Oath Keepers as one of the reasons for taking this child.  Let them know you insist that they remove that “reason” from the affidavit and issue a public retraction, and until they do so, they will hear from all of us, and also from our legal counsel.   And we won’t relent until they respect our First Amendment protected rights of free speech and association and cease and desist this chilling of those rights.  Be professional, but firm.   Make them hear you. 

Stewart Rhodes

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