If what they profess they stand for looks familiar, it should because it reflects the philosophical underpinnings of our Founding Fathers when they constructed the Articles of Confederation (1787) and the United States Constitution (1789). These beliefs also form the construct of what every police officer and armed forces members swears to (your Oath of Office modified) when entering the public service. Basically, the members are reaffirming their commitment to the ideologies established by John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, et al.
Probably on many levels, but most immediately apparent is that membership focuses on Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Women, Coast Guard, Police Officers, Law Enforcement, Retiree’s, etc. Also, in the event they are ordered to engage in illegal activity (i.e., violating the U.S. Constitution) while in the performance of their duties they simply won’t do it. In other words, the resistance is through peaceful dissonance and not armed conflict. They are saying, simply, they won’t be a part of it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has expressed that members of this organization are extremist in thought and spreading fear. When I reviewed their publically posted materials I did not see anything to lead me to believe they were “militia” or an “anti-government” threat, but they were linked to supportive organizations that could be construed as being on the fringes of a militia-like movement. In truth, I found that that the organization, as a whole, stood for more issues that cops would support rather than be against in my experience. For those who fear that this could be a type of super militia, because it’s members are formal military and law enforcement trained and serve in their respective capacities I think is absurd. That thought assumes the vast majority of membership (although unhappy with our government- but who isn’t?) has conspired to be dangerous, which they have not. Just the opposite is true – vocalizing discontent, and doing nothing, but in an organized fashion.
Most importantly the Oath Keepers, either through membership or simple awareness, bring another issue center stage for the law enforcement and military community. That issue is revisiting, in-depth, our understanding of Constitutional Law, which arguably is the most important form of law since it prevents an abusive government from infringing into our daily lives. Of all people, cops live every day in the real execution of Constitutional Law and therefore need to have a better understanding of its restrictions; it’s far more than just the 4th Amendment.
By the way, our Founding Fathers were very unpopular from the perspective of the establishment. As we now benefit, they were also a direct threat to the government at that time and were viewed as traitors against the Crown risking the death penalty. It is because they lived on the “fringes” that we can reap the rewards of disagreeing publically with governmental authority, join groups doing so, protest, be angry and retaliate by voting and not shooting.
About The Author:
Keith R. Lavery, M.A., CMAS, is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching at a public Career Center, University System of Ohio. He has facilitated and designed criminal justice, security, and law enforcement courses of instruction at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career spanning nearly 20 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, to include HIDTA Drug Unit, CLANLAB Enforcement Team, SRT and Supervision. In 2008, Keith was awarded the Certified Master Anti-Terrorism designation from the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board. Academically, he has completed post-graduate course work dedicated toward a Doctorate in Education. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.