Guns & Patriots

The Truth about the Oath Keepers

Richard I. Mack, a member of the Oath Keepers board and former Arizona sheriff

There was a time in our nation’s history when the American people came together to rally against a domineering British monarchy. It was during this time that the Founding Fathers produced the Constitution of the United States of America. Intended to serve as the supreme law of the land, the Constitution would be an eternal reminder of the tyranny that Americans had to overcome during the country’s earliest years.

In the eyes of Americans, the Constitution has been a beacon of morality, virtue, and democratic principle. While many U.S. citizens still maintain this outlook, scores of others have decided to turn their backs on the text that once guaranteed them freedom and liberty.

Perhaps the most notable cause of concern is that the federal government and law enforcement officers – meant to act as the ultimate embodiment of constitutionality – have consistently demonstrated blatant disregard for the Constitution.

Stewart Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and Yale Law School alumnus, recognized this growing inattention to the Constitution and determined it to be a potentially dangerous approach to governing. In response, Rhodes took it upon himself to establish Oath Keepers in March 2009.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization reaches out to active duty military, reserves, National Guard, law enforcement, fire fighters, and veterans who are committed to upholding and defending the Constitution.

There are 10 orders the Oath Keepers will not obey. These include disarming and detaining American citizens as combatants, imposing martial law, forcing Americans into detention camps, and infringing upon the right of the people to free speech.

“Article Six of the United States Constitution requires all government officials at every level – from the dogcatcher to the President – to take the same oath,” said Richard I. Mack, former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., and Oath Keepers board member. “We’re required by the supreme law of the land to swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitution.”

Despite Oath Keepers’ seemingly genuine interest in restoring the authority of the Constitution, organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League have publicly denounced Oath Keepers as a threat to American society.

In its Fall 2009 intelligence report titled, “The Second Wave: Evidence Grows of Far-Right Militia Resurgence,”the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Oath Keepers as “a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival.”

Mark Potok, a spokesman for the SPLC on issues of extremism, asserted that, while Oath Keepers promotes itself as a group whose mission is to uphold the Constitution, this is simply a façade.

“They say that they are merely upholding the Constitution and re-pledging their oaths to defend it,” Potok said. “We say the reality is [that] they are animated by very specific conspiratorial fears which are absolutely groundless. I think that’s obvious.”

Potok claimed that proof of this lies in the language of Oath Keepers’ ten orders. Aside from this, he was not able to specify any further evidence. The SPLC believes that the references Oath Keepers make to concentration camps and martial law irrefutably confirm that the group is based entirely upon false conspiracy theories.

“The core idea of virtually all militia groups and all patriot groups is that the evil federal government is involved in a plot to impose martial law on the United States, probably with the aid of foreign troops,” Potok said. “Those who resist will be thrown into concentration camps, which either have been or will be built by FEMA, and ultimately, the United States will take all weapons from citizens here and force this country into some kind of socialistic New World Order.”

Rhodes said that those who oppose Oath Keepers misleadingly characterize members of the group as conspiracy theorists. “It’s a smear tactic,” Rhodes said.

“Most of the things that are listed in our ten orders are reflections,” Rhodes explained. “They’re reflections of our Bill of Rights, and they’re also reflections of the history of the Twentieth century.”

Rhodes cited the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the Gulag in Soviet Russia, concentration camps in Nazi Germany, the My Lai massacre, and, most recently, the confiscation of citizens’ firearms during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Potok said that he and the SPLC do not consider an unconstitutional federal government to be an imminent threat to the American people. Instead, the SPLC identifies Oath Keepers – an organization that wishes to uphold the principles of constitutionality – as the real menace to society.

“The basis for our concern is the fact that these men and women, who are given weapons by the rest of society in order to protect us, are animated by conspiracy theories that have absolutely no basis in reality. That’s a scary thing,” Potok said.

“Do we really want soldiers in the fields in Afghanistan and Iraq stopping every time they’re given an order to stop and make an independent decision on whether that order is constitutional or not? It seems obvious to me that we don’t,” he said.

This presents yet another paradox. Potok contends that troops should not be evaluating the constitutionality of orders, but, as men and women who have sworn to support and uphold the Constitution, it seems they have an obligation to do so.

If soldiers adopt the mentality that they should simply follow orders without questioning and testing their constitutionality, dangerous and unlawful things are bound to occur.

Any individual who is required to submit to a higher authority must be weary of becoming robotic and thoughtless in obeying orders.

Mack said,“I think the worst thing is to lie in bed and think, should I have done that to that person?”

An article published in 2010 by AlterNet, a left leaning online news & opinion website went so far as to classify Oath Keepers as “domestic terrorists waiting to happen.” Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center may dispute the intentions of Oath Keepers’ board of directors.

But, there is perhaps nothing more offensive to individuals who have put their lives on the line in order to serve their country to be called a source of domestic terrorism, simply for associating themselves with an organization that promotes itself as wanting to act in accordance with the Constitution and resist oppressive government.

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  • garry_f_owen_trooper

    Excuse me, but Potok’s comment regarding soldiers in the field not questioning orders given sounds eerily similar to Nazi soldiers during the Nuremburg trials.  Ironic that the spokesperson of the SPLC would make such a comment.  Actually not so ironic, since national socialism is a left wing ideology.

  • Kathryn DeLong

    I totally agree. If our soldiers have no constitutional compass, they are bound to become mindless robots.

  • BigUgly666

    Was that “Robots” or “Obots”?

  • garry_f_owen_trooper

    The SPLC, who live under the protection of Oath Keepers, must not realize that every military member learns during basic training that they are only obligated to obey “lawful” orders.  Not only are our combat soldiers in Af/Pak and Iraq thinking through the constitutionality of orders given, but also international agreements and local rules of engagement.

  • William Horn

    SPLC years ago called the Gun Owners of America a “domestic terrorist organization”.

  • Kathryn DeLong

    Not surprising.

    The self-proclaimed anti-hate group spewing baseless hatred… paradoxical.

  • Jeff

    During my time in service with the 101st Airborne Division, 1975-77, we received specific training regarding illegal orders and how to react to them.   We were ordered to disobey an illegal order even to the extent of disabling a superior officer to prevent its being accomplished.  This training was required in the aftermath of MyLai and the Army took extraordinary steps to ensure there were no repeat performances.  

  • Cetansapa

    One just cannot say much about the SPLC and keep their language reasonably clean and acceptable in a more or less civilized society.  The scary thing is there are people in D.C. and across the country that actually pay some attention to them.  The far left wing socialist garbage spewing from the mouth of blathering idiots like potok is on a par with that issued by the ACLU which is another outstanding anti-American organization dedicated to the eventual utter destruction of our Constitution and an elected representative form of government.  One thing that can be depended on though is if the SPLC decries another organization as potential terrorists and a dangerous threat to our country then that organization is without a doubt trying to accomplish something good for the country. I know Oath Keepers. I am one and so I know first hand that what potok is saying is nothing but lies and misrepresentations …. and the thing is he either KNOWS they are or he is dangerously brain dead.Some ask if we are willing to die to keep our guns and hence our freedoms.  Perhaps their question should be how many government-hired thugs are going to be willing to die trying to take them away because it is looking more and more as if it is going to come to that deadly impasse.

  • Alaskasense

    The oath we take as military members (and also all federal officers, such as FBI, secret service, etc) states we “will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”.  Clearly domestic enemies can arise, at any level in or out of government.  The term “defend” is a critical one, for it requires that the enemy or enemies first reveal themselves as such through their attacks on the Constitution.  A conspiracy theorist, in contrast, presumes such an enemy exists or might exist, and acts or potentially attacks preemptively.  Potok confuses preparation and thoughtful declaration of position and intent with preemptive actions. Since he also clearly supports action which is unconstitutional, his personal fear that real consequences might result from his and his comrades already taken actions against the Constitution.  Since there is no good defense for the SPLC’s actions, his only recourse is a verbal attack on his opponents.  We should be used to this by now, and and use a solid wall of calm, clear opposing statements to put the right message out there consistently and relentlessly. 

  • apache6

    I take whatever “THEY” call me as a Badge of Honor,because it means I”M doing something “RIGHT” (pun intended)!!!!

  • USPSAGunner

    THANK YOU for pointing out an important distinction. Even IF Oath Keepers are paranoid conspiracy nuts, their mission is relatively unseen UNLESS an Oath Keeper is ordered to do something in opposition to our Constitution. It’s then (and only then) that being an Oath Keeper comes into play. As long as the powers that be play by the same rules that they also swore to uphold, being an Oath Keeper is largely symbolic. When the Constitution is attacked by a domestic enemy in the form of an unconstitutional order, then Oath Keepers become that all important first line of defense.

  • Norman Gosselin

    In reference to some of the above discussions ,reference to our soldiers possibly stopping in combat to decide if a legal order was thus given,I think at the point of declared combat we are already beyond the stage of individuals stopping to decide that and I should hope they wouldn’t.But as we speak we are being set up by the secretary of State to be under the jurisdiction of the UN.In so doing our troops would get to the point of stopping during mortal combat,and their lives would be in jeopardy!And yes anyone having sworn an oath to the constitution of the United States is expected to adhere to that oath,so much so I would like to see our constitutional representatives bonded,because it appears they don’t have a clue to what they have sworn to!A good way to solve the above problems would be to bring our troops home and place them on the borders to protect our homeland.And in view of the fact congress is considering eliminating service pensions,I think we ought to eliminate their pensions!(They seem to have no shame)

  • ConservativeJoe

            In response to Potok’s concern over the soldier’s dilemma about following illegal orders; every serviceman is trained on appropriate treatment of prisoners and civilians; and as an American, has the moral character to conduct himself accordingly.  Let’s use the German soldier that killed the leading character, Captain John Miller, in the WWII movie “Saving Private Ryan”. It was the captain’s decision to release that same captured German in an earlier action that enabled the German soldier to later rejoin his comrades. The captain’s decision to release that German soldier was necessary because his mission precluded taking any prisoners. The captain’s sense of morality caused him to overrule his men’s practical idea to kill a prisoner that could and later did rejoin the fight. The movie presented two possible choices that were both, less than ideal. There was a third choice that would have resulted in the prisoner’s survival and his removal as a combat threat to the Americans. The Americans could have broken the German’s right arm and left leg and fashioned a crutch for his mobility.
    The captain could have asked the prisoner to make a choice between undergoing prisoner abuse or going to meet his maker. Unless the German was profoundly stupid, he would make the choice that would give him the chance to tell his grandchildren about the “Barbaric” Americans.
         The point is, that the American fighting man always has the time to make a decision about a legal or an illegal order; You don’t have to “stop the fight” to consider an order; you can do it “on the fly”. The behavior of the WWII Japanese soldier, however, precluded such considerations. The Japanese soldier preferred to fight to the death and the American Marines and soldiers accommodated that preference. 

  • Kathryn DeLong

    The SPLC is only tolerant of the SPLC.

  • bw2348

    THE  TRUTH  ABOUT  OATH  KEEPERS.  Really.  You want to quote the SPLC as some kind of authority.  They are a well known  SOCIALIST  ORGANIZATION.  How many OATH  KEEPERS   do you know Kat.  If you knew any, you would not attempt to insult them with the venom coming from the SPLC.


  • Cetansapa

    When our elected representatives take the oath they only say the words and few of them give any thought to the meaning of the oath. After they have been elected they seem to think they can do whatever they want to.  For some in congress and the pentagon to say that military pensions are to blame for the horrific mess they themselves and the chief usurper have made of our economy is incredibly deceptive and you are correct, they have no shame or conscience. You are also right about bringing the troops home and securing our border but we know that isn’t going to happen under this corrupt administration of treasonous snakes.

  • Kathryn DeLong

    Um, I wasn’t insulting them. I was offering arguments from both sides.

  • Rick_in_VA

    Potok just proves what we have known for years.
    When the left can’t meet you on the field of ideas, they will just start with personal attacks. The more vile the better.

  • surrelam

    It sounds like the gov’t. is truly worried about OathKeepers being a fly in the ointment; if they govern per the Constitution, then they don’t have anything to worry about, DO THEY?!?! And the Oathers can just “enjoy their fantasy club”. Godspeed, OathKeepers!

  • Ed Williams

    Southern Poverty Law Center- ACLU/Acorn South?
    In its Fall 2009 intelligence report titled, “The Second Wave: Evidence Grows of Far-Right Militia Resurgence,”the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Oath Keepers as “a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival.”-
    What an absolute load of crap! I hope these clowns receive no public funding, whatsoever! Makes me want to give OathKeepers money!

  • Drawer22

    Having taken the referenced oath many times, both in military service and law enforcement, one thing in particular struck me some time ago: I was never relieved of that oath – nor would I wish that at any cost. Being a member of OathKeepers would, for me, be largely symbolic, for one does not need membership with any organization in order to keep one’s word. My loyalty is to this nation, and that loyalty is based on knowledge that the principles embodied in our Constitution are sufficiently worthwhile for me to have served 2 voluntary combat tours in Special Forces, assisting foreign nationals in their quest for just a few of the freedoms Americans have fought and died to preserve. I’ll gladly take the rabid spittle of detractors as if it were a highly-prized medal!

  • Bruce

    Fair and balanced, right Kathryn???  People who are astute regarding the woes of our nation and the leftists trying to sabotage the Constitution have seen the SPLC, ACLU, People for the American Way, Center For American Progress, etc. on our radar for years.  We know them as the enemy within.

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”
    Marcus Tullius Cicero (ancient Roman lawyer, writer, scholar, orator and statesman)

  • Robert Whitelaw

    the insulting is typical of one who knows no Soldiers.All my ansesters fought for freedom from Emperor’s,(Rome)King’s(English)Emperor again(Napolion)Kiaser(German)Hitler,Herito,Korea,Vietnam.I am not serving,I choose to stand over watch for my friends families who are currently oversea’s.Some on 2nd 3rd 4th deployments.What is happening here scares me more than reports from there.OUR OWN PEOPLE are becoming the problem.but WHO.All represenatives. to honestly say no one,and everyone knows….untill seeing is beleving the reteric beats on. sorry about miss spelling to heated sometimes.

  • Vince Warde

    What I find frightening is that anyone could find Oathkeepers even remotely controversial. 

    First, they DO NOT advocate violent resistance, they simply are making it clear in advance that they will not obey ten illegal orders that we all hope never come.  Many of these orders are opposed by the right, many by the left – all are clearly illegal. 

    Second, many of our history’s darkest episodes have involved police and troops following illegal orders.  Ask the Cherokee about the trail of tears.  President Jackson ordered their removal after Supreme Court rule against it.  Army troops obeyed an illegal order and thousands died.  President Roosevelt ordered not only the legal detention of Japanese nationals, but the illegal detention of thousands of American citizens of Japanese decent.  Those are just two incidents that an organization like Oathkeepers might have prevented.

    Sadly, such events are not a thing of the past.  At the height of Katrina, the Mayor of New Orleans ordered police from all over the country who were assisting, as well as the National Guard to seize lawfully held firearms.  This was in direct violation of the constitution as established by the 5th circuit, and was continued in violation of a Federal Court order.  This action caused such an outrage that many states and the Federal government passed laws against such actions.  But what good are they if police and other authorities are willing to violate them?

    Indeed, what good are any of our laws if they may be violated at will?  It is this kind of action that Oathkeepers wants to prevent.  Why would anyone be threatened by this?

  • Matt Molina

    You have to remember ONE thing if nothing else. If there’s no Federal Government, then the rulers of the states can exploit their people and geology as they wish. The South for instance would inevitably reduce working conditions to slavery, and industrial practices that poison the land, sky, & water would flourish with no one to stop them- to name two. Other than that, it might be kinda fun to see what would happen.

  • Thomas Graham

    Oath Keepers is highly anti-American organization. OK are a collection of conspiracy theorists, Ron Paul supporters, 911 Truthers, among others on the fringe right. Check out the Orange County Oath Keepers in California. Their website is like reading Noam Chomsky on foreign policy.

  • Thomas Graham

    The truth is that OK is as anti-American organization as any on the far left. Members of OK are Ron Paul supporters, 911 Truthers, and others on the fringe right. Check out OK in Orange County California and you will think you are reading Noam Chomsky on foreign policy. One OK representative in Orange County charged Dick Cheney with being war criminal in a protest demonstration in association with the far left.

  • Say What

    it should be noted that all federal civil servants take a similar oath.
    from opm :

    Like wise I expect most political appointees,

    So it would seem that taking tthe Oath is fine, but following it is treason.

    Duly noted….


    I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend
    the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and
    domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that
    I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose
    of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of
    the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

    5 U.S.C. §3331

    As Federal civil servants, we take an oath of office by which we swear
    to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
    The Constitution not only establishes our system of government, it actually
    defines the work role for Federal employees – “to establish Justice,
    insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the
    general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”

    The history of the Oath for Federal employees can be traced to the Constitution,
    where Article II includes the specific oath the President takes – to “preserve,
    protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Article
    VI requires an oath by all other government officials from all three branches,
    the military, and the States. It simply states that they “shall be
    bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution.” The very
    first law passed by the very first Congress implemented Article VI by
    setting out this simple oath in law: “I do solemnly swear or affirm
    (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United

    The wording we use today as Executive Branch employees is now set out
    in chapter 33 of title 5, United States Code. The wording dates to the
    Civil War and what was called the Ironclad Test Oath. Starting in 1862,
    Congress required a two-part oath. The first part, referred to as a “background
    check,” affirmed that you were not supporting and had not supported
    the Confederacy. The second part addressed future performance, that is,
    what you would swear to do in the future. It established a clear, publicly
    sworn accountability. In 1873, Congress dropped the first part of the
    Ironclad Test Oath, and in 1884 adopted the wording we use today.

    *Deaf and hard of hearing users should contact us using the the Federal Relay Service.

  • makeupdiva

    I believe every American should join the Oath Keepers.