Oath Keepers is an American nonprofit organization that advocates that its members (current and former U.S. military and law enforcement) disobey any orders that they are given if they believe they violate the Constitution of the United States.
The Oath Keepers were founded on March 2009 by Stewart Rhodes and incorporated in Las Vegas, Nevada as a non-profit corporation. Rhodes is a Yale Law School graduate, a former US Army paratrooper, and a former staffer of Congressman Ron Paul. The Oath Keepers as a group have grown to include chapters in many states across America.
In the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) 2009 report The Second Wave: Return of the Militias, Larry Keller wrote that the Oath Keepers "may be a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival." Keller described Richard Mack, an Oath Keeper, as a "longtime militia hero" and quoted him as having said, "The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government… One of the best and easiest solutions is to depend on local officials, especially the sheriff, to stand against federal intervention and federal criminality." Mack, a former sheriff, responded by denying the claims, saying, "I have had no contact with any militia group and have never been a member of any militia." Rhodes, who is one-quarter Mexican and part-Native American, has also disputed the SPLC claim of racism. Writing in The American Conservative, Jesse Walker commented that "[n]ot every Oath Keeper would appreciate the comparison, but the group has more in common with those dissidents of the ’60s who refused to go to war than with any paramilitary cell."
Lou Dobbs talked with Rhodes on his radio show and criticized the SPLC for "perpetuating the same kind of intolerance it claims to condemn." On Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews and Rhodes discussed both the SPLC report and issues involving the Oath Keepers and extremists.
MSNBC political commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, quoting the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said, "Oath Keepers, depending on where one stands, are either strident defenders of liberty or dangerous peddlers of paranoia." Buchanan himself concluded that "America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right."
During the Ferguson unrest of 2014, the Oath Keepers arrived days after the start of the riots to protect local business and residents. A member's comments on the situation are as follows: "We thought they were going to do it right this time," Rhodes said of government response to the grand jury decision released Monday in the Michael Brown case. "But when Monday rolled around and they didn't park the National Guard at these businesses, that's when we said we have got to do something." Their volunteer security work in Ferguson has led to them being labeled "vigilantes" by some journalists.
- Maimon, Alan (October 25, 2009). "Ready To Defend: Oath Keepers speak out at inaugural conference". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
- Justine Sharrock (March–April 2010). "Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
- Acosta, Jim (November 18, 2009). "Who are the Oathkeepers". CNN. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
- "Incorporation Information for the Oath Keepers, Inc.". Nevada Secretary of State. E0559982009-3 (State of Nevada). October 22, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
- Maimon, Alan (October 18, 2009). "Ready To Revolt: Oath Keepers pledges to prevent dictatorship in United States". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 24, 2009.
- Nugent, Karen (October 23, 2009). "Ready to Protect: Former Bolton Chief Focuses On Constitution". Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved October 24, 2009.
- Keller, Larry (August 2009). "The Second Wave: Return of the Militias". A Special Report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (Montgomery, Alabama): pp. 5–10. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
- Fausset, Richard (September 18, 2009). "Oath Keepers organizer sees need to sound an alarm". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
- "Sheriff Richard Mack (RET) Responds to Southern Poverty Law Center Smear Attack on Oath Keepers and on Sheriff Mack" (Press release). Oath Keepers. August 14, 2009. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
- Johnson, Jon (September 2, 2009). "Local man appears on Internet news show". Eastern Arizona Courier. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
- Radley Balko (7 February 2011), An Interview With Stewart Rhodes, Reason
- Walker, Jesse (May 1, 2010). "Protect & Serve". The American Conservative. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Maimon, Alan (18 October 2009). "Oath Keepers pledges to prevent dictatorship in United States". Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, Nevada: Stephens Media LLC). Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- Patrick J. Buchanan (October 20, 2009). "Alienated and Radicalized". MSNBC.
- Mach, Huy (November 29, 2014). "Police shut down mysterious 'Oath Keepers' guarding rooftops in downtown Ferguson". St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- Annabel Grossman (December 1, 2014). "Ferguson police shut down armed 'Oath Keeper' vigilantes guarding rooftops of besieged town". Mail Online/The Daily Mail.
- Paul Vale (December 1, 2014). "Vigilante 'Oath Keepers' Offering Free Security In Ferguson Told To Stand Down By St. Louis Police". Huffington Post.
- Balko, Radley (May 2011). "Constitutional Refuseniks". Reason.
- 'No' Sheriff in Town: Some Lawmen Refuse to Enforce Federal Gun Laws