An armed right-wing group called Oath Keepers has offered its protection to Kim Davis, the infamous Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses on the grounds of her religious beliefs and was jailed for defying the Supreme Court. The group, which is supposedly dedicated to protecting American citizens' constitutional rights, believes that the judge who sent Davis to jail was acting outside his authority, Al-Jazeera America reports.
In a statement on their website, Stewart Rhodes, the group's founder, said that, "Federal District Court Judge David Bunning grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Mrs Davis’ due process rights." He continued:
No one man should have that kind of power in his hands alone to decide guilt and impose a sentence of indefinite detention. Under our Constitution, that dictatorial power does not exist. We must stand against this. And so we will protect her and prevent it from happening again.
The group, whose members dress in combat gear and carry weapons in public, has awkwardly inserted itself into issues like these before. Members of Oath Keepers showed up in Ferguson, Mo., during the protests that followed Michael Brown's death last summer. They said they were there to protect protestors from police, but both protestors and police officers said they, "found the group’s presence unnecessary, even intimidating."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Oath Keepers is a "fiercely anti-government militaristic group" about 30,000 strong. Its members include veterans, ex police officers, and active-duty soldiers.
A spokeswoman for Liberty Council, a conservative Christian group that has supported Kim Davis throughout the controversy, condemned Oath Keepers in a statement: "Neither Kim Davis nor Liberty Counsel heard of Oath Keepers before erroneous reports of their involvement in our case. Likewise, neither Kim Davis nor Liberty Counsel supports or condones any form of armed resistance, violence, or force." Davis' lawyers have reportedly turned down Oath Keepers' offer of protection, so that's a grand total of one thing they've done right.