According to their website, Oath Keepers will gather at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on the Gettysburg Battlefield at 11 a.m. on July 4th. The purpose of the gathering is to "pray and bring attention to the struggles of our great nation and the attempts to divide the races," the website states. Speakers will include Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and James David Manning, pastor of ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem, New York. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
ATLAH is encouraging people to take an all expenses-paid bus trip to Gettysburg for the event, which will feature gospel music and a barbecue. Funding for this trip may be a problem, since Manning begged his supporters to donate money to the event in a June 25th video.
ATLAH World Missionary Church is infamous for its inflammatory signs condemning LGBTQ people. The church has posted messages on its marquee such as "Jesus Would Stone Homos ... Stoning Is Still the Law" and "Harlem Is a Sodomite Free Zone; Stop Sodomizing Our Children in Schools Across America", according to Huffington Post.
ATLAH pastor James David Manning is notorious for his bizarre, homophobic statements about gays. During a 2014 online commentary, Manning claimed that Starbucks uses semen from "sodomites" to flavor its coffee, according to the International Business Times. Starbucks is a gathering place for "upscale sodomites", he insisted, according to Huffington Post. What Manning's obsession with gays suggests about him, we can only speculate.
Manning's appearance in Gettysburg, the site of a major Civil War battle in 1863, will come in the wake of his bizarre video statement on same-sex marriage. A new Civil War will erupt over same-sex marriage, he claimed, insisting that "the Confederates and the South will win this time." (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
Manning's friends at the Gettysburg event also have a controversial reputation. Oath Keepers describes itself as a non-partisan organization devoted to protecting the U.S. Constitution.
"Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution itself, is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and Oath Keepers declare that they will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches, or to detain Americans as “enemy combatants” in violation of their ancient right to jury trial..."Oath Keepers' "Declaration of Orders We Will NOT Obey" seems to have been written with fear of government detention camps, blockades, mercenaries, and an overreaching federal power in mind. The declaration includes the following vows:
- "We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union."
- "We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps."
- "We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext."
- "We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances."
- "We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control” during any emergency, or under any other pretext. We will consider such use of foreign troops against our people to be an invasion and an act of war."
The organization has a controversial history. Oath Keepers drew media attention in 2014 when members stood guard in Ferguson, Missouri, the city in which Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson. St. Louis County Police told the Oath Keepers to stop perching on Ferguson rooftops, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Eventually, authorities ordered the Oath Keepers to leave, according to Fox 2 St. Louis.
Oath Keepers also supported Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy during his high-profile dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, according to Talking Points Memo. SPLC Hatewatch reported that tensions erupted between the Oath Keepers and other militiamen during their time at the Bundy ranch camp.
The vitriolic language of the group's leader has also attracted public attention. Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, said that Senator John McCain should be "hung by the neck until dead" for treason at a Liberty On Tap gathering in Tempe, Arizona, according to the Arizona Republic and Right Wing Watch.
I don't know what public statements will come out of this collaboration between Oath Keepers and Manning. I do wonder how much racial harmony will be realized at a gathering featuring a pastor who claimed that "sodomy is a white people's disease" and praised a KKK imperial wizard who "despises and eschews evil the way any righteous man will".
For more information, visit Right Wing Watch, which has kept meticulous tabs on Oath Keepers and Manning. Hatewatch, the blog of the Southern Poverty Law Center, regularly reports on U.S. patriot groups, including Oath Keepers.