Oath Keeper founder and president Rhodes says his organization merely stands for a strict interpretation of the Bill of Rights, which service members and law enforcement officers swear to uphold. He also believes one of the primary purposes for his organization is to educate officers and military personnel about the laws they’ve promised to defend.
Rhodes’ perspective is that the officers’ actions after Katrina and other unconstitutional excesses by officers are a matter of ignorance at work. Whether it is institutionalized or willed ignorance is immaterial, he says.
“An honorable man who is doing his very best necessarily becomes
knowledgeable,” Rhodes observes. “Because if you don’t know what’s right or wrong, you can be an honest person with great integrity and courage and still do the wrong thing.”
According to Rhodes, the Oath Keepers’ mission is simply to get back to basics—to ensure that at least part of the country’s constituency knows and understands the Constitution and its ideological underpinnings to a sufficient degree that they refrain from violating its tenets out of ignorance, apathy, or fear of political reprisal.
“It’s not about finding like-minded officers,” says the former Yale history
instructor and public defender. “It’s about creating people who are knowledgeable about the Constitution. What we’re trying to do is cure the dumbing down Americans have gotten from the schools. They’re not taught history and they’re not taught the Constitution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to rank and file military officers who haven’t read the Constitution. Police officers, too. Have they read the Federalist Papers? The writings of the Founders? It’s very rare. That’s what we’re trying to do: Simply show the intentional ignorance of the American population.”
Rhodes—whose 2004 Yale Law School paper, “Solving the Puzzle of Enemy Combatant Status,” won the school’s award for best paper on the Bill of Rights— says the root of the problem lies within our country’s basic curricula. But he also believes there is a silver lining to be found in addressing this deficiency: It’s easier when the person reading the Bill of Rights isn’t approaching it with notions instilled in them by revisionists.