Once again, there seems to be a powder keg about to be lit in America. This time it is a standoff that involves the Hammond family of Oregon and the Federal government, and self-appointed patriots, spearheaded by Ammon Bundy of Nevada, who sincerely believe they are guarding the Constitutional rights of citizens. But it is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and the emotions, and difficult to discern the truth from the innuendo and personal agendas.
The current crisis stems around what were designed to be controlled burns (or fires) conducted by the Hammonds in 2001 on their land; the first, to reduce juniper trees that have become invasive in that part of the country. That fire burned outside the Hammonds’ private property line and took in 138 acres of unfenced BLM land before the Hammonds got it put out. No BLM firefighters were needed to help extinguish the fire and no fences were damaged. Interestingly enough, a range conservationist for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) stated that this fire improved the rangeland conditions owned by the BLM. Let me also say that burns such as this are common among ranchers and farmers in order to control invasive trees and plant life that can prohibit farming and grazing on private lands.
There was then a second fire, in 2006, which was a backfire started by Steven Hammond to protect their property from fires being set by lightning. Steven's wife, Susan, later testified in court, "There was fire all around them that was going to burn our house and all of our trees and everything. The opportunity to set a back-fire was there and it was very successful. It saved a bunch of land from burning.” However, the BLM asserts that one acre of federal land was burned by the Hammonds’ backfire, and Susan says determining which fire burned which land is “a joke” because fires [from the lightning strikes] burned from every direction.
But now, the Ninth Circuit has held that the minimum five-year sentence was not so disproportionate as to violate the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. So, now the Hammond's have been resentenced to five years in prison, under an antiterrorism law passed by Congress. In fact, they made it clear that they intended to voluntarily turn themselves in and serve out the remainder of their sentence, under those federal minimum sentencing statutes, and after losing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And that brings us to the current standoff in Oregon.
Since the Hammond's are willing to return to prison to serve the full five years of the mandatory minimum, they do not wish any interference from anti-government or patriot groups which see this case as an overreach by the government. The Bundy group, however, is the same group of people who backed Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher, who accused federal government officials of trying to illegally push his cattle off of protected BLM federal land. That standoff came perilously close to pitting armed civilians against federal government agencies, with echoes of Ruby Ridge and Waco. Fortunately, the government backed down and disaster was averted.
But, somehow the Bundy group feels strongly that it is imperative they take a stand for the Hammond family, even though the Hammond family has not asked for help, nor do they want it. Furthermore, since Saturday, the Bundy protesters have taken over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitor’s building, and refuse to leave until the five-year prison sentences handed by the Justice Department to the Hammond's are softened.
Naturally, this has caused a firestorm among politicians, lawmakers, constitutionalists, and patriot-minded Americans. Everyone from Presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, to Oath Keepers founder, Stewart Rhodes, to TV personality Montel Williams, have weighed in. Rubio and Cruz both call for an end to the standoff and the end to lawlessness. Cruz said, “Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others. And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.” Rubio added that while he agreed with critics of federal land use policy, “Let me just say, first of all, you’ve got to follow the law... There are states dominated by the federal government in terms of land holding and we should fix it, but no one should be doing it in a way that’s outside the law. We are a nation of laws, we should follow those laws and they should be respected.”
While the Oath Keepers organization 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”, they do not intend to insert themselves in a situation where they are not wanted. Their founder, Stewart Rhodes, released the following statement: We cannot force ourselves or our protection on people who do not want it. Dwight and Steven Hammond have made it clear, through their attorney, that they just want to turn themselves in and serve out their sentence. And that clear statement of their intent should be the end of the discussion on this. No patriot group or individual has the right or the authority to force an armed stand off on this family, or around them, against their wishes. You cannot help someone who does not want your help, and who are not willing and ready to take a hard stand themselves.
But then there are those like Montel Williams, who appears to encourage lawlessness by government officials, themselves, in the face of constitutional protests. Williams said in several Twitter messages he’s quite OK with authorities using deadly force to take out the Oregon protesters who’ve taken over a federal building – that they’re “buffoons” with “terrorist” tendencies and unworthy of constitutional protections. What?!? Deadly force? Unworthy of constitutional protections? As nervous as it makes me for the protestors to push the envelope of civil disobedience, this kind of talk from a celebrity mouthpiece sickens me. Since when does a private citizen feel compelled to call for deadly force against another citizen? And who is he to judge that they are not due constitutional protection?
While it sometimes seems to me that man's laws are becoming subject to tyrants and public opinion, I must remind myself that all government has been instituted by God. I know, I know, that is so difficult to understand in the midst of perceived injustice. But we must remember that there can be NO power, of ANY government, except what God allows. So we must always keep in mind that He is working out a purpose that is probably far different than what any personal agenda for “improvement” that we deem necessary. When our leaders are self-serving—or even outright devilish—it is God’s responsibility to remove them—NOT OURS!
If ever there was injustice, it was the Roman tyranny over Judah when Jesus walked the earth. Yet our LORD did not advocate the overthrow of the Roman government, even though He could have called down armies of angels to do His will. It is a difficult concept for us humans to know how to act in love and righteousness when faced with corruption, unfairness, tyranny, and repression. No matter how hard it is to understand, we are called to follow our nation's laws until they are in direct conflict with God's laws -- no matter how wrong or unfair they seem. From my Biblical standpoint, the Hammond's have taken the high, and more difficult, road. May God's peace abound in the wake of their tough decision.
Thank you to Patterico's Pontifications website for the clear and precise understanding of the Hammond family's court cases.
I Timothy 2:1-2 "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."