Critics Premature in ‘Oath Keepers’ Child Custody Case

I’ve criticized child protective services plenty and I’m sure I will again. Child welfare agencies often err on the side of over-intrusion into families’ affairs. They often act arbitrarily; they often ignore fathers in their zeal to place children in foster care. All that is true. But the fact that CPS agencies often err doesn’t mean they always do or even that they do most of the time. So, when they take a child into custody, we shouldn’t automatically assume that they’re acting inappropriately.

The fact is that there’s a lot of child abuse and neglect in this country and someone needs to try to deal with that. CPS has been given the job and it’s one I know I wouldn’t want. Making the call about who keeps their child and who loses theirs can’t be easy. Telling the difference between dangerous neglect and the hardships of poverty must be like reading tea leaves at times.

So now we have the case of Johnathan Irish of Epsom, New Hampshire. He has some association with a group called “Oath Keepers.” From what I can gather, they’re an organization of current military service personnel, police, firefighters, national guard reservists, etc. Their mission is to remember and strictly adhere to the oath they took upon entering their particular lines of duty. That is, they mean to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Oath Keepers is a libertarian group. They believe in limited governmental intrusion into the lives and freedoms of Americans, but, given that their members are military personnel, police and firefighters, they’re government agents. So how do agents of the government intend to limit governmental intrusion into private life? As a practical matter, that seems to mean that Oath Keepers vow to refuse orders of their superiors that they deem to violate the Constitution.

Exactly what connection Johnathan Irish has with the Oath Keepers seems uncertain, but apparently he has one. So when child protective services showed up at the hospital shortly after his girlfriend gave birth to their son/daughter, Oath Keepers and others who aren’t favorably disposed toward CPS took to the streets in protest. Their claim is that, because Irish has some connection with Oath Keepers and because CPS took his child, they must have done so because of his connection with the group.

I’ll admit, it got my dander up too. After all, I see plenty of high-handed intrusion by CPS all the time, so I’m ready to leap into the fray on the side of parents.

But this article says that the police claim that Johnathan Irish has an all-too-rich history of domestic violence and child abuse (Concord Monitor, 10/10/10). I of course don’t know Irish’s criminal history or even if there is one. But jumping to the conclusion that CPS took his child solely because of his association with a particular organization strikes me as dubious at best.

It’s a classic case of jumping to conclusions before the evidence is in. We don’t know what the facts are and anyone who claims they do -outside of a very few people very close to the case – is being irresponsible.

Let’s see what happens.

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