After being rebuffed from their mission to protect anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, the Oath Keepers -- an armed militia most famous for standing off with federal agents at Bundy Ranch -- are now in Texas to protect a Jesus sign city leaders have voted to remove, the Friendly Atheist reports.
The sign in Hawkins, Texas, reads "Jesus welcomes you to Hawkins" in large gold letters. The sign has been reported as being on public land, and city leaders Monday voted to remove it instead of facing litigation from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, local KETK reports. At the meeting, documents were shown to city leaders indicating the sign may actually be on private property.
As the dispute continues, Hawkins Mayor Will Rogers told the station there have been threats of vandalism. So a local chapter of the Oath Keepers has been standing guard since Friday. They said they weren't there to "overthrow" Hawkins but said they'd arrest anyone who tried to harm the sign.
"It is our understanding that the sheriff of this county has already issued that to whomever, if anybody tries to damage this sign or remove this sign, they will be arrested. Of course, we have that authority as well as civil servants," a chaplain for the Oath Keepers told KETK.
Supporters of the sign rallied on Saturday morning.
The Oath Keepers most recently set out to protect Davis from a federal judge who jailed her on contempt of court sanctions for refusing to comply with court orders to issue marriage licenses in defiance of the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling. They erroneously believed Davis was denied a jury trial before being jailed, though contempt of court is a sanction by a judge overseeing a case, not a criminal charge or civil complaint that requires a trial.
Davis' attorneys asked the group not to come to Kentucky and they obliged.
They have turned up at mines in Montana and Oregon after operators were cited by federal authorities for being out of compliance and have patrolled the streets of Ferguson acting as quasi-law enforcement during protests by African-Americans over police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system. They're most famous for hunkering down at Cliven Bundy's ranch in Nevada when he was challenged by federal authorities for illegally grazing his cattle.
At a heated meeting over the sign in June, Rogers had compared Jesus to Superman.
“If you don’t believe that Jesus existed then he would be fiction,” Hawkins mayor Will Rogers told local television station KLTV at the time. “If he’s fiction, and you want to remove his name from everything, then you have to remove every fiction name from across the country. That means we couldn’t say ‘Superman welcomes you to town.'”
Though the Oath Keepers claim their aim is to protect the Constitution, the Freedom From Religion Foundation pointed out to the Hawkins City Council that the sign's religious message, if on public land, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that bars the government from favoring any religion.
Watch the report, from KETK, here: