A New Hampshire couple is claiming their newborn girl was taken from them by the state because of the father's involvement in a national group that's against unrestrained federal authority. The state, however, cites a history of domestic violence and child abuse as the reason for removing the baby.
Stephanie Taylor and Johnathan Irish of Epsom, NH are fighting to get their baby girl back after she was removed approximately 16 hours after birth last Thursday, the couple says. The couple protested with others, many strangers, outside of Concord Hospital on Friday where the baby may have been moved to. The protesters and parents believe the state took the baby due to Irish's affiliation with Oath Keepers, which its website calls a non-partisan group of current and former police and military personnel committed to the Constitution and fighting totalitarian government.
An affidavit given to the couple (seen in the video below) does appear to cite Irish's affiliation with the "militia" Oath Keepers, as well as the purchase of several weapons, in framing the reasoning. But it also paints Irish as an abusive and violent man who refused to complete a state-ordered domestic violence program.
The local Concord Monitor reports the affidavit shows a judge determined Irish abused Taylor's two other children, which belong to Taylor's current marriage. In the video above, Taylor says that she remains in that marriage because her husband refuses to sign divorce papers.
The Monitor continues:
The affidavit also says that the police in Rochester report a "lengthy history of domestic violence" between Taylor and Irish, and that she accused him of choking and hitting her on more than one occasion. According to the document, Irish failed to complete a domestic violence course as ordered by the state, and that a hearing was held last month to terminate Taylor's parental rights over her two older children.
Taylor "has failed to recognize the impact of domestic violence in her life and the potential danger it poses to a newborn baby," the affidavit reads. "Mr. Irish has not acknowledged any responsibility to date and remains a significant safety risk to an infant in his care. . . . Without the intervention of the court, the infant will be at risk of harm."
Irish denies any abuse. He says the affidavit is "fabricated" and "trumped up" and clearly shows his affiliation with Oath Keepers is why he is being targeted. As proof, he points to a line in the document saying he is "associated with a militia known as the Oath Keepers and had purchased several different types of weapons including a rifle, handgun and taser." As a result, he describes the sate as having "abducted and kidnapped" his daughter.
Lorraine Bartlett with the Division For Children Youth And Families tells the Associated Press that a child cannot be removed based on a parent's affiliation with an organization. However, she could not comment on the specifics of the case because child protection matters are confidential. The Monitor says the police and the hospital declined comment due to similar privacy policies.
Still, most of the protesters believe that Taylor and Irish's daughter was taken because of his political beliefs.
"This is supposed to be America, not Nazi Germany," said one protester identified by the Monitor as Tiffany. "You can't have your children stolen."
"He's a very honorable person who loves his country," said Brad Guida, an Epsom man who told the paper he was Irish and Taylor's landlord. "And I've watched the state and the police systematically hammer him."
Yet many of the supporters interviewed, the Monitor says, were unaware of Irish's potentially abusive past. "All I heard was that a baby was kidnapped, literally kidnapped, because the father posted on an online forum," said Ofer Nave, a Manchester man who did not know Taylor or Irish. He heard about the protest online -- the way that many have heard about the story in general.
So far, the couple's story has been featured on websites such as Global Political Awakening, Militant Libertarian, and Truth is Treason. Within minutes of being posted on Alex Jones's Infowars.com, the Monitor reports, the story attracted dozens of reader comments supporting Taylor and Irish.
"This is Nazi Germany crap that's what this is," wrote one commenter. "The camps are coming next if you let this slide."
"What this comes down to is: you will no longer be able to just breed. Once you have the kid, they will take it away," wrote another.
In a statement on the Oath Keepers's website, organization president Stewart Rhodes says that "If true, then this is as bad, and in fact worse, than any of the violations of liberty that our Declaration of Independence lists as the reasons for our forefathers taking up arms in our Revolution and for separating from England." In an update to that statement, Rhodes recognizes that there are other reasons cited for taking the baby from Taylor and Irish, but adds that "they are merely allegations."
"[A]n even more fundamental point is that regardless of the other allegations, it is utterly unconstitutional for government agencies to list Mr. Irish’s association with Oath Keepers in an affidavit in support of a child abuse order to remove his daughter from his custody," he says.
Rhodes, a lawyer, has offered his services to the couple, and the website says the organization will set up a legal defense fund.
"If it is true, then I will do all in my power to stop it," he says in his statement. "We will pull out all the stops, every lawful means of seeing that this child is returned to her parents and that all persons responsible are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
Reason.com's Brian Doherty, however, raises questions about the affidavit's supposed claims. After originally reporting on the story, Doherty issued an update saying that some sites posting the affidavit say that "the point mentioning Mr. Irish's membership in Oath Keepers is from a 'separate document' than the apparent order regarding why New Hampshire's Division for Children, Youth, and Families took the child." That may be true, as even Rhodes in his statement references the document as "the affidavit in support of the order to take the child from her parents."
Whether the affidavit referencing Oath Keepers is part of the original order or simply supporting documentation may be insignificant, however. Both Rhodes and the Monitor treat the documents as essentially connected, and Rhodes claims to have "confirmed" them.
Since the protest, Taylor and Irish have been banned from hospital grounds unless either require emergency services. The FBI has been involved tangentially in the case, as it investigated threats against the hospital around the time of the couple's Friday protest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(Editor's note: The title of this story has been updated to reflect the content of the story: the term used in the reported affidavit linking the father and Oath Keepers is "associated.")