A New Hampshire couple is celebrating today after their baby girl, who was taken from them by the state some 16 hours after birth last week, was returned to them yesterday.
Johnathon Irish, 24, and his girlfriend Stephanie Taylor, 22, both of Epsom, N.H, were reunited with their daughter Cheyenne Thursday afternoon following a closed door custody hearing.
The case gained national attention last week when the couple claimed their newborn girl was taken from them by the state because of Irish's involvement in Oath Keepers, a national group that opposes unrestrained federal authority. The state, however, cited a history of domestic violence and child abuse as the reason for removing the baby.
In case documents, the state did reference Irish's association with the "militia" Oath Keepers, however it also explained Irish has repeatedly been involved in domestic and child abuse cases and had failed to complete a state-mandated domestic abuse program. Taylor has two other children who have been removed from her custody due to similar concerns.
Details as to why the baby was returned are not available, as the judge in the case has issued a gag order.
Despite the parents' joy, the day wasn't without its drama. Protesters both in favor of and opposed to the couple rallied outside the courthouse. The Concord Monitor reports that tensions rose when Johnathon Irish's father, John Irish, told a reporter within earshot of Johnathon Irish that his son had spent a portion of his childhood in residential juvenile facilities and had gotten in trouble with the law. He added that Johnathon Irish deserved to be scrutinized by the state.
"DCYF was acting properly to protect that child," said John Irish to the Monitor, who said he's been estranged from his son for at least five years. "There were two other children who were also taken from their home."
That enraged Johnathon. He approached his father, standing inches from his face. "You were nothing. You were worthless," Johnathon Irish said, trying to control his temper.
Things did settle down and Irish and Taylor were eventually handed their baby girl. "This restores my faith in the justice system," said Nancy Haskell, Irish's mother. "I'm ecstatic."
Oath Keepers has demanded the reference to its organization be removed from court documents:
"There's no reason his political affiliation should have anything to do with his ability to take care of a child," Oath Keepers' East Coast vice president Chauncey Normandin told the Monitor. "That's offensive to us."