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A Utah Republican leader was one of more than 300 Utahns who showed up on a membership list kept by the Oath Keepers, a group federal law enforcement officials have said is an anti-government militia.
Iron County GOP Chairman Volney Morin says he joined the group about a decade ago when he lived in Arizona. He tried to start a chapter when he moved to Cedar City in 2017, but that effort was not successful.
“Nobody showed up,” Morin said.
He has since asked for his name to be taken off the group’s membership list.
The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a copy of the hacked Oath Keepers list, which was originally provided to Distributed Denial of Secrets, a nonprofit journalism organization. A review of the list by The Tribune identified several Utahns who had a law enforcement or military background, including the current Director of the Utah Department of Corrections.
Morin served in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam.
Members of the group have been linked to the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January, including the leader of the group, Stewart Rhodes. Seven Utahns have been accused of taking part in the Capitol attack, but none of them were on the leaked membership list.
Morin pushed back when asked about the Oath Keepers who were involved in the Jan. 6 riot.
“Your question presumes the Oath Keepers endorsed that action. In reality, it was some individuals who decided to do something that was stupid,” Morin says.
“It’s awfully easy for us to judge a group based on the behavior of a small percentage of the group. They take the actions of some people who don’t represent the values of the group then think the rest believes the same thing. You cannot paint everyone based on the actions of one person,” he added.
Morin was elected as chair of the Iron County GOP last spring. His previous association with the Oath Keepers isn’t causing too much heartburn among his fellow Republican leaders.
“It doesn’t concern me at all. He’s been a great member of the party,” Carson Jorgensen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party said.
Though he is not a member anymore, Morin defended the Oath Keepers, saying they are not a “militia” or “anti-government,” as they have been labeled by the Department of Justice.
“I joined the group because they were pro-constitution and I wanted to support a constitutionally based government. They want to peacefully resist any encroachment by the government on the Constitution as the supreme law of the land,” he said.
For the Oath Keepers, who get their name from the oath they took to join the military or police forces, there are exceptions to upholding their sworn professional orders.
The group has its own “Declaration of Orders We Will Not Obey,” which includes the refusal to disarm an American citizen or participate in martial law and order on American soil.