Interview with Sheriff Hamilton on deputizing and rallying and constitutionality of Governor’s order

by Kathleen Sloan | May 21, 2020
6 min read
Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton was sent five questions Friday, May 15, and answered them Tuesday, May 19, while the New Hope Revival Church and Cowboys for Trump held their coordinated church service and rally on Sunday, May 17, making the questions and answers disjointed in time.

However, the answers are still relevant, and reveal in greater depth Hamilton’s position on various issues.

Q-1. (It has since been learned this organization has not filed a suit against Hamilton) I see the Freedom from Religion Foundation has brought suit against you. Can you tell me what the complaint is and what court it was filed in? Or even provide a copy of the complaint? 

Hamilton: “Contrary to what many of the misinformed social media ‘hacks’ have attempted to portray, the FFRF sent me a letter with a laundry list of their impressions (most of them unsupported by the actual facts) concerning the events surrounding the Special Deputy appointments involving citizen volunteers at the New Hope Revival Church. The letter contained NO threat of legal action but rather a request that I cease in issuing Special Deputy appointments exclusively to Christians (again, another inference drawn without supporting facts). I have made this offer to volunteer one’s services to all of Sierra County’s Citizens and just as many non-church affiliated individuals have met with me at my office to receive this appointment. The letter from FFRF is a letter and only a letter. It contains no language suggesting that legal action is forthcoming or that it is even being considered. Some of the same ‘community agitators’ whose attempt at public journalism via Facebook and Twitter are deliberately disseminating this misinformation in an effort to appease their own list of ‘bottom feeders.’ Unfortunately their activities represent a dis-service to the actual facts which most of their vitriol seems to be conveniently void of. The real tragedy to the whole issue is that not a single one of the ‘nay-sayers’ even bothered to call my office and get the real story before going live with their dissemination of ‘hate-filled’ rants and, quite frankly, juvenile outbursts and childish rants.”

Q-2. Is it Good Hope Revival Church Pastor Caleb Cooper’s argument that the Governor’s order is a violation of the Constitution’s freedom of religion clause? Do you agree the Governor’s order is unconstitutional, which initially disallowed church service but now allows (the church capacity has since been changed to 25 percent and was at 25 percent May 17) 10-percent-capacity attendance? 

Hamilton: “It is undeniable that the Governor’s declaration and Secretary Kunkle’s Public Health Order has gone extremely farther than allowed by not only the U.S. Constitution, but also the New Mexico Constitution (see Art. II Sec. 11). The law that the governor cites as her authority to take such actions is not specific in its authorizations but also give such broad powers to an un-elected cabinet appointee to the extent that they are limitless and unchecked. I have found no exception or a suspension clause in either the U.S. or the State Constitution’s ‘Bill of Rights’ however, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, established the principle of judicial review in the United States, meaning that American courts have the power to strike down laws, statutes, and government actions that violate the Constitution of the United States.”

For the readers’ convenience, here follows the New Mexico Constitution Article II, Section 11: “Every man shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and no person shall ever be molested or denied any civil or political right or privilege on account of his religious opinion or mode of religious worship. No person shall be required to attend any place of worship or support any religious sect or denomination; nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.”

Q-3. The May 17 church service and the Cowboys for Trump ride to the church are actions to defy the Governor’s order of (since changed to 25 percent) 10-percent church capacity and gatherings of more than five people in the name of religious freedom, are they not? Are you attending the Sunday, May 17, church service and ride to show your support for defying the order? 

Hamilton: “The Cowboys for Trump rally at the New Hope Revival Church on May 17th was exactly that. A “First Amendment” rally of Citizens who wish to exercise their Constitutional right to peacefully assemble and show their support for community and community leaders who have chosen to exercise those rights. There have been dozens of these types of rallies throughout New Mexico and the Nation for over the past month and a half. It is disingenuous for anyone to suggest that Sierra County or TorC has opened a floodgate for this type of activity (I need only to remind others of the three separate ‘Open Elephant Butte’ rallies conducted and attended by our own New Mexico Representative). I was in attendance at the Cowboys for Trump rally and I can say with the upmost of confidence that the Church did not exceed the 25 percent allowable capacity during their service. The Church leaders even took the extra measure of setting up an outside tent with seating to accommodate for this possibility. Those in attendance outside of the church sanctuary were engaged in active demonstrations during the rally and church officials had no control over those individual’s actions. This would be no different if a group of demonstrators showed up on the street in front of yours or my house to express their displeasure or support for any other cause.”

Q-4. I read in an article on the Freedom From Religion Foundation website that you had offered to deputize any church in the area. Is that true? And would it be to confer immunity from the Governor’s order? 

Hamilton: “This offer was made to all Churches (mosques, synagogues, temples and facilities of all faiths) and the Citizenry as a whole. This was not done to confer immunity from prosecution or to provide a “carte blanche” authority to shield one from the unconstitutional edicts set forth in the Public Health Order. This provision to use citizen volunteers as a LAST RESORT to quell public unrest and restore the peace has been included in my ‘Emergency Response Plan’ since the governor’s first order, declaring an emergency, was issued. The appointments are issued inactive and it is clearly annotated in the letter issued to the recipient, that such authority of the Sheriff is only derived when ‘called to duty.’ Additionally, these calls to duty will only be initialed when ‘Phase 3’ conditions (Office contamination and quarantine conditions are wide-spread to the extent that all operations are halted) are present as provided for in my response plan.”

Q-5. Will you be deputizing the Cowboys for Trump and more Good Hope church members before or during the Sunday service to confer immunity to the Governor’s order? 

Hamilton: “I did issue special deputy appointments to several of the rally attendees (non-church members) including the Cowboys for Trump. This was done more for symbolic purposes than practicality but their willingness to assist me, should the need arise, will not go unheeded. I would only remind the public that until I activate these special deputies, I am unable to conduct background checks through the NCIC system. It is only when I request activation of these individuals that the background checks and vetting of each volunteer will be completed.”

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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