Is Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers a hero for wading into the Bunkerville, Nev., controversy over access to federal land?
Or, since it's not directly related to Elkhart County, should he butt out?
The debate is raging on Facebook and among Elkhart Truth readers in response to Rogers' weekend visit to Bunkerville, ground zero in a dispute between rancher Cliven Bundy and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials. The feds sought to enforce a prohibition on letting cattle graze on federally owned land in the area while Bundy asserted what he said was his right to let them roam the tract.
The situation turned into a armed showdown between federal officials, on the one hand, and a group of state's rights advocates and critics of federal government overreach. Rogers, a Republican and himself a foe of federal government overreach, went, in part, out of concern that such a scenario could feasibly unfold here in Elkhart County.
"Why do I get involved, on my vacation, even though this situation has no immediate impact on Elkhart County? Because I love people. I love my country. I love the Republic for which our flag stands," Rogers said in an extensive Facebook post on the visit. "I left my family over the Easter weekend, missed a niece's birthday party, missed a church service celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord, because I love my family and do not want to see them live in a country where our freedom and liberties are eroded."
Whatever his intentions, the visit has sparked divergent views — criticism and praise.
Here's a sampling of the praise:
"I feel VERY fortunate that you are our sheriff, Bradley! Thank God we have someone who both knows and protects our constitution like a true patriot. Keep doing the wonderful job that you do!" said one woman in response to a Facebook post by Rogers on Wednesday on the situation.
"Brad Rogers for president! Preach it brother! Truth is truth! We could use a little of that in this society..ppl pointing fingers, blaming others, excuses..sick of it.. we need leaders who understand what's right, moral, and just simply true!" another woman said, also in response to the Facebook post.
"Sheriff Rogers is my hero!" wrote Ginger Xg in response to an Elkhart Truth account of some of the comments the situation has generated.
Others were critical, wondering, among other things, if Rogers would be sympathetic to civil disobedience here:
"would really like to know how Sheriff Rogers would feel when WE start questioning HIS authority to enforce laws here in Elkhart County. Something tells me we will not have as much FREEDOM as Sheriff Rogers is being given," wrote Leeet on the Elkhart Truth website.
Another Elkhart Truth reader posted a picture of Rogers, in his sheriff's department uniform (see it up above), with an apparent member of the Oath Keepers, another group critical of federal overreach that sent members to bolster Bundy in his stand. That generated this exchange:
"If Sheriff Rodgers is on a vacation then why does he feel the need to wear the county issued uniform?" wrote Bob Meyers.
"@Bob Meyers Wow....good find. He should be fired by the commissioners!! Or impeached. He was not elected to represent us in different state based on his crazy views. This is going too far! Scary!" responded jafo252.
"Sheriff Rogers needs to stay in Elkhart County and worry about its problems instead of traveling across country to stick his nose into another states business where he doesn't belong. I have had about enough of this individual who thinks he is above the laws that he has sworn to defend. Your responsibilities are to the people of Elkhart County, not in Nevada," Stan916 wrote on the Elkhart Truth website.
Rogers was critical of some of the initial responses news of his trip generated on the Elkhart Truth Facebook page:
"Comments on Etruth Facebook are comical and sadly illiterate," he said in a post Tuesday on his own Facebook page.
And through it all, Rogers has stood firm. Beyond constitutional questions, he maintains that he, as a locally elected official, would have more standing to help resolve a touchy conflict like the Bunkerville situation than an outside federal official.
"The Federal government has no face, no name (except alphabets), no number to call and no one to hold accountable if something goes wrong," Rogers wrote in the lengthy Facebook accounting of his trip. "The Sheriff can intervene, not because of ego or who's gun is bigger, but rather to be the public servant, whom the people elected, and whom can listen, talk and negotiate a peaceful resolution. The Sheriff has to continue to live in the community he serves. The Feds return to places unknown, never having to live the consequences or see the fears and hear the citizen's life stories."
Now here's a YouTube video of Rogers giving a speech in Nevada during his visit: