Wilson Medal, University of Toronto Professional Memberships American Society for Metals ASM Research Areas Research is focused on the properties of surfaces and interfaces though examination of the chemical, electrochemical, and structure-chemical interactions that occur in materials.
October 17, I had not heard of the Religious Sovereign Movement that apparently is spreading across the country. It is an attempt to overturn our legal system or at least turn it on its head. What binds us together I wonder? Sovereigns insist on representing themselves in court; they have been known to float theories regarding the presence of fringe on the American flag or the invalidity of names as inscribed on Social Security cards.
While the sovereign citizen movement is often represented as a collection of scofflaws creating elaborate interpretations of the American legal system in order to scam it, the reality is more complex. That complexity can be mapped in six characteristics, all related to the religiosity which permeates and defines much of the sovereign citizen movement.
First, for most sovereigns, beliefs about the law are explicitly religious beliefs. This cannot be overstated: These beliefs build on the claims and language of race-based new religious movements, or pursue the Christian scriptural logic of a separation between that which belongs to Caesar and that which belongs to God, or expand widespread and thus rather ecumenical narratives about the sacrality of the Constitution and the American experiment.
The majority of sovereign citizens conceive of and engage in their claims and practicesas religious.
On an individual level, a sovereign could be a Moorish Scientist, a Washitaw, or a citizen under the protection of the Embassy of Heaven. Second, while sovereign citizens reject certain laws, that rejection is predicated on an idealization of law.
For them, law is divinely ordained and underwritten; it has a transcendent and transformative power. Third, the law which sovereigns espouse always supersedes other interpretations of the law.
Sovereigns, for instance, create license plates like the one in the Tennessee case because they believe laws regarding vehicle registration and licensing to be corrupt interpretations of the true law, seen not only as directly related to the deity but also as inherently just, universal in application, and capable of being communicated.
Religious sovereigns insist that law, while corrupted by the current political power structure, is available to all as a tool for liberation. Fifth, sovereign claims about the law are understood to be objective; they can be and are justified by citing specific historical instances prior to the corruption of true law.
Sovereigns look back to a nostalgically re-imagined, more pristine time—a time is defined by laws and other legal texts treaties, Constitutional Amendments, the Universal Commercial Code, definitions in old editions of law dictionaries.
These are all still accessible and able to be cited can be referenced and discussed. For sovereigns, legal expertise means expertise in the law before its current, lapsarian state; sovereign legal claims are rooted in readings of legal history.
Sixth, sovereign readings of legal history are either counterfactual or obsolete. In the court proceedings that followed their arrest, Rosondich and Eshleman, for instance, further justified their eschewal of all American laws by citing the Expatriation Act of The statute allowed immigrants to the United States to renounce their previous citizenship and accept American citizenship, not the other way around.
By conflating religion with law, religious discourse and legal discourse are understood as one and the same. Religious sovereigns understand that just as interpretations of religious scripture or discourse are treated as universal truth, interpretations of law can likewise be treated as universal truth.
This promise, as in the case of Rosondich and Eshleman, is usually deferred. Police and courts are not easily convinced by sovereign arguments. Until that time, religious sovereigns, defining themselves via their knowledge of the law, will continue, like Rosondich and Eshleman, to act upon their beliefs and attempt to convert others to their particular love of the law.
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