The best way I can describe sovereign citizenry is to compare them with the Protestant Reformation. There’s a holy book (the U.S. Constitution), and they think they have the right to interpret that book any way they want. They don’t need priests (lawyers and judges) telling them what is or is not true.
However, our government does not work like the Catholic Church. The only folks able to interpret laws are judges, usually Supreme Court judges. That doesn’t stop SCs from using law dictionaries, law books and various strands of gobbeldy-gook from claiming the benefits of U.S. citizenship with none of the responsibilities.
Sovereign Citizenry has its roots in the antisemitic, anti-tax, white supremacist Christian Identity movement known as the Posse Comitatus. Posse Comitatus members refused to recognize any law enforcement beyond the county sheriff. Its creators joined up with the Christian Identity movement and attempted to recruit disaffected rural American farmers during the American agricultural crisis of the late 1970s and early ’80s.
“What the Posse did was put the DNA of its conspiracy theories and Christian Identity philosophy into the cell of the farm movement, which became the carrier for it,” hate group expert Daniel Levitas told the Intelligence Report. Of course, a significant portion of the leaders of such groups were selling very expensive “legal advice” books and training programs generated by right-wing groups with a focus on how farmers could avoid bankruptcy, but with a lot of the SC philosophy we see today.
In short, the entire thing is, and was, a complete grift to take money from already desperate people.
Here’s the FBI’s general rundown of an SC:
Sovereign citizens believe the government is operating outside of its jurisdiction and generally do not recognize federal, state, or local laws, policies, or governmental regulations. They subscribe to a number of conspiracy theories, including a prevalent theory which states the United States Government (USG) became bankrupt and began using citizens as collateral in trade agreements with foreign governments. They believe secret bank accounts exist at the United States (US) Department of the Treasury. These accounts can be accessed using Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Universal Commercial Code (UCC), and fraudulent financial documents. Sovereign citizens are known to travel the country conducting training seminars on debt elimination schemes.
Some think this change in the U.S. government occurred with the ratification of the 14th amendment. SCs believe that amendment ended the existence of the United State as a country and turned it into a corporation capable of borrowing money against its very citizens — basically slavery but with extra steps. They believe most, if not all, courts are actually operating under Admiralty Law, and will point to gold fringe on U.S. flags in court rooms as proof.
Still others peg the dissolution of the U.S. to 1933, when the U.S. Treasury went off the gold standard, saying once again that the U.S. uses the “strawman” accounts to borrow against its citizens. From the FBI again:
Absent the gold standard, the USG needed “securities” to participate in global trade. Sovereign citizens believe the USG issued social security numbers and birth certificates as a means to register US citizens for use as collateral to be used in trade agreements with other countries. Under this system, the US Treasury Department creates an account for each citizen containing their monetary net worth. These accounts are commonly referred to as a “US Treasury Direct Account.” The accounts are believed to contain tangible assets in amounts ranging from $630,000 to $300,000,000. Sovereign citizens refer to this as a “dollar value” or “credit.” Sovereign citizens believe their “US Treasury Direct Accounts” are in the name of a third party created using their name. These third parties are referred to as “Stramineous Homo” (more commonly known as a “Strawman”), “corporate person,” or “government entity.” Sovereign citizens use the phrase “freeing money from the Strawman” to refer to extorting money from the US Treasury Department.
In order to reclaim your natural rights you must complete multiple complex steps to reject the federal government and the “strawman” version of your identity created when you entered the federal system at birth. This rejection includes things like sending your social security card back to the Social Security office and spelling your name in odd ways to separate you from the federal idea of your personhood as define through federal citizenship.
Sovereign citizen philosophy evolved from those racist, anti-tax and anti-government beginnings and is now a blanket term that covers multiple separatist views from the Black community’s Moors to members of the Aryan Nation to simply unaffiliated anti-government libertarian extremists. The belief system is extremely decentralized — a person can subscribe to this philosophy as a member of an anti-government group or as an individual. Some are strict constitutionalists, some believe in “common law” or “natural law” as the highest set of rules they will submit to. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates between 100,000 and 500,000 sovereign citizens live in the United States. The philosophy has caught on in other English-speaking countries as well, like Australia, Canada and the UK.
It’s their beliefs and tactics that unite such disparate groups. Along with a willful misunderstanding of laws and the meanings of words, members of this group also engage in what the FBI calls “paper terrorism.” SPLC has a good example:
Donna Lee Wray – the common-law wife of Jerry Kane, who was half of the team that killed the two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 2010 – was involved in a protracted legal battle in 2010 over having to pay a dog-licensing fee. She filed 10 sovereign documents in court over a two-month period and then declared victory when the harried prosecutor decided to drop the case. The battle was fought over a three-year dog license that costs just $20 in Pinellas County, Florida, where the sovereign lives.
A common them of this piece is going to be a lot of information on a worldview that is extremely fake.