Apologetics Index

Sovereign Citizens

What is the Sovereign Citizen movement?

The sovereign citizen movement is a loose grouping of, for the most part, Americans who claim that federal and state laws do not apply to them.

The rapidly growing movement is unorganized in that it knows no leader, organization, membership records or other central authority.

Most ‘sovereigns’ believe that the United States government is illegitimate, and consider the County Sheriff to be the most powerful law-enforcement officer in the country.

Though the Sovereign Citizen ideology does not advocate violence, several adherents have engaged in violence against law enforcement officers. Some preach violent insurrection.

According to the FBI, the movement represents a growing domestic threat to law enforcement.

Sovereign Citizens: ‘Your laws do not apply to us’

Self-described sovereign citizens take the position that they are answerable only to their particular interpretation of the common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state or municipal levels; that they do not recognize United States currency; and/or that they are “free of any legal constraints.” They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate. Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to “federal citizens,” who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law. It is similar in doctrines to the freemen on the land movement, more commonly found in Britain and Canada.[…]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies some sovereign citizens (“sovereign citizen extremists”) as domestic terrorists. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimated that approximately 100,000 Americans were “hard-core sovereign believers,” with another 200,000 “just starting out by testing sovereign techniques for resisting everything from speeding tickets to drug charges.”

According to a 2014 report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a survey of law-enforcement officials and agencies across the United States concluded that the movement was the single greatest threat to their communities, ranking above Islamic terrorists and jihadists.
– Source: Sovereign Citizen Movement, Wikipedia. Accessed Thursday, November 19, 2015 – 2:07 PM CET

[T]hey want to return the United States to a romanticized version of the 18th century, and fervently believe that they have the numbers and resources to achieve this fictional goal.

‘American Spring’

To do this, they need to get rid of the U.S. government. They start by filing thousands of meaningless legal documents in federal, state, and local courts. When that doesn’t work, some preach violent insurrection. They call it the Second American Revolution, the VBR (Very Bloody Revolution), or, most recently, the American Spring.
– Source: JJ MacNab, Context Matters: The Cliven Bundy Standoff — Part 2, Forbes.com, May 2, 2014

The Southern Poverty Law Center created this video to help law enforcement agencies better prepare for encounters with “sovereign citizens.”

Sovereign Citizens and Law Enforcement

The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism, though most sovereigns, many of whom are African American, are unaware of their beliefs’ origins.
– Source: Southern Poverty Law Center

…the Sovereign movement was started in the mid-1960s by a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Southern California. Nestled into the various sovereign legal theories are subtle references to everything from holocaust denial and anti-Semitic conspiracies to slavery apologist myths. Considering that African Americans have been joining the movement in large numbers for the last three years, this lack of historical context is troubling.
– Source: JJ MacNab, Context Matters: The Cliven Bundy Standoff — Part 2, Forbes.com, May 2, 2014

Research Resources on the Sovereign Citizen Movement




See Also

  • Domestic Terrorism: Hatred extinguished their lives, a special by the Kansas City Star

    Since 9/11, more than 60 people have been killed and dozens injured in attacks by domestic extremists, including white nationalists, militias and sovereign citizens. The most recent died in attacks in Charleston, S.C., and Lafayette, La.

    Showing photos of each victim, the paper reports their stories.

Article details

Category: Sovereign Citizens Movement
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First published (or major update) on Sunday, July 19, 2015.
Last updated on July 20, 2016.

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