They are “sovereign citizens,” inspired by any number of complicated and cockamamie theories that all draw the same conclusion: we are not subject to your “laws.” And they are becoming an increasing headache… because when they inevitably land in court for driving without a license or failing to pay taxes, they clog up the system with reams of nonsensical paperwork. Their obfuscatory filings are so inundating that harried prosecutors often drop the charges against them—a victory for the sovereigns’ otherwise quixotic cause.
Sometimes the battles get bloody long before they see a courtroom, too… Since 2000, “lone-offender sovereign-citizen extremists have killed six law enforcement officers,” according to the FBI.
Proponents also claim to believe that each American is owed “anywhere from $600,000 to $20 million” due to government investment deals made with foreign countries, and that “all you have to do to collect is file the right paperwork”.
The movement is largely decentralised, but Ross describes one particular (non-violent) group in Oregon – this is the “Embassy of Heaven” church, run by a certain Craig Douglas Fleshman. Fleshman now uses the name Pastor Paul Revere:
After founding his church in 1987, the former computer systems analyst began issuing “Kingdom of Heaven” identity documents, including passports, driver’s licenses, and license plates, and stopped paying property taxes. Sheriff’s deputies raided the church’s 34-acre property in Stayton, Ore., in 1997, for nonpayment of taxes, and took all of his land.
One member of the “Embassy of Heaven” is a man named Bradley Dean Smith, better known today as “heavy metal preacher” Bradlee Dean. Dean’s “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” (YCR) ministry has been endorsed by Michele Bachmann, and in May 2011 he gave the opening prayer at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He also enlisted Larry Klayman in a doomed attempt to sue Rachel Maddow for $50 million after she drew attention to his hateful anti-gay rhetoric in a way he claimed misrepresented him. Dean’s most recent stunt has been to claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was orchestrated by Barack Obama and the United Nations.
Dean’s association with the Embassy of Heaven is documented by Karl Bremer, who runs a website called Ripple in Stillwater. Dean was advised to join the group by Glen Stoll, who is known primarily as Kent Hovind’s legal adviser (Hovind, who is a prominent Creationist, is currently in prison over tax issues). Dean later split from Stoll, and his links to the Embassy may belong to the past – but it is likely that this is where Dean’s claim to be an “ordained preacher” comes from (although Dean also has links to the Assemblies of God, through his wife’s parents, Jarry and Marjorie Cole).
Bremer has also listed some other “Embassy of Heaven” members, including Scott Roeder, who murdered the abortion provider George Tiller. Of course, that does not mean that the Embassy of Heaven had anything to do with Roeder’s act, or that other members approved of it: it seems that the ID documents are made widely available, and there’s no requirement to forge any real links with the church in Oregon.
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