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7th Circuit dismisses Moorish tax claim, condemns ‘sovereign citizen’ ideology

February 3, 2017

A man who declared himself a “sovereign citizen” as a result of his “Moorish” heritage is in fact not a sovereign citizen who is exempt from taxes, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a Friday opinion that delved into the history of the Moorish-American movement that has been the source of “difficult litigation.”

After declaring himself an “Aboriginal Indigenous Moorish-American,” John Jones Bey filed a “Writ of Mandamus” in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana seeking to enjoin state and Marion County officials from taxing real estate he owns in the central Indiana county.

Additionally, Bey, who called himself a “sovereign citizen” who can’t be lawfully taxed in Indiana absent a contract, sought an $11.5 billion refund on the taxes he has already paid. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt dismissed Bey’s claim, as did the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in a unanimous opinion Friday.

Judge Richard Posner, writing for the court, noted that persons who describe themselves as sovereign citizens by virtue of their “Moorish” roots are generally black people who belong to the Moorish Science Temple of America and who incorrectly claim to be descendants of the Moors of northern Africa. The original purpose of MSTA, Posner wrote, “was to claim government ‘recognition and respect as full citizens rather than the second-class descendants of slaves.’”

Although the MSTA central office has clarified that the organization is not a movement for sovereign citizens or tax protests, Posner continued, “sovereign-citizen ideas appeal to many (self-described) Moors, who combine those ideas with Ali’s teachings in an effort to reclaim and rewrite black history.”

Because of that ideology, some members of the MSTA, including Bey, believe that 18th century treaties with Morocco means the U.S. government has no jurisdiction over its “Moorish” inhabitants.

But “(Bey) is a U.S. citizen and therefore unlike foreign diplomats has no immunity from U.S. law,” Posner wrote. “Indeed, his suit is frivolous and was therefore properly dismissed; he was lucky to be spared sanctions for filing such a suit.”

The case is John Jones Bey v. State of Indiana, et al., 16-1589.

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