Submitted October 27, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No.
l:15-cv-01598-TWP-TAB - Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge.
Posner, Flaum, and Ripple, Circuit Judges.
POSNER, Circuit Judge.
Jones Bey, who describes himself as an "Aboriginal
Indigenous Moorish-American, " filed in the district
court what he labeled a "Writ of Mandamus, "
seeking to enjoin state and county officials from taxing real
estate that he owns in Marion County, Indiana. He also asked
that the defendant officials be ordered to refund the taxes
that he'd paid and to compensate him for their alleged
wrongs. He asked the district court to award him $11.5
billion. The court refused, and granted the defendants'
motions to dismiss, precipitating this appeal.
says he's a "sovereign citizen" and therefore
can't lawfully be taxed by Indiana or its subdivisions in
the absence of a contract between them and him. (See El
v. AmeriCredit Financial Services, Inc., 710 F.3d 748,
750 (7th Cir. 2013), for a description of the beliefs of
so-called sovereign citizens of alleged Moorish origin.) We
have repeatedly rejected such claims. See United States
v. Jonassen, 759 F.3d 653, 657 and note 2 (7th Cir.
2014); United States v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767
(7th Cir. 2011); United States v. Hilgeford, 7 F.3d
1340, 1342 (7th Cir. 1993); United States v.
Schneider, 910 F.2d 1569, 1570 (7th Cir. 1990). We do so
in this case as well, and thus affirm the district court.
want to take this opportunity to examine the rights asserted,
in this as in the other cases we've cited, by persons
describing themselves as sovereign citizens by virtue of
their alleged Moorish origin. Most of them are African
Americans who belong to the Moorish Science Temple of America
(MSTA) and claim to be descendants of the Moors of northern
Africa, though they are not; Moors are of mixed Berber and
Arab descent rather than being African American in the usual
sense of being descended from black Africans. The original
purpose of MSTA, founded in the 1920s by Noble Drew Ali,
whose followers call themselves "Moors" in place of
more conventional designations such as "Black, "
"African American, " and "colored, " was
to claim government "recognition and respect as full
citizens rather than the second-class descendants of
slaves." Leah Nelson, 'Sovereigns' in
Black, Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center
(Aug. 24, 2011), www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/
Feb. 2, 2017, as were the other websites cited in this
opinion). MSTA focuses on "uplifting" its
followers, and encourages them to vote in U.S. elections so
that they can escape "political slavery." Spencer
Dew, Moors Know the Law, 31 J. L.
& Religion 70, 72-75 (2016).
MSTA home office, located in Washington D.C., has issued a
statement clarifying that the organization is neither "a
Sovereign Citizen movement [n]or a Tax Protestor
Movement" and that it was not founded "for its
members to become anarchist or conspiracy theorist[s]."
Moorish Science Temple of America, Statement on Radical
and Subversive Fringe Groups (July 15, 2011),
http://mstal913.org/Statement_ Radical_Moors.pdf. A MSTA
temple in Georgia denounces sovereign-citizen propaganda as
"completely asinine" and asks that Moors not
"adopt the ideals of these European groups who at
their core, hate [Moors'] very existence."
Frequently Asked Questions, Question 1, Moorish
Science Temple of America (Georgia),
clearly, 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. For example, the "Moors Order of the
Roundtable" uses eighteenth-century treaties with
Morocco to distinguish "Free Moors" from Africans
who could be enslaved and teaches that courts have no
jurisdiction over Moors. Nelson, 'Sovereigns' in
Black, supra. Other groups claim that their Moorish
nationality gives them the status in the United States of an
indigenous people, although the logic behind this claim is
deeply obscure. See id. Renita Bey teaches that
Europeans are latecomers and Moors never granted them
citizenship. Washitaw Nation Comes Under
Investigation, Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law
Center (June 15, 1999), www.
w-nation-comes-under-investigation. She teaches her followers
that they are "Muurs" from "Muu" who
traveled to North America before Africans did, when the world
had only one continent. Many sovereign citizen organizations
teach that whenever a Moor's name is spelled in capital
letters in a government document, the name identifies not the
individual but instead his "corporate shell identity,
" or in other words a "straw man" controlled
by the government. See Southern Poverty Law Center,
"Sovereign Citizens Movement, "
the Moorish Science Temple does not buy the "sovereign
citizen" line, many of its members do. Many of them
argue, without any basis in fact, that as a result of
eighteenth-century treaties the United States has no
jurisdiction over its Moorish inhabitants, who are therefore
under no obligation to pay taxes. That is Bey's position,
but he does not explain how it entitles him to an $11.5
billion refund from the State of Indiana and/or its
subdivisions. Nor is there any basis for his contention that
he is not required to pay any taxes because being a
Moor makes him a sovereign citizen; he may be a Moor but-we
emphasize, in the hope of staving off future such frivolous
litigation-he is not a sovereign citizen. He is a U.S.
citizen and therefore unlike foreign diplomats has no
immunity from U.S. law. Indeed his suit is frivolous and was
therefore properly dismissed; he was lucky to be spared
sanctions for filing such a suit.
Although we have discussed the MSTA at some length, our aim
was to introduce readers who may not be familiar with the
"sovereign citizen" movement to its principal
institutional establishment. We do not mean to task the
district judges of this circuit with having to delve into the
history of every particular organization involved in every
case before them. Often the organization either played no
significant role in the events leading up to the case or if
it did, nevertheless it was an organization already well
known to the court. The unusual feature of this case is that