On/File: A Continuing Record of People, Groups, Movements, and Events Impacting Religion

1) The Moorish Sovereign Citizen Movement gained attention for its black nationalist beliefs and politics after adherent Gavin Eugene Long killed three Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers in mid-July. Sovereign citizen beliefs, holding that adherents can claim immunity from federal, state, and local laws, citing divine or common law, can be traced back to the 1970s when far right groups taught that government has authority over only those citizens who submit to a contract. The beliefs are similar to such a movement as the Moorish Science Temple of America (from which the Nation of Islam was derived), which teaches that black “Moors” had been America’s original inhabitants and were entitled to self-governing status as a nation within a nation, giving them rights that predate the Constitution. The current leader of the Moorish Science Temple said that sovereign citizen adherents are not members of the organization and misrepresent the religious group’s teachings. But sovereign citizen’s adherents have adapted the Moorish identity, often citing treaties signed more than 200 years ago between the U.S. and Barbary Coast states. New Jersey is reported to be a hotbed of Moorish sovereign citizen activity. A recent study found that law enforcement officials consider sovereign citizens to be the top terrorist threat in their communities, though, unlike Long, most adherents more typically commit acts of “paper terrorism” (filing fraudulent paperwork and court documents). (Source: Raw Story, July 18)

11OnFileA 2) NewVistas is a planned group of sustainable, high tech communities based on the teachings of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Wealthy Mormon engineer David Hall came upon a document of Smith where he recorded a detailed vision of a heavenly city that accommodates 15,000 to 20,000 people within one square mile. NewVista communities will also have multipurpose buildings serving as schools, conference centers, and houses of worship, both Mormon and non-Mormon. In keeping with the Mormon family ethos, each multi-family house will have house captains, consisting of a married couple. Hall is planning his first community in Provo, Utah, but plans 1,000 communities throughout the world. One proposed community in Sharon, Vermont (Smith’s birthplace), has raised considerable opposition after residents learned that Hall had bought land extending over four rural towns to build a community housing 20,000 people.  (Source: Bloomberg Business Week, July 20)