Tag Archives: “Sovereign Citizens”

Not Your (Founding) Fathers’ Definition of “Religious Liberty”

Sunday Sermon time….

It’s not just the fight over RFRA.

Increasingly, defenders of “religious liberty” are insisting that what their liberty requires is the right to dictate the behaviors and prescribe the rights of others. Any effort to remind these theocrats that non-Christians and nonbelievers are entitled to equal treatment by government is met with outrage and accusations of “political correctness” and “waging war on faith.”

Think I’m exaggerating? These three examples all crossed my desk on a single day:

In Michigan, a Catholic hospital repeatedly refused to perform a medically-necessary tubal ligation, despite the doctor’s strong recommendation.

Weeks after learning she would give birth to her third child, Jessica Mann was faced with a difficult decision: because she was stricken by a life-threatening brain tumor, her doctor recommended she have her fallopian tubes tied at the time of her scheduled cesarean section delivery, later this month….

Mann’s doctor advised her that tubal ligation during the C-section it would be the safest route, consistent with long-established standard of care, and prevent the need for another surgery.

The hospital cited its Catholic affiliation–and its liberty to follow the teachings of  the Church, even if that meant it was sufficiently in conflict with the medical “standard of care” as to be considered malpractice– as justification for the denial.

In Tennessee, self-identified “Sovereign Citizens” are refusing to buy license plates or to register their automobiles. From the Marty Center at the University of Chicago, we learn that

While the sovereign citizen movement is often represented as a collection of scofflaws creating elaborate interpretations of the American legal system in order to scam it, the reality is more complex…

The majority of sovereign citizens conceive of and engage in their claims and practices as religious.

These sovereign citizens claim–and fervently believe–that the law as they espouse it always supersedes other interpretations of the law. Their “liberty” to follow the “real” law is thus more important than the government’s interpretation of the law.

But this is my favorite: In Washington, D.C., a church is actually claiming that the location of a proposed bike lane adjacent to its property would “infringe on its constitutional right to religious freedom.” (You really can’t make this shit up.) As a post at Think Progress pointed out:

Currently, D.C. provides the church with a benefit that is paid for by taxpayers: a road near the church which does not include a bike lane. D.C. proposed offering the church a different benefit which would also be paid for by the city’s taxpayers: a road near the church which does include a bike lane. The church, in effect, is claiming that it has the right to dictate which taxpayer-funded benefits the District of Columbia shall provide, solely because it happens to be a religious organization.

These assertions of “religious liberty” would have baffled the men who drafted America’s Constitution. They are certainly inconsistent with the libertarian construct that emerged from the Enlightenment and influenced America’s founders: the notion that each individual has a right to make his or her own moral choices–follow his own telos–so long as he does not thereby harm the person or property of a non-consenting other and so long as he is willing to accord an equal right to others.

To put the philosophy of the Bill of Rights into modern terminology, it’s pretty much “live and let live.” (Again, so long as you aren’t harming anyone else–and “harming” is admittedly a contestable definition.)

That philosophy definitely isn’t “I get to do what I want, and since I have a direct line to God and Truth, I also get to make you behave the way my religion thinks you should.”

We are each entitled to liberty, not privilege.


Perils of Policing

Thanks to the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, Americans these days get treated to a lot of stories about police misconduct–so much so that we sometimes forget that–troubling as they are– misbehaving officers represent a small percentage of the men in blue.

We’ve all recently seen the graphic and unsettling evidence of cops mistreating black teenagers at a pool party. But Juanita Jean–proprietor of the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.–has provided us a glimpse of the other side of the equation, namely, what happens when a perfectly reasonable police officer confronts a self-important “Sovereign Citizen” spouting bizarre legal theories about why the state of Texas lacks the authority to ticket him.

The video shows the May 2 arrest of 49-year-old Scott Richardson after being pulled over for allegedly driving 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. Recorded by Richardson on his cell phone, it shows him arguing with the Addison officer for over four minutes before the policeman gets out his baton and breaks the driver’s side window and pulls the man from the car. …

During the course of the interchange, the officer requests the man show him his driver’s license and proof of insurance a total of 15 times before he gets out his baton, makes the same request a final time, and begins breaking the window.

I think my favorite part of the exchange was Richardson demanding of the officer “As a man, what right do you have to stop another man?” (I guess it would be okay to stop a woman??)

You really need to click through and see the entire confrontation.

A day in the life…..