The sovereign citizen movement claims that a person has the right under common law (or at least their bizarre sham definition thereof) to declare him/herself as essentially a nation unto themselves, and therefore may not be subject to the law of the land where they live. It is closely associated, among other things, with such extreme right-wing causes as the tax protester movement and the militia movement in the United States. The term freeman on the land is a pseudolegal term assumed as a title by some would-be sovereigns, deriving from a complex and not-easily-explained conspiracy theory involving admiralty law and the Uniform Commercial Code.
Many also believe that only white men have rights, because only the Constitution and the Bill of Rights count, not any subsequent amendments; thus, the ratification of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) was illegal, and the 19th Amendment being also illegal women have no right to vote, so any election in which women vote is null and void.
Though a few stateless people exist in the world (most in permanent diplomatic limbo due to lack of any citizenship), and in the United States a few have somewhat arcane legal status allowing them to be citizens of their place of residence (currently recognized only in American Samoa and Swains Island) but not the U.S. at large, the idea that one can renounce one's citizenship in order to evade the laws of the land is not a right recognized in most countries. (U.S. courts generally consider this argument frivolous.)
This claim is also associated with a few bizarre "debt elimination" scams which hold that if somebody files all the right paperwork with the government declaring themselves a sovereign citizen, they then have access to unlimited funds from the U.S. Treasury to pay off all their mortgages and other debts, similar to the theories of the redemption movement. The gist of the argument is that the Social Security Act established accounts at the U.S. Treasury for every American citizen and that declaring oneself a "sovereign citizen" gives one the legal right to issue "sight drafts" or "bills of exchange" which draw on your personal U.S. Treasury Account to pay off debts. This is not true, and those who have fallen for this scam have found the only person who gained access to any funds as a result was the scammer who charged them money to learn about this bizarre debt elimination method at his seminar.
An indication of the intellectual limitations for many members of the movement is indicated by the response of a Texas motorist to a December 4, 2008 traffic stop. "I am Texas Republican sovereignty. I do not recognize this as a legal traffic stop."
 Political sociology
Although populist anti-statism is associated with rural and small town whites in the American West, it has also appeared among urban African American squatters in the American South. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has described them as "paper terrorists" for having the effrontery to squat in empty luxury homes in south DeKalb County. DeKalb Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin expressed class outrage when he commented that, "It's amazing that these groups of citizens who like to proclaim they're Robin Hood only choose million-dollar homes. Shocking." Presumably they should do their squatting in mobile homes or hovels?
These people's willingness to act on, rather than merely propound, their ideas, together with the selection of valuable properties for squatting, makes the movement resemble the "social banditry" that erupted in the past in predominantly peasant societies presenting extreme income inequality. This is egalitarian redistribution of wealth tricked up in the familiar, traditional language that politically legitimizes action. That it is occurring in an advanced industrial society, in the alienating suburbs of Atlanta, is novel. Great job, America.
 Sovereign hypocrites
The problem with the sovereign citizen movement stems from its hypocritical stance that relies upon a flawed understanding of how the social contract works. In their case, rather than wholly obeying a country's social contract, sovereign citizens like to cherry pick the parts that they want to follow while arguing that they're exempt from being governed.
Sovereign citizens fail to understand that you don't get to do that. By using documents of common law, such as the United States Constitution, and using any part, or select parts, as a justification for being exempt from being governed, they're in fact doing the opposite: they acknowledge the social contract has validity and thus are still subject to being governed. Their strategy is about as logical as an employee of a company saying he is exempt from having to work while selectively pointing at parts of the contract which, no matter how he cuts it, still require him to work or be subject to penalty. You can easily understand why the government, just like employers, aren't amused by such legal buffeting.
Compare sovereign citizens to anarchists — unlike sovereign citizens, anarchists (genuine ones) understand how common law operates and how it conflicts with their philosophy of being self-governing individuals. They instead favor natural law and/or a hypothetical set of norms known as anarchist law. As common law is established by the state, which they obviously oppose, they also oppose any documents justifying its validity or use them in defense of their rejection of the government. They can therefore make a genuine argument, without being hypocrites, that they truly reject the government, do not accept being citizens under it and ultimately view the social contract that it tries to make them obey as fiat.
If their misunderstanding of how social contract works isn't enough, many sovereign citizens still receive and redeem government checks as well as other forms of federal financial aid. In short: money that's provided through taxes taken from other people which the sovereign citizens are opposed to. This is tacit admission (even if unintentional) that they are still subject to the government's authority and don't truly reject it.
Also, the term "sovereign citizen" itself hilariously reflects the oxymoron logic of the sovereign citizen movement. A quick look at the definition of the two words will show that it's impossible to be both sovereign (self-governing) and a citizen (governed). Many in the movement realize this and call themselves "sovereign individuals" instead. However, they still don't wholly reject common law and government authority and thus are not genuinely worthy of that title.
 Hitting the Big Time
According to a survey of law-enforcement personnel in 2014, Sovereign Citizens are now regarded as the number one terrorist threat in America.
 See also
- Freeman on the land, which adopts many sovereign citizen ideas but (so far) isn't as fond of guns
- Tax protestor
- "Sovereign" Citizen Kane, an expose on the "sovereign citizen" movement and the murder of two police officers by "sovereign citizens" Jerry and Joe Kane.
- Sovereign Citizens Movement overview by the Southern Poverty Law Center
- "Sovereign Citizens Are a Sometimes Violent Fringe Group Rejecting All Government", by Winston Ross at The Daily Beast
- Too Weird for The Wire - How black Baltimore drug dealers are using white supremacist legal theories to confound the Feds, by Kevin Carey at Washington Monthly
- 'Sovereign citizens' get 10 years for duping debtors with phony federal treasury scheme
- ↑ http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/schaeffer-cox-and-his-alaska-militia
- ↑ http://thepatriotsnews.com/WhatIsANaturalBornCitizen.htm
- ↑ Texas Appeals Court Denies Sovereign Citizen Defense, theNewspaper.com, September 7 2010
- ↑ 'Sovereign' Citizen Kane, Southern Poverty Law Center, Fall 2010
- ↑ Couple Charged With Stealing Houses, wsbtv.com, August 20, 2010
- ↑ DA: Paper terrorists stealing homes, ajc.com, August 19 2010
- ↑ Anti-Government Sovereign Citizens Taking Foreclosed Homes Using Phony Deeds, Authorities Say, ABC News, August 23, 2010
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_law
- ↑ Working for the Man: Anti-government extremists who cash government paychecks, Forbes, March 5, 2012
- ↑ "Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes"