This post is a follow-up to one I wrote in 2012 about an issue that periodically surfaces in the media. It involves the “sovereign citizen” movement, whose adherents think that they need not be subject to any of the laws of human governments. Unfortunately, a certain number of professing Christians can fall for this extremist and dangerous mindset, and this post is written to discourage all readers from ever being involved with this movement.
This topic came to my attention again recently when a report was aired on our local media about a person who was in trouble with the law because of his refusal to obey man-made laws and his propensity to harass and threaten local officials in the city in which I reside (first link). Another case surfaced recently in Missouri where someone refused to follow the basic directions of police officers because of a belief the police somehow had no jurisdiction over him (second link). The people who adopt and act on the belief that they are, essentially, a “law unto themselves” often have things end badly for them. They usually receive jail sentences or are hit with back-tax penalties if they are tax protesters.
When someone actually believes that they are not subject to any laws made by human governments, they are adopting an extremely anarchist point of view. Sometimes proponents of the “sovereign citizen” movement couch their outreach efforts in religious or some kind of Constitutional terminology. However, the US Constitution cannot be used to support such anarchist viewpoints as the Constitution sets forth the fundamental laws of the land which outline and detail federal and state powers to which citizens of the United States must adhere. The US Constitution defines and mandates law-abiding behavior, not personal anarchy. The sovereign citizen concept runs entirely contrary to what the Bible teaches concerning the citizenship responsibilities of Christians. I wrote a post on this topic seven years ago which cites biblical teachings that brand the sovereign citizen movement as being one that is contrary to biblical laws and guidance. I refer readers to that post as many readers may not have read this post in the archives of my blog.
The sovereign citizen movement sometimes advocates the non-payment of taxes to any level of government. Not only is this a non-biblical teaching, but it is a personally dangerous belief to follow or advocate. Refusing to pay taxes could eventually result in a prison sentence, and I doubt any “sovereign citizen” will find any sympathy from any judge at any level of the judicial system. I once knew a pastor decades ago who was convinced that a particular tax-avoidance scheme involving routing his paychecks through a foreign entity would result in no tax liability for him on his federal income taxes. This action on his part resulted in much personal misery for him and he was fortunate to pay only back taxes and tax penalties while avoiding a prison term. This pastor encouraged me to participate in that tax evasion scheme, but I avoided it like the plague. As I relate in my seven-year-old post in the third link, all citizens utilize essential governmental services which are funded via some form of taxation.
People who refuse to obey laws because they believe human governments have no right to govern them will, inevitably, attract a great deal of governmental attention and governmental involvement in their lives–the exact thing they are apparently trying to avoid. Also, with the increased digitization of all information and data in all developed nations, there is increasingly no way to avoid government scrutiny of one’s personal finances and tax compliance. I still urge everyone to pay their taxes to their respective governments. Federal tax laws are often so complex that it is best to hire a licensed C.P.A. or certified tax accountant to prepare one’s taxes to be sure they are calculated and filed properly.
Those wishing more information about the sovereign citizen movement can review further information about their eclectic views and history in the fourth link. For a biblical analysis of why this movement is contradictory to biblical teaching, please read the third link and also my free article, Christian Rights and Citizenship Responsibilities, which examines the larger question of how Christians can exercise their rights in modern societies while living in harmony with their responsibilities toward the various levels of government. Those principles will apply to all readers regardless of the nation in which they reside.