Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#1616: Craig Douglas Fleshman

A.k.a. Pastor Paul Revere [oh, boy]

To the right of the Tea Party you will find the sovereign citizen movements, which includes he Embassy of Heaven church in Oregon led by Craig Douglas Fleshman. Fleshman, who will only answer to the name “Paul Revere”, does not have a driver’s license or pay taxes. This is because he does not recognize the authority of the State of Oregon or the United States of America. Fleshman answers only to God, and he and his followers are literally citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; no secular government has any power over him.

According to his website “grownups have been tricked into obeying the laws of humbugs, rather than the laws of God,” and he provides advice and warnings about why and how you can disobey such “humbugs” – though it will admittedly land you in jail: “If you have given your allegiance to Jesus Christ, and you live your beliefs, you will go to jail,” says Fleshman (who has been there himself). That is because you are persecuted. Like his own group was in 1997, when Sheriff’s Deputies raided the group’s property and seized it for non-payment of taxes. Fleshman insisted the taxes were not owed because the property was “a separate nation,” or more precisely an embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that in seizing the properties “the county has declared war on the saints.” As for worldly governments, the state is the Antichrist, and the courts are the Halls of Satan: “The court is Satan’s religion carried on by the state,” says Fleshman: “There is a reason why everyone has an attorney, why the judge wears a black robe. It is part of their satanic worship.

Fleshman’s organization issues its own identity documents, including passports and drivers licenses, business licenses, motor vehicle title certificates and license plates (your car is thereby “licensed by Heaven”). Some of his followers in Minnesota predictably got in trouble for convincing their followers to get a faith-based “Certificate of Self-Insurance” instead of regular car insurance. Fleshman responded by claiming not to sell insurance, and that “[w]e don’t operate in Minnesota ... We operate in the Kingdom of Heaven,” which is not the kind of thing to say if you wish to impress the courts.

Among people associated with the organization is Glen Stoll, who “falsely hold[s] himself out to be a ‘lawyer’ and claims to have spent considerable time studying the tax laws” but who “is not a member of or licensed with any state or federal bar.” Stoll used to represent Kent Hovind, an easy target for sovereign citizen drivel, who ended up claiming that all of his income belonged to God and that the federal government had no authority over him, and that he therefore didn’t have to pay taxes. Which turned out not to be such a good idea.

Diagnosis: Delusional fundie who actually seems to have some influence, which is pretty mind-boggling. Even if he is, according to himself, not a citizen (though, of course, residence is sufficient for tax duties), at least the brand of lunacy he professes seems to be thoroughly American.

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