Members of religious group in Norfolk claim special rights
Josep-El Bey began his transformation three years ago from Southern Baptist to Moor.
He studied the faith and teachings of the Moorish American religion and legally changed his name from Joseph Beale. He paid $500 for a nationality card from a Moor temple. In court papers, Bey declared himself a Moor citizen of the Tscnocmoco Territory, commonly known as Virginia.
The new identity didn’t help him, though, when he was arrested last year for shooting a man during a fight. A judge sentenced Bey, 30, to three years in prison. Bey has filed a legal appeal stating he should be released because he is a Moorish American and not a U.S. citizen.
“I just want to be recognized,” Bey said during an interview in the Norfolk City Jail. “If I’m released early, fine, cool.”
Bey follows the beliefs of the Moorish Science Temple of America, a black-empowerment movement that traces its roots back nearly a century. In recent months, the group has drawn attention from law enforcement officials for courtroom disruptions, unconventional legal arguments and animosity toward the legal system.
Members, known as Moors, have disturbed hearings in Norfolk courts and filed motions and appeals with questionable legal merit, according to court testimony and records. In Hampton, two members moved furniture into a vacant mansion in June, declaring the property was granted to them decades ago.
Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer said his office, which oversees records for criminal and civil cases and property transactions, has stopped accepting most Moor documents. The documents claiming new rights and immunity as foreign citizens are often frivolous, he said.
“Filing something in the 4th District Circuit Court does not overturn the U.S. Constitution,” said Schaefer, who is a lawyer.
The Moorish Science Temple of America was founded by Prophet Noble Drew Ali in Chicago in 1925, according to its website. Drew Ali, born Timothy Drew in North Carolina, formed the religion based on Islamic teachings and the Quran. A central belief is that Moors are not U.S. citizens, but descendants of a Moroccan tribe born in America.
Moors have claimed to be exempt from paying traffic tickets, holding driver’s licenses and adhering to state law, according to Norfolk court records and testimony. Locally, the group is a small, loosely organized community that meets several times a week at a Norfolk bookstore on 35th Street.
About 45 men and women held a two-hour service Friday night, reading from the Moorish Science Temple of America’s version of the Quran.
Kheri Allende El, grand sheik of the temple, said the local branch started in March, although the Moorish community has been in the region much longer.
The group has been called “paper terrorists” for its many court filings, Allende El said. During the service, Allende El asked the congregants if they were Virginians and whether state laws applied to them.
“Nay!” the congregation answered twice.
Allende El said the religion spreads a message of peace, freedom and justice. About one-third of its members have criminal records, he said, and are trying to rebuild their lives. Temple leaders would like to discuss their beliefs with judges to foster better relations, he said.
Members such as Bey say the organization, akin to the Nation of Islam, has instilled pride and discipline into troubled lives. They find it through word of mouth, on the Internet and in jail cells.
In September, Antonio Woodson told a Norfolk Circuit Court judge he was a Moor and asked to represent another group member. Woodson, who also goes by the name Infinoty Bey, then disobeyed a judge’s order, according to witnesses.
Woodson was removed by bailiffs. Prosecutors charged Woodson with assaulting an officer, damaging property, disorderly conduct and providing a false identity to law enforcement for the courtroom confrontation, court records state. Woodson declined a request for an interview at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth.
Such outbursts dismay Ra Saadi El, the supreme grand sheik in Atlanta at one of the two oldest temples of the Moorish Science Temple of America.
“If you’re a Moorish American, you’re a law-abiding citizen,” he said.
The websites that offer Moor nationality cards, legal advice and documents for a fee are purveyors or “bootleggers,” Saadi El said.
They do not adhere to the religion’s principals, he said.
The legal maneuvers have failed to convince Virginia judges, as well.
Jamar Ford, 30, appeared before Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Louis Sherman in October for sentencing on seven convictions, including possession of heroin with intent to distribute, weapons violations, eluding police and resisting arrest.
Before his sentencing, Ford fired his court-appointed lawyer and filed a handwritten motion to dismiss the charges.
“I’m a Moorish hostage, a political prisoner, of one nation, being held captive under color of law of another nations government,” wrote Ford, who now calls himself Jah Seinon Serene-Bey.
In court, Ford told Sherman that he had no jurisdiction over his case.
“I respect your position,” the judge replied. “I disagree.”
The judge sentenced Ford to 13 years. Ford also declined a request for an interview in the Norfolk City Jail.
In Hampton, the group advertised this year in a newspaper that it owned a property on Haywagon Trail, said Cpl. Allison Quinones, spokeswoman for Hampton police.
Neighbors spotted two men moving furniture and other items into the home, assessed at $640,000, and contacted police, she said.
Michiah Zabdiel Ankh Unu-El, 59, has been charged with a misdemeanor count of unlawful entry, she said.
Norfolk Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sgt. Floyd Williams said he first encountered the group about a year ago, when a Moor fought an eviction by deputies by claiming he was a diplomat, he said.
The man’s identification card looked authentic – “gold seals and everything” – but his immunity argument didn’t sound right, Williams said.
To settle the dispute, Williams called the Department of State and asked if the Moors were recognized as an independent nation.
They were not, he discovered. After a long discussion, the man agreed to leave the property, Williams said.
Bey, tall and boyish-looking, said a friend introduced him to the faith. He liked the idea of belonging to another nation, outside of state and federal taxes and excessive regulations.
Prosecutors charged Bey with unlawful wounding and use of a firearm during a July 2009 attack on Lafayette Boulevard. Bey and co-defendant Keith Sears got into a fight between Carlos Harris and a minor, according to court records.
Bey and Sears fired guns at Harris, court records state.
The victim was struck in the arm, chest and neck, and one bullet lodged in Harris’ brain, leaving him disabled, according to court records.
Bey said he planned to defend himself on Moor legal authority, but his mother hired a veteran criminal defense attorney. Bey pleaded guilty in May.
He filed a motion with the court in September claiming he has Moorish immunity.
He sent his pleas to at least a half-dozen federal and state officials.
“What harm could it do now?” he asked.
He has yet to receive a response.
It gets even more bazaar look at this person “documents” aka affiliates:
Jamar Ford Letter http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf
Jamar Ford Letter http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf
(A Letter from Jah Seinon Serene Bey to The MSTA-1928)
I Jah Seinon Serene Bey send this scribe to you based upon the five principles of love, truth, peace, freedom and justice. I am currently house in Chesapeake City Jail in Chesapeake, Virgina and I have been desperately trying to free myself of the strengths of the Europeans. I have filed my UCC form, Security Agreement, Copyright Agreement, Power of Attorney, indemnity Bond, affidavit of Truth and
affidavit of Secured Party Creditor, to no avail my paper work is not being recognized by the courts. I went to court for drug possession and was found guilty which I have appealed, I am at a stand still with what my next step should be. I am searching for assistance in trying to figure out what to do now. And it would be my blessing if you would offer some guidance.
Also, if there is any way you could get me in touch with one of my brothers here in the Hamptons Roads area of Virginia, it would be greatly appreciated.
I will now end this scribe the way I entered in love, truth, peace, freedom and justice.
Jah Seinon Serene Bey
Our response (The MSTA-1928) before becoming aware of the news article:
Do note that the UCC and all this stuff about Moorish Sovereignty has nothing to do with the teachings of Prophet Drew Ali nor do any legitimate lawful Moorish Science Temple of America recognize nor practice such folly. Many have found themselves on the outs of the Law because following such folly. If you were a Member of a REAL Moorish Science Temple of America which is the ONLY place you can receive Moorish Nationality maybe your situation would have read differently. We only aid those who are real Members for it is the Members that give support to the Moorish Science Temple of America; charity begins at home. Did you try yo contact those who fed you that foolishness about filing UCC documents etc.? Did those who advised you of such folly offer you assistance?……..You get caught up in foolish outside of what it Lawful and Legal all outside of The Moorish Science Temple of America now you seek us for assistance?!?……The first thing you need to do in correcting your situation is recognized that it was foolish from the start and that you was foolish to follow such nonsense. Then you need to be repent and throw away all that dumb nonsense that has not done anyone any good including yourself. Truth is But One and Truth Works All the Time and For anyone who seek to be Trueful. It is the Lie that thrive off confusion and folly..The Lie works sometimes with all or all the time with some…it is the TRUTH that works All the Time with Everyone that is about being TRUE All the Time.
You simply tried to work a Lie and now that the Lie has got you caught up behind the wall …. you seek to get with the Truth to help you out of Your Lie?!? …..
Sorry that is not what we do nor how it works.
However we welcome anyone seeking the Truth to contact Us.