Fake Moorish Scientists Driving Courts NutsS

Saying you follow the Moorish Science faith has become the new "I'm 1/16th Cherokee," at least among financial fraudsters. All across our great, greedy nation, people are falsely claiming Moorish Scientist status in order to file phony legal documents, avoid paying taxes, and declare one's self above the law, among other illegal things.

Why do the fake Moorish Scientists believe such tactics will work in their favor? Apparently because it sometimes does work, or at least does them no harm; some states don't recognize filing fake documents as a crime. And many jurisdictions are legally required to file their phony papers, even if the content of such documents is, as ABC reports, "often outlandish and includes strange punctuation and capitalization or lengthy digressions about the 14th Amendment, the Constitution or maritime law."

Strange punctuation? Rambling screeds about the Constitution? If this all sounds suspiciously Tea-Partyesque, well, you might not be off the mark:

"These are people who engage in the most bizarre leaps of logic. They literally believe that if you lowercase the 'u' in the phrase United States, you will break the bonds of government tyranny and become a free man," said [Mark] Potok, [an] expert with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Unsurprisingly, for-real Moorish Scientists aren't very pleased by their sudden popularity with the fakester crowd. In a statement to the Charlotte Observer newspaper, the Moorish Science Temple of America—which is based in Charlotte—rails against all the recent crime-oriented trademark dilution afflicting their tiny, somewhat splintered sect, founded in 1913 by North Carolina native Timothy Drew:

"Today, some people are under the misconception and erroneous notion that the Moorish Science Temple of America Inc. is a place where one can learn how to forgo their civic duty paying taxes ... and assert their so-called sovereignty," the statement said. "We assertively declare that the Moorish Science Temple of America Inc. is in no form or fashion a Sovereign Citizen Movement or a Tax Protestor Movement; consequently, our teachings are diametrically opposed to that ideology."

Fake Moorish Scientists Driving Courts Nuts

What do Moorish Scientists believe in, if not wildly distorted interpretations of the Constitution? One belief that followers subscribe to is that African-Americans are descendants of "Asiatic Moors" or Moroccans; members commonly add either "Bey" or "El" to their last names to denote their heritage. Their holy book, the Holy Koran (also called the Circle 7 Koran), follows a set of principles heavily influenced by Islam but also drawing from other faiths. Temple leaders like Charlotte-based Christopher Bennett-Bey, pictured above, go by the job title "grand sheikh" and, like other Moorish Scientist men, wear fezzes; women wear turbans.

If your crazy uncle who stockpiles ammunition in his basement starts wearing a fez on Tax Day instead of a Paul Revere hat, at least now you'll know why.

[ABC News, Charlotte Observer. Image of Christopher Bennett-Bey via AP]