Last year, I tried to explain, generally, what adverse possession was and wasn’t. I did this not because of any particular knowledge (or interest) in that area, but more because I got off on a rant about the growing number of people who thought they were going to be able to stroll into a foreclosed house and claim it as their own under "adverse possession:"
Now, let me tell you what adverse possession isn’t: it isn’t when someone else’s house goes into foreclosure and is sitting vacant, and you somehow get into the house, put your couch in the living room and declare it to be yours under adverse possession.
Happily, the reports of people trying to pull this stunt on foreclosed homes in the U.S. seem to have slowed down in the past year (a development for which I take full credit). Today, however, I read about a new twist in the world of people trying to lay claim to vacant houses. The Washington Post reports that a group called Moorish Americans, who "get their name in part from the Moorish Science Temple of America," are claiming ownership of unoccupied homes across the country.
Spencer Dew, a professor who is an expert on Moors, says that the Moorish Science Temple of America was formed in the early 20th century and "preached obeying laws and had an uplifting message for African Americans: Be proud of who you are." Dew says that one of the Moorish tenets — the idea that African Americans lived in the U.S. long before the arrival of Europeans — is now being used, however, "to justify the assertion that land instruments such as mortgages are not valid and that local laws do not have to be obeyed."
According to the Post, there is a growing national trend where Moorish “sovereign” nationals try to move into homes they don’t own. These cases are reportedly being seen in every state, and particularly in California, North Carolina and Georgia. Most recently, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., police were called to deal with a man named Lamont Butler who had begun to occupy a vacant Bethesda, Md., mansion with "floors of imported marble, 12 bedroom suites, six kitchens and a history of playing host to political gatherings. …" Butler claimed the mansion belonged to him because he was a Moorish American National, and he offered paperwork "with references to a 1787 peace treaty and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations."
Butler reportedly told police that he wanted the house to be an embassy for the Moors. Alas, the Montgomery County Police Department was not persuaded, and charged Butler with breaking and entering, fraud and attempted theft.