Can you get sued or charged criminally for financing a group seeking to secede from the U.S. government? Let's say there's this group in Hawaii that wants to secede from the U.S. and you decide to finance them, can the U.S. government charge you criminally for doing so, or is it within the rights of any American citizen to do so?

  • 4
    Do they plan to secede by voting or by violence? Jun 26 at 22:49
  • 4
    Is there a mechanism in the Constitution to secede by voting?
    – DJohnM
    Jun 26 at 23:26
  • 1
    Alternatively secede by non-recognition of the authority of the Federal government as the first step of Texas secessionist movement is doing . Jun 27 at 6:22
  • 2
    @DJohnM Well, a constitutional amendment could easily allow a state to secede. Jun 27 at 11:57

Supporting a secessionist movement is protected by the First Amendment. Terrorism, in the name of a secessionist movement or otherwise, or support of terrorism is a federal offense. See 18 USC 2339A and 2339B. The latter applies to foreign terrorist organizations, the former applies to to anything in violation of a specific list of crimes (§§32, 37, 81, 175, 229, 351, 831, 842(m) or (n), 844(f) or (i), 930(c), 956, 1091, 1114, 1116, 1203, 1361, 1362, 1363, 1366, 1751, 1992, 2155, 2156, 2280, 2281, 2332, 2332a, 2332b, 2332f, 2340A, 2442 of Title 18, and a few other things). Advocating secesion is not a crime, so supporting the advocacy of secession – in the US – is not a crime.

§2339B determines what terrorist-organization status via 18 USC 1189, which is basically a finding by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General that "the organization threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States". Here is a current list.

Advocating the forceful overthrow of the US government or that of any state or lower political subdivision is a crime under 18 USC 2385, likewise abetting, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of such overthrow.

  • That looks like like plainly unconstitutional provision. Has it ever been tested in court? What is the most recent case law?
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 27 at 6:17
  • @Obie2.0 the answer has several links, as well as some references without links. Is there a particular one that you think is unconstitutional and want to see relevant court rulings, or are you objecting to the general idea that treason is illegal? Jun 27 at 14:11
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    @KamilDrakari - That is not from federal statutes on treason, and indeed, it does not mention treason at all. As you probably know, treason is a very narrow crime, which has, in all but one or two recent cases, been interpreted as only applying to people who aid groups that the US is at war with.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 27 at 14:25
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    I am talking about the last link, which says that it is illegal to merely advocate (not conspire to carry out or arrange) the forceful overthrow of the US government through violence or assassination, which seems like it could certainly run into some issues with freedom of expression. Things that could fall (or could have fallen) into that category: Saying "someone should kill that lunatic Trump before he destroys the country" or arguing that "the proletariat need to rise up and overthrow the capitalist government," among other things.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 27 at 14:36
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    @Obie2.0 Wikipedia indicates the current precedent was established in the case Brandenburg v. Ohio, which limits it to a fairly narrow application. Admittedly Wikipedia isn't the best source, but I didn't find anything more reliable that could be searched so easily. Jun 27 at 14:54

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