A federal judge has approved the seizure of a dinosaur theme park developed by one of America’s favorite biblical creation teachers and lecturers.
According to the Pensacola News-Journal, a recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers ordered that nine of 10 properties linked to the Dinosaur Adventure Land launched by Kent Hovind, the founder of Creation Science Evangelism, can be seized.
As WND reported, Hovind hosted a radio program and was in demand as a speaker 52 weeks a year.
Hovind, known affectionately as “Dr. Dino,” however, is serving a 10-year sentence for failing to collect and pay withholding taxes, obstructing tax laws and other related charges. His wife, Jo, the bookkeeper for the Hovinds’ Creation Science Evangelism ministry in Pensacola, was convicted of evading bank-reporting requirements and began serving a one-year sentence in January at a minimum security prison camp in Florida.
Kent Hovind’s followers contend he was prosecuted because of his religious convictions and because he was so effective in exposing what he calls “the big lie of evolution.”
The Pensacola paper said the 16-page order from the judge gives the government permission to divide up nine properties connected to the park and begin selling them to satisfy a $430,000 forfeiture amount.
An associate, Glenn Stoll, and Hovinds’ son, Eric, tried to block the seizure. Eric Hovind was successful, gaining the court’s order that he owns one of the 10 properties.
The Hovinds’ ministry was launched in 1989 with the aim of winning people to faith in Jesus Christ through debunking evolution and presenting evidence for divine creation. Kent Hovind has offered $250,000 to anyone offering sufficient proof of Darwinian evolution. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” has refused to debate Hovind, insisting the biblical creationist’s work is not science at all and that science is advanced through systematic inquiry rather than debate.
An evangelical organization with similar aims, Answers in Genesis, has distanced itself from some of Hovind’s teachings. An exchange between AIG’s Ken Ham and Hovind began in 2003 when AIG published a list of “Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use.” Hovind saw many of his arguments in the list and responded to Ham. Asked about the outcome, Eric Hovind told WND Answers in Genesis “has done a great job of reminding creationists to be accountable for what we teach, and for that I’m grateful.”
Jo Hovind with a grandson
In 2001, Hovind opened the biblical creation theme park, Dinosaur Adventure Land. The park and merchandise sales brought in more than $5 million from 1999 to March 2004, according to records presented at his 2006 trial.
Hovind argues he took a vow of poverty as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and, therefore, owns nothing and receives no income. All of his needs are taken care of by the ministry, he explains.
He says he understood that as a registered 508 non-profit organization, he was not required to withhold taxes, leaving IRS obligations with each worker.
In November 2006, however, Hovind was convicted of failing to collect and pay $470,000 in withholding taxes, obstructing tax laws, structuring transactions totaling $430,500 to avoid financial reporting laws, filing a frivolous lawsuit against the IRS, filing an injunction against an IRS agent and threatening investigators and others who cooperated with the investigation.
The “structuring” charges are based on application of laws designed to expose money-laundering by drug traffickers, which require banks to fill out a transaction report if any customer deposits or withdraws more than $10,000 in one day.
Until 2003, CSE withdrew cash from the bank to compensate employees.
The Hovinds were charged under a law that makes it illegal to evade reporting by dividing up the transactions into amounts less than $10,000 and using several banks. Each count bears a fine of $250,000 plus five years in prison.
Over the years, the amount of withdrawal every week or so grew from $2,000 to about $9,500. In 2002, the practice stopped, because the Hovinds thought it was too risky to transport so much cash.
Entrance to Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola
Hovind contends he abandoned any practice he discovered was legally questionable. But in the early morning hours of July 13, 2006, about 20 armed government agents arrived on ministry property without notice to arrest the Hovinds. Kent Hovind was taken into custody as he prepared for staff devotions, while four armed agents surrounded Jo Hovind as she slept. The five-foot tall, 100-pound Mrs. Hovind said she was taken from the house in her nightgown despite pleas to use the bathroom and get dressed.
The office of Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer in Pensacola, which prosecuted the case, did not reply to WND’s request for an interview.
The issue now has been taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney Shawn Perez of Las Vegas, who worked on the filing told WND the writ of certiorari, or petition, makes two arguments. One is that the structuring law does not apply, because the Hovinds never deposited or withdrew more than $10,000 on any one day. The 45 single bank transactions should be charged as one count, not as 45 separate violations of the law, the brief argues. Each transaction was charged as a criminal count, yet none of them, by themselves, constituted a violation of the law, it explains.
The other argument in the Supreme Court filing is that under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the IRS must explain on a 1040 form what it plans to do with the answers it receives and indicate whether the response is voluntary or mandatory.