After five years in a federal penitentiary, the mission of the popular Florida-based creation-science lecturer and theme-park creator known as Dr. Dino remains the same: Win people to faith in Jesus Christ and get out of prison.
In an email from a minimum security satellite of the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., Kent Hovind told WND he has seen numerous inmates come to Christian faith as he continues to appeal his 2006 conviction, which resulted in a 10-year sentence.
His son, Eric Hovind, who now directs a new ministry in Pensacola with the same mission of his father’s Creation Science Evangelism, contends the government completely misrepresented his parents in the trial, portraying them as anti-government radicals. His mother, Jo, served one year in prison. With time off for good behavior, his father has another three and a half years to serve if his appeals are unsuccessful, according to his attorney.
While Kent Hovind has made statements over the course of his ministry that challenge the authority of the federal government to collect income taxes, he insists he has not broken any laws.
“I’ve never been anti-tax or a tax protester,” he told WND. “I have always said that everyone should obey the law, including the government. I have always paid every tax I owe.”
Claiming the government itself violated more than 20 laws, policies and procedures, Hovind said he plans to “file a wide range of legal documents to get the indictment overturned.”
“Once we get one just judge to admit the government attorneys did not follow the rules in any one of those violations the case will be overturned as if it never happened,” he said.
He makes his case in a document on a website devoted to his legal battle.
“When God is done doing what He is doing I will be free and He will get great glory,” Hovind said. “I wish I understood it all now, but the last chapter has not been written yet. I’ll just trust the Lord to do right.”
Kent Hovind established Creation Science Evangelism in 1989 with the aim of evangelizing through presenting evidence for divine creation. In 2001, he opened a theme park behind his home called Dinosaur Adventure Land, which depicted humans and dinosaurs co-existing. After he went to prison Jan. 19, 2007, his son began a new ministry, which is now called Creation Today, with a focus on “creation, apologetics and evangelism.”
“The fact that my dad’s mission of reaching the lost with the Gospel through the creation message continues and is thriving today is just a testament to the power of God,” Eric Hovind told WND.
Dinosaur Adventure Land, however, was shut down three years ago. It was among the nine properties seized by the government in a forfeiture judgment.
Among the charges against Hovind was a failure to collect and pay employee taxes, obstruction of tax laws and the illegal structuring of transactions totaling $430,400 to avoid financial reporting laws.
Entrance to Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola
The “structuring” charges are based on application of laws designed to expose money-laundering by drug traffickers. The law requires banks to fill out a transaction report if any customer deposits or withdraws more than $10,000 in one day.
Hovind contends the structuring law does not apply, because he and his wife, the bookkeeper, never deposited or withdrew more than $10,000 on any one day. The argument formed the basis of his appeal two years ago to the U.S. Supreme Court after rejections by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. But the high court didn’t take his case.
The jury, at the prosecution’s suggestion, decided on a forfeiture judgment allowing the government to seize the properties based on the amount withdrawn from the bank in the structuring charge. But Hovind argues the government cannot get a forfeiture judgment unless the money was obtained or spent illegally.
An attorney advising Hovind, Paul J. Hansen of Omaha, Neb., contends the defense attorney at trial failed to tell the jury that Hovind was not required to file a quarterly IRS Form 941, because he does not fit the statutory requirements.
In the 2006 trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer charged that Hovind was hiding money by not filing quarterly reports and withdrawing large sums of cash from the bank to pay employees.
Hansen argues Hovind was withdrawing money from the ministry account to pay ministry expenses.
“We can prove he wasn’t required to file (Form 941),” Hansen said.
Until 2002, the ministry withdrew cash from the bank to compensate employees. Hovind said he understood that as a registered 508 non-profit organization, he was not required to withhold taxes, leaving IRS obligations with each worker. During the trial, employees testified that they paid both the employee and employer portion of the income tax.
As ministry expenses grew over the years, the amount of withdrawal every week or so grew from $2,000 to about $9,500. The practice stopped in 2002 because the Hovinds thought it was too risky to transport so much cash.
“The only time (dealing in cash) is illegal is when you’re covering up an illegal act,” Hansen said. “There is no intent there. His attorney should have been able to bring that up.”
Hovind insists he was never notified by the IRS of any illegal practices until the early morning hours of July 13, 2006, when about 20 armed government agents arrived on ministry property without notice to arrest him and his wife.
At the moment, Kent Hovind told WND, there are four motions before a federal judge in Pensacola, filed in June, that he believes should set him free.
One of the motions, filed by Hansen, argues Hovind was not given due process, contending that the case record does not contain a warrant “supported by Oath or affirmation,” as required by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
Hansen said he has notified the clerk of the court of his request for a certified copy of the warrant.
“If there is no oath or affirmation in the record, the jury could not even convene,” he explained. “They can’t arrest somebody unless somebody has put their name on the line.”
Hansen contends that the IRS regularly does not put an oath or affirmation on warrants, because it doesn’t want a specific accuser to be subpoenaed.
“They don’t want you to subpoena your accuser, because you could tear them apart on the witness stand,” he said. “They want you to try to find all your witnesses.”
Hovind also was convicted of filing a frivolous lawsuit against the IRS, filing an injunction against an IRS agent and threatening investigators and others who cooperated with the investigation.
Hovind’s supporters acknowledge that on a radio broadcast, he did pray that God would “smite” the IRS, which was interpreted as a threat.
While Hovind contends he’s not an anti-tax protester, he has made statements that have given that impression to the IRS.
In 1996, he tried to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying federal income taxes. He told a judge at a hearing that he did not believe the U.S., the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “have jurisdiction in this matter.”
“I sincerely believe that I am not a person required to file a Federal Income Tax Return,” he said. “This belief is a result of extensive research that I have done.”
Asked by the judge where he lived, Hovind replied, “I live in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence.”
Hovind has stated he believes the Bible “teaches us to obey the authority over us.” But he has contended the “IRS is not the authority over me any more than the government of Japan is.”
Eric Hovind has explained to WND that his father sent numerous letters to the IRS, asking exactly which laws apply to a 508 (c) (1) (a) church ministry, but he received no response.
During the trial the special agent in charge of the investigation, Scott Schneider, was asked by the defense if he “ever sent him any copies of the law or citations to specific laws in the tax code?”
Schneider responded: “No, I did not.”
Kent Hovind’s position on taxes was reported to the IRS in the mid-1990s by an official at neighboring Pensacola Christian College, which barred students from any connection to the ministry. The college’s senior vice president, Rebekah Horton, testified in the Hovinds’ 2006 trial, “We know the Scriptures do not promote (tax evasion). It’s against Scripture teaching.”
Horton said it was the college’s duty to report Hovind, because she “didn’t want to see innocent people get led astray.”
Eric Hovind said that his “father believed that as an ordained minister, he had no obligation to file income tax returns, because he took a vow of poverty.”
He noted the ministry was set up to provide for his basic needs, and he had no income.
“He drove a ministry car, lived in a ministry house, and ate ministry food,” Eric Hovind said. “That is exactly what Catholic priests do. Anyone could stop by and see that there are no gold-plated toilets in this house.”
As an ordained minister, he said, his father “paid no taxes, because he didn’t make any money,” noting the ministry was set up to provide only for his basic needs, and he had no income.
Meanwhile, Kent Hovind told WND that while “being separated from the family and ministry has been hard,” he has been blessed “to see the many new converts in here grow in the Lord.”
About a dozen recently have become Christians, he said.
“I pray that what happened in my case will alert people to many things and cause them to take action,” he said. “If all this encourages people to get saved and live for God, and if God gets glory through it all, I will rest content.”