PENSACOLA, Fla. – An imprisoned creation science evangelist and Baptist minister who refuted evolutionary theory and who has served eight years of a ten-year prison sentence faced trial in Florida today as he fights a new charge that could put him behind bars for life.
Kent Hovind, the founder of Creation Science Evangelism out of Pensacola, Florida, has been incarcerated since 2007 over 58 federal counts, 45 of which centered on alleged “structuring,” a term that refers to breaking up one’s banking transactions into smaller amounts in order to avoid reporting.
In regard to Hovind’s specific charges, the minister and his wife had made dozens of cash withdrawals of just over $9,000 each over a year’s time, and the government asserted that he was attempting to “obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws.” However, Hovind said that he paid for his ministry expenses in cash and was not seeking to evade any laws.
On a blog dedicated to Hovind’s defense, an unidentified banker who supports the evangelist further explained the situation.
“The government selected the top 45 withdrawals (out of hundreds) and claimed each one was a separate and distinct violation, even though none of them were more than $10,000 and no two were on the same day,” he wrote. “They also have no connection with drugs or any other illegal activity. The four times [the Hovinds] withdraw over $10,000 a CTR was filled out but those withdrawals were never charged.”
“By this twisted logic,” he continued, “If you deposit or withdrew $500 from your own bank account every week for 21 weeks, you could be arrested and charged with 21 counts of structuring because the amount went over $10,000. You could be fined $5,250,000 and sentenced to 105 years in prison (even though you never had the $10,000 in your account at any one time and the money was not earned or spent illegally)!”
The government also leveled tax evasion charges against Hovind, who traveled the nation presenting talks about science and the Bible, as he had considered his ministry to be a church and considered himself to be a minister. Churches are not required to file taxes and are automatically exempt under the law.
But an official with Pensacola Christian College reported Hovind to the IRS, which concluded that those at Creation Science Evangelism did not technically consider the ministry to be their church. The government likewise did not believe Hovind when he said that those who served with him were missionaries but not employees. Hovind also stated that he did not receive any personal compensation from the ministry.
The IRS subsequently ordered Hovind to pay taxes as it would not permit Creation Science Evangelism to be classified as a church, and since it was not registered as a non-profit organization with the government entity.
In 2004, Hovind’s home was raided by IRS agents, and tax liens were placed against his property in the amount of $504,957.24. He filed three separate lawsuits against the government in an attempt to stop the proceedings, which he viewed as harassment, but was unsuccessful.
In 2006, the case went to trial, and a jury convicted him on all 58 counts. His wife, Jo Delia, was convicted on 44 counts. In January 2007, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and remains incarcerated to this day.
Public opinion about the matter has been mixed, as some state that Hovind was wrongfully imprisoned or that his punishment was too severe. An online effort simply known as “Free Kent Hovind” exists to help seek the release of the evolutionary foe.
Hovind has been seeking to contest the lien against his property from behind bars, but now is facing mail fraud charges for doing so—charges which if convicted could keep him in prison for life. His trial began today in Pensacola before Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers, who presided over his original trial in 2006.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, about a dozen supporters—some from as far away as Texas, Ohio and Colorado—stood outside of the courthouse with signs urging the government to “Free Kent.”
“We pray for justice that Kent be liberated at the shame of the government,” supporter Alan Hoyle, told the outlet. “They’ve persecuted a non-violent person who has done no wrong.”