January 26, 2007

Dr. Dino goes to jail

Creation evangelist "Dr." Kent Hovind has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for tax evasion. (This story is now a week old, which in blogosphere terms is a bit stale, but since I posted about his conviction, I think it's only fair that I comment on his sentencing as well. I get busy. Sorry.) The Pensacola News Journal had the story last weekend:

A newly remorseful Pensacola evangelist, who still disputes the government's right to make him pay taxes, was sentenced Friday afternoon to 10 years in prison on federal tax charges. . . .

In November, a jury found Kent Hovind guilty on 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. Jo Hovind was convicted of 44 of the counts that involved evading bank-reporting requirements.

[Full Story]

Another story in the same paper describes Hovind's sentence in more detail:

After a lengthy sentencing hearing that last 5 1/2 hours, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers ordered Hovind also:

  • Pay $640,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Pay the prosecution’s court costs of $7,078.
  • Serve three years parole once he is released from prison.

[Full Story]

On Saturday, Hovind's son Eric tried to spin the sentence on the CSE Blog, writing:

New Mission Field for Dr. Hovind

[Full Text]

I'm immediately reminded of a press release I read back in the mid-90s from the Church of Scientology™, right after they had lost a huge, expensive lawsuit they had launched against Time-Warner. The headline read along these lines: "LAWSUIT DISMISSED: PAVES WAY FOR APPEAL." I guess that when the world hands you lemons, you make lemonade. "Dr." Hovind isn't going to prison, he's going to the mission field. It's not a bug, it's a feature! (Whether the rest of us Christians want to be represented in prison by this man who brings reproach upon Christ and his Church is not, apparently, up for discussion.)

Eric says:

In his opportunity to address the court, Dr. Hovind tried to choke back the tears as he went through the history of the ministry as well as a history of his correspondence with legal advisors on taxation and the letters written to the IRS that were never answered.

"I intend to obey the law and think that everyone should obey the law," he said. "If I would have known that I was doing something unlawful, I would have corrected it."

Since ignorance of the law is not a defense, I fail to see what Hovind would hope to accomplish by pleading it. Of course, this claim just doesn't hold water anyway.

One witness at Hovind's trial testified that he had been instructed to refuse registered mail addressed to Hovind in block capitals, because this form of his name supposedly represents a fictitious, government-created corporation, for which he would then assume responsibility. This is a claim I've often heard hard-right conspiracy theorists make. Obviously, Hovind is familiar with certain legal arcana and minutiae that the average taxpayer-on-the-street isn't. Doesn't it strain credulity just a little bit to think he wouldn't know what the law said in a broader sense?

Moreover, other testimony said that Hovind and his wife would do such things as transfer money in amounts smaller than those that would trigger the banks' reporting requirements. As I said in my previous post on this subject, if you don't think you're doing something illegal, why would you try to hide it? But concealing one's actions proves that you know the law.

Now, predictably, Hovind's fans are declaring him a martyr, a victim of religious persecution. Jesus said:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matt. 5:10-11)

Despite what he may say, Hovind is not being persecuted for righteousness' sake, or on Jesus' account. He is being prosecuted for lawlessness' sake. It gives no pleasure to see other Christians go to prison, but on the other hand it is morally satisfying to see justice done. Furthermore, Hovind is not a victim because of his faith; he is an embarrassment to the faith. It does neither him, nor me, nor the Kingdom of Christ any favours to claim, wrongly, that his misdeeds are any part of the faith, or that he is somehow deserving of leniency merely because he is a Christian.

Let me close off with another excerpt from the PNJ report:

Prior to his sentencing, a tearful Kent Hovind, also known as "Dr. Dino" asked for the court’s leniency.

"If it’s just money the IRS wants, there are thousands of people out there who will help pay the money they want so I can go back out there and preach,” Hovind said.

There's only one appropriate response to this cynical plea.

I'm sorry, "Dr." Hovind, but it simply wouldn't be right for me to give money to you, as in your present circumstances I would effectively be turning it over to the State of Florida. After all, it's God's money, not my money, and if there's anything I've learned from you over the last few months, it's that God's money is too good to be handed over to Caesar.

It sucks, I know. But at the same time, I'm sure you can appreciate the irony.