Evangelist Kent Hovind Is Convicted of Federal Tax Violations

American evangelist Kent Hovind, who founded Creation Science Evangelism in 1989 but never paid payroll or income taxes despite his lucrative income, was found guilty of tax fraud. After an investigation by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that included a raid of his home and business, he was convicted of fifty-eight tax-related offenses and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Summary of Event

Kent Hovind was born in East Peoria, Illinois, in 1953. He converted to Christianity at the age of sixteen and graduated from East Peoria Community High School in 1971. After high school, he earned several degrees in Christian education from unaccredited institutions and was ordained as a Baptist minister. Despite having a doctorate from an unaccredited school, Hovind consistently referred to himself as Dr. Dino. [kw]Hovind Is Convicted of Federal Tax Violations, Evangelist Kent (Nov. 2, 2006)
[kw]Tax Violations, Evangelist Kent Hovind Is Convicted of Federal (Nov. 2, 2006)
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After serving as the pastor of several churches and teaching science at several Christian schools, Hovind moved to Pensacola, Florida, in 1989 and started a ministry called Creation Science Evangelism (CSE). In 2001, he built Dinosaur Adventure Land, a small theme park and small fossil museum that taught creationist principles. He spoke at hundreds of churches and other venues, peddling his unique and offbeat brand of recent creationism called Young Earth creationism, which teaches that the earth and universe are less than 6,000-10,000 years old and were created by God, and that the bulk of the geologic features preserved in the crust of the earth were generated by the flood of Noah. Hovind’s presentations were filled with erroneous and demonstrably false statements.

Hovind bluntly stated in his lectures and on his Web site that he did not believe in paying taxes to the government. His CSE ministry employed many people, but it never withheld taxes from their salaries. Because Hovind had never registered CSE as a tax-exempt religious organization, he was obligated to pay taxes on all his earnings and the salaries he paid to his employees. Upon learning about his antitax philosophy and attempts to evade paying taxes, administrators at nearby Pensacola Christian College Pensacola Christian College (PCC) reported Hovind to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and forbade PCC students from working at CSE.

Because the IRS had no record that Hovind had ever filed a tax return, in 1996 it attempted to collect back taxes for 1989-1995. To escape responsibility for paying federal income taxes, Hovind filed bankruptcy on March 1, 1996. In his bankruptcy petition, he argued that because he is a minister of God, everything he owns belongs to God and is not subject to taxation. On June 5, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court rejected the petition, ruling that it had been filed in bad faith. The court found that even though Hovind had stated that he received no income, had no expenses, and owned no property, the IRS investigation revealed that he owned a house (on which he made regular payments) and had several automobiles, and that he had enough disposable income to send his children to a private Christian school (at $4,800 per year in tuition) and install central heating and air conditioning in his home (for $3,265). As a result of the legal action against him, Hovind agreed to pay the IRS $432.33 per month for sixty months.

In May, 1998, Hovind made another concerted effort to evade paying federal income taxes. He and his wife, Jo Delia Hovind, filed a Power of Attorney and Revocation of Signature form with the Escambia County, Florida, clerk of courts. This document argued that they had been misled and were forced to sign government documents that specified their payment schedule and therefore did not owe the government any more money. They also renounced their U.S. citizenship and declared themselves, individually, as “a natural citizen of ’America’ and a natural sojourner.” This, in their minds, rescinded their obligation to pay federal income taxes.

In 2002, Hovind was once again delinquent in his tax payments and attempted to sue the IRS for harassment. He referred to his home state of Florida as the “state of Florida Body-Politic Corporation” and argued that he was a citizen of the state of Florida and not of the United States and, therefore, was not required to pay federal income taxes.

An April, 2004, IRS raid of Hovind’s home and business showed that he lacked a business license and tax-exempt status. Bank deposits recovered from the raid showed that Hovind had deposited well over one million dollars into various bank accounts since 1997 and had neither reported nor paid taxes on any of this income. On June 3, the IRS filed a tax lien of over half a million dollars against Hovind and his son, Eric Hovind, who helped his father hide income. The lien was placed on their businesses, too.

On July 11, 2006, Hovind was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola with twelve counts of failing to pay employee-related taxes; forty-five counts of “smurfing,” a banking industry term for evading reporting requirements by making multiple cash withdrawals just under $10,000; and one count of interfering with an IRS investigation. Jo Hovind, who had handled the money for her husband’s enterprises, was charged with forty-four related counts.

After his indictment, Hovind vociferously maintained his innocence and stated that he had no idea who was charging him or what his crime was. After stating that he did not recognize the government authority in tax matters, Hovind attempted to enter a plea of “subornation of false muster,” a legally nonsensical phrase that, some have said, is more reminiscent of militia terminology. When U.S. magistrate Gordon Miles Davis offered to enter a plea for him, Hovind switched his plea to not guilty under duress. Davis also confiscated Hovind’s passport because he was a flight risk and his guns because he had threatened IRS agents.

Hovind’s trial began on October 21. At trial, he tried to argue that the approximately thirty people who worked for him were missionaries and not employees. He also maintained that his amusement park, admission, and merchandise sales belonged to God and could not be taxed. Nevertheless, some of Hovind’s workers testified that they punched time cards, took vacation and sick days, and were docked pay if they spent too much time on the phone. Attorney David Charles Gibbs, who provided free legal aid to churches nationwide, testified that Hovind enthusiastically explained to him how he “beat the tax system” and had no obligation to pay taxes. After closing arguments on November 2, the jury deliberated for three hours and found Hovind guilty of all fifty-eight counts and Jo Hovind guilty of all forty-four counts. On January 19, 2007, Hovind was sentenced to ten years in prison and three years probation. He was ordered to pay the court more than one million dollars in restitution and legal fees. Jo Hovind was sentenced in June to one year in prison and three years probation, and was fined $8,000.


Hovind’s conviction was embarrassing to the American creationist movement because Hovind was one of its most visible figures. Even more troubling was Hovind’s reprehensible behavior throughout the IRS investigation and his trial. He filed false lawsuits and criminal charges against the IRS, threatened IRS investigators and those who cooperated with them, and destroyed records. Had he cooperated with the government, he might have avoided prison time, but his avowed recalcitrance precipitated his incarceration.

Furthermore, the bizarre and ridiculous nature of Hovind’s tax-evasion arguments and his inability to accept correction from others revealed a person desperately divorced from reality. Hovind’s deplorable demeanor reflected very badly on the creationist movement as a whole and tended to reinforce the quixotic stereotype already associated with modern creationists. Hovind’s controversial statements and divisive tactics also contributed to the 2005 schism of the largest international creationist organization, Answers in Genesis. Tax evasion;Kent Hovind[Hovind]
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Further Reading

  • Fail, Angela. “Christian College Leader Says Taxes Are Part of Religion: Hovind Argues God’s Workers Are Exempt.” Pensacola News Journal, October 20, 2006. News story about the Pensacola Christian College vice president who reported Hovind’s tax evasion to the IRS.
  • Huston, Peter. More Scams from the Great Beyond! How to Make Even More Money Off Creationism, Evolution, Environmentalism, Fringe Politics, Weird Science, the Occult, and Other Strange Beliefs. Boulder, Colo.: Paladin Press, 2002. An astonishing collection of scams based on strange religious and other fringe beliefs.
  • Levicoff, Steve. Name It and Frame It? New Opportunities in Adult Education and How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by “Christian” Degree Mills. 4th ed. Ambler, Pa.: Institute on Religion and Law, 1995. A disturbing survey of Christian diploma mills in the United States. Also examines Patriot University, Hovind’s alma mater.
  • Martinez, Greg. “Stupid Dino Tricks: A Visit to Kent Hovind’s Dinosaur Adventure Land.” Skeptical Inquirer 26 (November-December, 2004): 47-51. A visitor to Dinosaur Adventure Land describes the park and associated museum and notes the many scientific inaccuracies that pockmark the displays.
  • Pigliucci, Massimo. Denying Evolution: Creation, Scientism, and the Nature of Science. Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer, 2002. A severe critique of creationism by a prominent evolutionary biologist who debated Hovind and marveled at his ignorance of modern evolutionary biology.
  • Steward, Michael. “Creationist’s Fight with Uncle Sam May Evolve into Painful Defeat.” Pensacola News Journal, July 19, 2006. A news report detailing the case against Hovind and the risk he took to fight that case.

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