For those who haven’t followed this case, Kent Hovind is a young Earth creationist who had a ministry dedicated to spreading his young Earth beliefs. Because he considered what he was doing a ministry, he didn’t believe that he had any income tax obligation.
First of all, I’m not a young Earth creationist, and I think young Earthers create unnecessary confusion within the ranks of Christianity. If you tell people that the reliability of the Bible rests of the literalness of the first few chapters of Genesis, then when they start to have doubts about the age of the earth they are liable to have doubts about the whole.
That said, the prosecution (persecution) of Kent Hovind and his ridiculous prison sentence should be decried by all traditionalist conservatives. From what I know of this case, Hovind’s belief that he had no tax obligation was sincere and not just a way to get out of paying taxes. If it was a way to avoid taxes, it was likely based on his belief that income taxes in general were illegitimate. (Apparently he made some statements to that effect in the past.) In other words, he wasn’t just a dead beat attempting to scam the government.
Sentencing non-violent people like Hovind to prison is ridiculous. Hovind is not a danger to society. Hovind is not a public menace. A sentence of restitution and community service or something like that would have been the appropriate response even if you agree with the Federal Government that what he did was a crime.
Now Hovind and his lawyer are facing new charges. Admittedly, Hovind has demonstrated bad judgment here. His lawyer is a sovereign citizen type, so Hovind’s experience should tell him that alternative explanations of the law are a path fraught with danger.
I am not a lawyer and I would make a very bad one if I was, because I don’t default accept the government’s declarations in cases like this. If Hovind claims he has no tax obligation because he is a ministry then that contention it seems to me should be part of what is at trial, not just the “facts” with the government’s take on the matter taken for granted. Same with these sovereign citizen types. If they make a claim, then the government should have to counter that claim.
While I have sympathy with these alternative explanations of the law types in their dealings with the government, I am very conflicted about how it all plays out in real life. If someone has an alternative understanding of the law, then if they act on that as an act of civil disobedience knowing they are likely to face legal consequences, then so be it. But when they drag others into it on the basis that what they are doing is legal when the law is properly understood and applied, then there can be a lot of civilian casualties, so to speak, in their war for justice as they perceive it. A lot of naïve people suffered because of the tax protestor movement, regardless of what you think of the tax protestors’ claims about the validity of the income tax.
But all that said, these new charges are piling on. Hovind should have never been sent to prison in the first place, but he has been punished enough. The Federal Government should leave him alone and go after some real criminals.
* As an aside that will be most meaningful to people familiar with the young Earth creationist milieu, one of the sorriest aspects of the whole Hovind affair is the role that Pensacola Christian College (the creators of the very popular ABeka home school curriculum) played in ratting out Hovind. Rebekah Horton, college VP and the Beka in ABeka, demonstrates a startlingly unnuanced take on the matter of paying taxes. But even if she is entirely right about what the Bible says re. taxes, there is no Biblical imperative to rat out your co-belligerent in the young Earth battles. What kind of a goodie-goodie busybody do you have to be to rat directly to the IRS?