by Ben Sheffler
Kent Hovind supporters are gathering this week for "Boots on the Ground for Kent Hovind" at the Red Roof Inn in Pensacola, Fla., led by Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif.
"We really have two thrusts," Drake said. "Number one is to be here, to meet with [Hovind] and to hear his story again face-on. But the second reason is to try to draw attention to the case."
To rally support, Drake is hosting his Internet and radio show from his hotel room everyday at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and said anyone can stop by. About five people were at the first show today.
|Pastor Wiley Drake|
"Anybody who wants to come by and pray with me is welcome," he said.
Hovind, who is currently nearing the end of 10-year sentence on tax related charges, was charged last October with mail fraud.
"The old charges are absolutely bogus. The new charges are, I wouldn't say bogus, but the new charges are just stupid," Drake said.
Drake believes Hovind is being religiously persecuted.
"Absolutely religious persecution. We're in a day and age where the government is saying 'You go to church on Sunday, that's OK...but you can't do anything else,'" he said. "It’s the government wanting to take over the family, just like Hitler did."
Christians are avoiding the Hovind situation "like a plague," Drake said.
"Nobody wants to be associated with a tax cheat...because their attitude is if the government arrested him it must be partially true. And it's absolutely, 100 percent false," he said.
Hovind's trial has been re-scheduled three times now. It was originally set to begin Dec. 1, but it was moved to Jan. 5, then Feb. 9 and most recently has been pushed back until March 2.
"Every time we rally, coincidentally, right after that, the court applies for a continuance," Drake said. "The reason was they were afraid they were going to get coverage, and they will get coverage. It's going to blow up in their face."
Drake was introduced to Hovind 10 years ago by Greg Dixon, whose Indianapolis Baptist Temple was seized for not collecting taxes from its employees. He said Hovind's attitude is very good and that he's been very active in prison.
"He's very quiet and easy going, but that doesn't mean he's not aggressive," he said. "He's won over 700 people to the Lord and done a lot of work with other legal organizations to try to bring his case to bear, and he wants out of jail."
The event at the Red Roof Inn runs through Feb. 10. For those who can't attend, Drake asks for prayers.
"If you can't be boots on the ground, you can be prayer in the air," he said.
Drake's broadcast is available on YouTube and thewileydrakeshow.com.
Ben Shefflerw is a freelance journalist living in Pensacola, Fla. He's studying psychology at the University of West Florida. You can follow him on Twitter @bensheffler.