Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hovind Ministries In URL Tug Of War

During the run-up to his trial last year one of the things that was remarked about Kent Hovind was that he was not getting a lot of support in Pensacola.  Well now that he has moved up to Lenox, Alabama Kent seems to have decided to burn some of his Pensacola bridges.  He has already gone public about his divorce and his dispute with his son Eric's ministry God Quest, which by his account appropriated something like $2 million dollars worth of stuff from his CSE ministry, which they should now give back.

The latest turn in the dispute is Kent calling out the board members of God Quest, including the proprietor of the Drowsy Poet about www.CreationSciencEvangelism.com which links to Creation Today, which is run by God Quest.  Kent is asking his followers to contact them.

They have taken up the call over at Lonestar1776 first with Erin Davis scolding Eric Hovind to "STOP STEALING from your own Father NOW! Exo 20:12"

The best part is around 4:40 where Erin voices over Kent with a slapping sound and "Somebody needs a spanking".

Rudy followed up with more detailed instructions about contacting the board members.

I heard from Eric Hovind that God Quest will be responding to any inquiries generated by these videos with the following response.


Thank you for contacting Creation Today. This response is to help with the confusion and misinformation given on a YouTube video posted by Kent Hovind regarding www.CreationScienceEvangelism.com.God Quest, Inc. registered the name “Creation Science Evangelism” as a dba of God Quest, Inc. in 2007 in the state of Florida and has maintained its ownership since that time. (See link below.) In 2015, a new for-profit business was registered in Utah with the name “Creation Science Evangelism.”  Then in 2016, a 501(c)(3) not‑for‑profit entity was established and registered on February 23, 2016 in the state of Florida under the title “Creation Science Evangelism Ministry.” (See link below.) These new entities may be what are causing some of the confusion and misinformation to circulate.

Some have asked, “Why does a search in Google for ‘Creation Science Evangelism’ give ‘Creation Today’ as the first result?”
Google gives results based on domain authority and page ranking. Creation Today has no control over what website appears first when doing a search for Creation Science Evangelism. The Creation Today website has been ranked by Google as an outstanding website and therefore is the first result when people search for “Creation Science Evangelism.” This Google search will not even bring up the website www.CreationScienceEvangelism.com and therefore Google never directs anyone to www.CreationScienceEvangelism.com. 

Therefore, any confusion about entity names is because people are searching Google for “Creation Science Evangelism,” not because they are typing in “CreationScienceEvangelism.com.”  Creation Today cannot control what Google does in their page rankings and has never intentionally deceived people to get them to visit our site or donate to the wrong ministry. Our website is very clear in its presentation of who we are and what we do.

Please note that the new 501(c)(3) not‑for‑profit entity established in 2016, “Creation Science Evangelism Ministry,” was informed that the domain matching their name, www.CreationScienceEvangelismMinistry.com, was still available and they have now obtained it through a domain service provider.

Kent Hovind has been very clear about the websites that he owns and refers people to: drdino.com and 2peter3.com. Both of these websites are listed in the rankings for a word search on “Creation Science Evangelism.” Both direct you to Kent Hovind’s website, 2peter3.com.

For future reference, please go to 2Peter3.com to reach Kent Hovind’s website.

Thank you again for your interest and for loving the creation message. Let’s use that message today to impact eternity.

God Quest Inc. registration as Creation Science Evangelism


Hovindologists will for the most part be just sitting back and munching the popcorn at this latest episode in Real Creationists Of Escambia County (or maybe it is the spinoff Real Creationists of Conecuh County).

For the record I should note that my own son is an administrator on this site and that any time he wants to steal it from me, he is welcome to it. I'd love to have a debate going on the merits of the arguments of the two organizations.  I should be better at this stuff than I am but I think it is not accurate to really refer to www.CreationScienceEvangelism.com as a website.  Rather it is a URL that points to a website.  Also the phrase "confusion and misinformation given on a YouTube video posted by Kent Hovind" seems redundant, but maybe that is just me.

Peter J Reilly hopes to be the first tax blogger to give up his day job.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ben Sheffler Reflects On His Time With Interlock Media Covering Kent Hovind Trial

I recently posted a piece that is somewhat of a critical of a short documentary by Interlock Media called Dr. Dino: Creationism, Conspiracy, Conceit - The Politics of Wrath

Although I have concerns about the speculations that the piece concludes with, I also think that there was some great journalism done as part of the effort.  This is a report from Ben Sheffler, who was part of Jonathan Schwartz's Interlock Media team on his part in the coverage.

This short video beautifully encapsulates Kent Hovind and his 2015 mail fraud trial. While it does give a brief history of Hovind, I think the most interesting parts of the video are the interviews with two of the jurors, because in the end, that's whose opinions really mattered during the trial. I think we were fortunate that we got to interview them, because they were under no obligation to talk. They also knew how hostile the situation had become—security escorting them to and from their cars, being sequestered for lunch, and being the target of several protesters outside the courthouse. Their recount of the jury deliberations was fascinating.

I remember how exciting it was to identify, locate and talk to the two jurors. We started with just some names and numbers, neither of which were actually the jurors'. But one lead led to another, and we eventually reached the right people. Working with limited time, the team sat in a hotel room on Pensacola Beach and began to contact Don Zehr. We had information that he was connected to a local downtown Pensacola business. We searched the Internet for about 15 minutes trying to identify him or his family. We thought we had found the right person and business, but it was after business hours and I didn't think it was worth it to make the call. Never again will I make that mistake, because sure enough his wife answered and led us straight to him.

For Don Camacho, I made the call myself and spoke with his wife, this time just outside the lobby of the same hotel, while the others worked in a nearby conference room. She was very nice and said she'd pass along my request to speak with her husband when he got home. But I had to ask before hanging up the phone if he was the lone juror that likely kept Hovind from getting another prison sentence. To my surprise and elation, she said, with a little chuckle, Camacho was in fact that juror. I couldn't believe it. It was like winning the lottery. Of the 10 other jurors, we happened to have a connection to the one who made all the difference. I could barely contain myself when I went to tell everyone else in the conference room. Later that day, Camacho called us back.  

These jurors obviously wanted to tell their stories, and the way in which we made contact with them—catching breaks—makes it seem like it was meant to be. And apparently, we weren't the only ones who had a connection to Camacho. As the video pointed out, Ernie Land made public on Facebook that he knew one of the jurors, and through process of elimination we thought it must be Camacho.

The verdict for Kent Hovind came March 22, 2015 after eight hours of deliberations. The jury said they were "hopelessly deadlocked" on several charges, including his two mail fraud charges and one attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud charge, and they were unable to agree on a verdict. He was found guilty of his contempt of court charge, which came from violating a 2007 court order. properties. Hovind was released from federal prison in July 2015 after serving nearly a decade behind bars.  

Much of Hovind's problems has come from people he surrounded himself with. He sought legal and professional advice from people who have little to no credentials. Glen Stoll, who set up the Creation Science Evangelism trust? He was found by a federal court in 2005 in Washington to have falsely claimed to be a lawyer who sold fraudulent "ministerial trust" plans, which clients believed allowed them to not pay federal income tax or file federal income tax returns. Paul Hansen, Hovind's co-defendant in the 2015 trial and head of the CSE trust? He once sold presentations on filing common law liens for $25 and in 2013 was enjoined by the Supreme Court of Nebraska from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in which he had been doing. The court said that "Hansen’s conduct is deceptive and poses the type of risk of harm to the public that our unauthorized practice rules are intended to prevent." It seems that Hovind took that risk and suffered for it. Whether he did it knowingly with malice or unknowingly with naivety, I don't think we'll ever know for sure.            

Ben Sheffler is a free lance journalist in Pensacola.  You can follow him on Twitter @bensheffler

Peter J Reilly wants to be the first tax blogger to give up his day job.  You can help by providing him with content, like Ben has.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Kent Hovind, Interlock Media And The Allure Of Conspiracy

Just as Watergate has its Woodward and Bernstein and the Boston Archdiocese abuse scandal had the Globe Spotlight team

the 2015 trial of Kent Hovind had a team of journalists covering the trial.  And they uncovered a heck of a story.

About Kent Hovind

Kent Hovind is an independent Baptist minister with pretensions of scientific expertise.  He is a Young Earth Creationist, believing, as is implied by a hyper literal reading of the Book of Genesis, that the world is roughly six thousand years old and that human beings and dinosaurs existed contemporaneously.

Acceptance of YEC requires belief in a massive conspiracy involving a large swath of the scientific community.  Not just biologists, since six thousand years is not nearly enough time for evolution to work, but also geologists and astronomers.  I'm sure there's more.

If you believe in that big a conspiracy, it is easy to believe in others.  So it is perhaps not surprising that Hovind also believed that the income tax laws as they are generally understood do not really apply to most ordinary Americans.  That requires a conspiracy that includes pretty much the entire federal judiciary and the executive branch for over a century.

In the view of the conventionally tax compliant that is what got Hovind in trouble with the federal government.  He has a fairly passionate vocal group of supporters (I call them Hovindicators) that accept his narrative that he has paid every tax that he has ever owed and was a victim of religious persecution when he served 9 years in prison on an indictment which did not include tax evasion as one of the charges.  Most of the counts were "structuring" - making withdrawals of slightly less than $10,000 to avoid bank reporting of cash transactions.

New Trial

Last year's trial was for actions he took to affect the title to property that had been seized by the government as a result of his previous conviction.  He was convicted on one of three counts and the jury did not reach a verdict on two other counts.  There was a retrial scheduled, but the government backed off and prior to sentencing the conviction, contempt of court, was thrown out thanks to work by the United States Justice Foundation.

So Kent Hovind was released on schedule and is now rebuilding his ministry.  The new Christian Science Evangelism has acquired property in Lenox Alabama where Kent and a variable team of volunteers are creating a bigger better Dinosaur Adventure Land.  Kent has been going great guns on youtube

He has also been doing speaking tours.  Kent's close friend and advisor, Ernie Land, has assured me that the new CSE will be conventionally tax compliant.  Ernie appears to be taking care of that aspect of things.

The Hovindologists

I began covering the Hovind story in 2012, when Jo Delia Hovind found herself in Tax Court.  My primary writing gig is on forbes.com.  I'm a tax blogger.  I at least look at every federal court decision concerning taxes, a large number of state decisions and a variety of rulings by the IRS.  I write about the ones that I find interesting.  Among my criteria are humor and what I call "matter for reflection", the way in which tax law intersects with other areas particularly religious liberty.

So that story was right up my alley. I thought it was hilarious. The comments section had people debating the merits of Young Earth Creationism, which made it ever more fun.  It also sealed the loyalty of my most constant commenter, Robert Baty.

Bob Baty began following me because of my coverage of the parsonage issue.  He had been trying to get me interested in Young Earth Creationism, but I would not bite until Jo Delia's Tax Court decision came along.  Thanks to all the interest I did further research on Hovind and even had some brief contact with him through the prison email system.  The result was one of the highest traffic pieces that I ever produced - Not Income Tax Evasion - Structuring - That's How They Got Kent Hovind.

Forbes.com pays based on traffic and as Dr. Johnson said "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money". Tax blogging is much less lucrative than the underlying professional activity. You don't see tax bloggers giving up their day jobs, but one of my ambitions is to become the first.  So now I was hooked and when Hovind was charged with a new crime nearly two years ago, I was all over it.

The Hovindication movement managed to touch just about every base in the right wing conspiracy bubble, including Alex Jones

I thought there was a great chance that it would break into the mainstream media.  The Hovindicators were one step from being featured by that loudmouth on Fox, that some of my relatives fear may be related to us.  It seemed that my diligent Hovind coverage might be my ticket to the big time.  So I made a huge decision, one that for me is heart rending.  I decided to spend some money.

As I often remark I am not an investigative reporter, but it happens that I know one.  That would be Jonathan Schwartz of Interlock Media.  With my grudging, chintzy financial support Jonathan assembled a team to cover the trial after recording  a telephone interview by me with Kent Hovind

The Story Behind The Story Behind The Story

The coverage of the first trial was quite good, but it was in the aftermath that the team outdid themselves.  The Hovindicators had hoped that jury nullification might save the day for them and to a great extent they turned out to be right.  The jury hung on more serious charges and only convicted on contempt of court.  Jonathan and his team identified the hold- out juror, Don Camacho, and interviewed him

They also interviewed another juror who had butted heads with Camacho

And someone who knew both Camacho and Hovind.  Dr. Ward Dean had been in a militia group with Camacho and had become Hovind's IRS battle buddy around the turn of the millenium

Ben Sheffler has written an account of his experience working as part of the team and that will be published here on Monday.

A Bridge Too Far

Jonathan produced a short piece that pulled all the elements of the story together.  It is called Dr. Dino: Creationism, Conspiracy, Conceit - The Politics of Wrath

 At 10:38, it is really worth the investment of lifespan so I recommend that you check it out.

You will note that I am cited in the video as a "Hovind expert".  Personally, I prefer Hovindologist, but I'm not that picky. I have made a copy available on my youtube channel for convenience, but the original publication was by Interlock Media.  Although I provided substantial support for the project, I did not want to be the original publisher, because I believe that the solid journalism in the first eight minutes is marred by excessive speculation in the end.

The theory expounded is intriguing.  We do know that Camacho managed to convince the other jurors to report that they were deadlocked on two of the charges by agreeing to convict on contempt of court.  We know that Camacho was recognized as being on the jury by Ernie Land, who had some sort of acquaintanceship with Camacho.  We know that Ernie Land was working with USJF and that USJF would get the contempt conviction overturned.

So maybe USJF had told Ernie that getting contempt overturned was a slam dunk and Ernie somehow let Camacho know that that was the charge that he could vote guilty on in order to end the jury deliberations.

Laying out that theory is the last two minutes of the video.  I think it greatly detracts from its value.  The evidence is just not there and using Occam's razor you can account for what happened without assuming any contact between Camacho and Ernie Land.

The leap that Interlock made in this speculation is tiny compared to the type of things that Hovindicators will pick up and run with - like Rudy Davis indicating that prosecutor Pamela Marsh was a Jesuit because she went to Georgetown.

Cutest Jesuit I have ever seen.

Still I hold members of the reality based community, like Jonathan Schwartz, to a much higher standard.  I think that too much exposure to the Hovindicators might have had its effect.

For whatever it is worth I ran the theory by Ernie Land.  He wrote back to me:
Also on the record Camacho never recognized me at the Court, so once again that is like the theory of evolution, which is false. Camacho is a good man, who did not need any guidance in his beliefs or actions. Yes, I knew him prior to the trial, but it was just as an acquaintance.