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The Lighter and the Darker Sides of Religious Fanaticism

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By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

You remember Kent Hovind, aka “Dr. Dino,” although his claim to the “Dr.” and academic credentials is questionable, at best. He’s the founder of Florida-based Creation Science Evangelism which, among its other quaint novelties, offers Dinosaur Adventure Land and this hokey promo on its homepage:

Hey families! Dinosaur Adventure Land has got so many wonderful events coming up that you may want to stop in sometime! Since the success of our Home school Appreciation Day of 2006, we have decided to do more themed-events at Dinosaur Adventure Land. To start things off, we have decided to make April fool’s Day (April 1st) “Darwin Day”. We will have tons of great rides, puzzles, treasure hunts, and prizes to fill out the day. We sure hope to see all of you here at Dinosaur Adventure land, where Dinosaurs and the Bible meet!


Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adventure Land are dedicated to Young Earth Creationism at its most ludicrous: human children playing with dinosaurs in Eden, Mr. and Mrs. Tyrannosaurus Rex among the passengers on Noah’s ark.

 

 

 


Holier-than-thou Dr. Dino got into a spot of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS charged him with 58 counts of tax fraud. Specifically, Dr. Dino was “charged with failing to pay nearly $474,000 in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes for employees at his Creation Science Ministry. Hovind maintained the workers were missionaries and are exempt from taxes and that all his money and possessions belong to God and were not subject to taxation.”

Dr. Dino claimed he was “employed by God” and, therefore, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not “have jurisdiction in this matter.”

Hovind and his wife, who was herself charged with 44 counts of tax fraud, entered a unique plea: “I would like to plead subornation of false muster.”

As Mark O’Brien noted in his Pensacola News Journal article about the case, that’s

“a defense I haven’t heard in 30 years of hanging around courtrooms. The precedent is not good. A man in the state of Washington tried a similar defense a few years ago, claiming he was a ‘citizen of heaven’ and not subject to state laws. But a court there ruled that when in Washington, do as Washington law requires, and found him guilty” [link added].


So what does “subornation of false muster” mean?

Subornation:
1: to induce secretly to do an unlawful thing
2: to induce to commit perjury; also: to obtain (perjured testimony) from a witness

Muster:
1: a representative specimen
2a: an act of assembling; specifically: formal military inspection b: critical examination
c: an assembled group


But those are dictionary definitions. Perhaps the phrase has other meanings when used as a plea in a court of law.

After consulting defense attorneys and other legal experts, I learned the basic definitions are essentially the meaning of the plea. Hovind was claiming that, under false pretenses, he was forcibly being called into service as a member of a group to which he claimed he did not rightfully belong – namely those subject to paying taxes – for the sole purpose of then being wrongly prosecuted.

But here’s the kicker: Kent Hovind and his wife were represented by a public defender, at taxpayers’ expense.

The “subornation of false muster” plea aside, as Mark O’Brien noted Dr. Dino’s legal track record was not good. He had already lost cases “with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and with Escambia County’s right to require building permits for his Dinosaur Adventure Land.” It seems Hovind believed no man-made laws apply to him, only “God’s.” But apparently he’s not familiar with the Bible he claimed to be the sole source of “Truth” and “God’s law,” as one person who commented on O’Brien’s article noted:

Dr. Dino … says that he works for God, that he believes the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that because he works for God he does not owe any income taxes. Yet in Matthew 22:21 the Bible plainly says that Jesus said:

“...Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

So it sure seems that Dr. Dino’s (alleged) Boss is also (along with the I.R.S.) expecting Dr Dino to pay his income taxes. Some faithful employee!

Of course, the Court will not be concerned with whether Dr. Dino interprets that Bible passage correctly, but will decide whether Dr. Dino properly interprets I.R.S. (or, “Caesar’s”) law. I suppose that even though Dr. Dino had a withdrawable $430,500 in the bank and withdrew it (as has been reported), he will present to the Court as a defense that, being employed by God, he has no income, no expenses, and owns no property. Oh yeah, THAT’ll impress the Court! [italics added]

The indictment showed that the Hovinds had repeatedly made cash withdrawals from a sizable bank account at AmSouth Bank in a way calculated to evade federal requirements for reporting cash transactions. The withdrawals were for $9,500 or $9,600. Was it coincidental that those amounts were just below the federally mandated $10,000 threshold for reporting cash transactions?

Well, dear Dr. Dino and his wife have been convicted on all counts:

a 12-person jury deliberated for 2½ hours before finding Hovind and his wife, Jo, guilty of all counts in their tax-fraud case, according to a report in the News Journal.

He was found guilty of 58 counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He faces a maximum of 288 years in prison. Jo Hovind was charged and convicted in 44 of the counts involving evading bank-reporting requirements. She faces up to 225 years in prison but was allowed to remain free pending the couple’s sentencing on Jan. 9, the News Journal said:

“Nobody likes to pay taxes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said in her closing argument. “But we do because it's the law, and he is not above the law.”

The jury also granted the prosecution’s request for the Hovinds to forfeit $430,400, the report said.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers released Jo Hovind until sentencing but denied Kent Hovind’s request to be released. He most likely will be detained at either Escambia County Jail or Santa Rosa County Jail until sentencing, the newspaper said.

So much for Dr. Dino.

But then there’s Chuck Smith, founder and senior pastor of the original Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California. He should be called “Rev. Armageddon.” In commenting on a small item in Parade Magazine –

A Fingerprint May Replace Cash Or Credit

Ever get to the supermarket only to realize you forgot your wallet? For the more than 3.3 million consumers who’ve signed up for biometric technology, that’s no longer a problem. Customers at several retailers can now literally pay by touch. By placing their finger on a scanner at the checkout and entering their home phone number, these tech-savvy shoppers can deduct the cost of a carton of milk directly from a bank account or credit card.

– Rev. Smith decreed:

“this development clearly illustrates that we are one step closer to what is described in the Book of Revelation. … This should be yet another wake-up call from God that we are in the last of the last days. We already know of eye-identification scanning devices and other technology … that clearly shows us this.”


Does this sound like another Garden of Eden set-up to you? In Eden “God” supposedly told his human creations to “Just Say No” to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge despite having made them with an innate, driving desire to know. It was Eve – a woman, of course – who had the guts to “Just Say Know.”

If Divinity gave humans the inexorable desire to know and the ability to discover and gain knowledge and, in so doing, improve their condition, wouldn’t it be a “sin” not to use those Divine gifts? But such rational, “humanistic” thinking would not jive well with the message of the purveyors of doom and gloom, or help them keep the flock in line and sending in their “donations.” Money and their own well-being are, after all, the Bible-based doomsayers’ bottom line.

Clearly biometrics is a means of cutting down on identity theft. Credit card and debit card numbers can be stolen and signatures easily forged. While phone numbers can be easily obtained, the biometric device Rev. Smith saw as demonic relies on the legitimate user’s fingerprint that cannot be stolen or forged. Apparently Rev. Smith sees the devil in all humans’ fingerprints. That’s the ultimate expression of anti-human self-hated.

Religion has always sought to silence science. In the Bush administration and the climate it’s created, religion has often won. But science is fighting back:

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist – Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book “The God Delusion” is a national best-seller.

Overwhelmingly the vast majority of the world’s scientists and climatologists agree global warming is a fact. But not for Rev. Jerry Falwell. He thinks global warming is bogus science and a political ploy. To be sure, Falwell should know all about bogus science:

“The Bible is the inerrant...word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.” [italics added].


And the founder of the “Moral Majority” is certainly more than familiar with political ploys… in the name of “God,” of course.

But more importantly Falwell is concerned about the cost of dealing with global warming. After all, expenditures to address a problem that affects everyone on the planet and generations yet to come might have the effect of cutting into “donations” sent to the rotund reverend for his crusades that benefit only those who share his “biblical worldview.” A decrease in donations could also stifle Falwell’s ability to damn and blame others for all the world’s ills – as was so acutely seen after 9/11, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians … I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’ – in his ongoing efforts to demean and disenfranchise those “other” citizens who disagree with him and his theopolitical dogmatic agenda.

Civil equality is also a godly goal except, of course, for Rev. Falwell and the Alabama state branch of the Southern Baptist Convention, “the latest [group] to condemn Wal-Mart for barring discrimination against gays and lesbians in its code of ethics.” This is not surprising since the fanatics of the Christian Right are dedicated and determined to discriminate. It’s their raison d’etre.

The imp encouraging them and their attack on Wal-Mart is Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. Wildmon and his group have been boycotting Ford Motor Company for some time because Ford instituted company policies that forbid discrimination against gay employees and their American families. Wildmon has also cast his evil eye at electronics giant Best Buy because they are using the term “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Dawn Bryant, spokeswoman for Best Buy Co. Inc., responded to Wildmon’s and the AFA’s hysterical objections with cool common sense:

“We are going to continue to use the term holiday because there are several holidays throughout that time period, and we certainly need to be respectful of all of them.”


But common sense and expressing respectfulness toward others are not part of the Wildmon way or “thinking.” In his “mind” common sense and respectfulness toward others are “anti-Christian.”

From tax-cheat Dr. Dino and his Young Earth Creationists, to Luddite Smith’s claim that “we are in the last of the last days,” to Wildmon’s taking offense at recognizing the holidays of religions other than his own, to Lou Sheldon’s cover-up confession “that he and ‘a lot’ of others [the leaders the Christian Right] knew about [Rev.Ted] Haggard’s homosexuality ‘for awhile ... but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it” [link added], the leaders of the Christian Right have become ludicrous caricatures defiling the very religion, virtues and values they claim to be advocating.

They all ceremoniously wrap themselves in the American flag, as if that could hide their rotting core. Their beliefs, statements, actions and tactics are as un-American as beliefs, statements, actions and tactics can be unless, of course, one considers the beliefs, statements, actions and tactics of Joseph McCarthy to those of a “great American” uninterested in furthering his own agenda and political power.
 

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