No travel for evangelist, judge says

The latest on Dr. Dino:

Tax evasion suspect is flight risk, ruling states

Michael Stewart Pensacola evangelist and tax protester Kent Hovind won’t be lecturing on creationism in South Africa next month, prompting an irate letter from a sponsor of the trip to the prosecutor.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers this week denied Hovind’s motion to lift travel restrictions pending his Sept. 5 trial on 58 federal charges that include evading nearly $470,000 in employee taxes.

Hovind, who calls himself “Dr. Dino,” operates Dinosaur Adventure Land, a theme park on North Palafox Street dedicated to creationism.

He believes evolution is a religion and says man did not evolve from dinosaurs but, rather, lived alongside them.

At Hovind’s first federal court appearance July 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis agreed with prosecutors that Hovind posed a flight risk. Hovind was ordered to surrender his passport his travel was restricted to the local judicial district, stretching from Pensacola to Gainesville.

Hovind’s public defender countered with a motion contending travel restrictions violated his client’s constitutional rights to religious freedom.

Rodgers disagreed, pointing to U.S. Supreme Court decisions saying neutral restrictions that incidentally burden religious practices are not unconstitutional.

Hovind was scheduled to travel to seven South African cities between Aug. 12 and Aug. 21 to debate scientists.

Note that the next bit is probably confused, because this news story from a few months back says that they teach evolution in South Africa.

In an e-mail to a reporter, Andre L. Immelman, CEO of PowerMinistries, the South African group sponsoring Hovind’s trip, said South Africans “do not react very nicely to disappointment” and ministry members “will be seeking asylum in the U.S.” if his trip is canceled.

In a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmeyer, Immelman wrote that 21 people have been involved during the past nine months in planning for Hovind to travel to South Africa. He said Hovind was scheduled to speak on 26 separate occasions to more than 18,000 people.

“In what has been a very controversial decision here, our new democratic government is poised to introduce evolution into the public school system in the stead of creation after some 47 years of creationism practice,” Immelman wrote. “To say that this debate has sharply served to divide the country is really no understatement at all.”

Somehow I doubt there will be riots in the streets of South Africa just because Dr. Dino is ruled to be a flight risk.