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Liberty Counsel, Liberty University Extensively Entangled In Kidnapping Case

Jim Burroway

April 23rd, 2011

The FBI’s criminal complaint has shown a bright spotlight on the deep involvement of Liberty Counsel and others associated with the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case. Yesterday, Timothy provided an overview, but if you haven’t read it in detail, please do so. It’s very fascinating.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, who had entered a Vermont civil union in 2000, split up in 2003 when their daughter, Isabella, was a year old. Miller moved to Virginia, became an evangelical Christian and entered the ex-gay movement. She was initially granted custody, with Jenkins awarded visitation rights. When Miller refused to allow Jenkins to visit their daughter, the court awarded custody to Jenkins. Miller then went into hiding and failed to appear at a court-ordered custody exchange on January 1, 2010.

The FBI complaint shows Lisa Miller’s itinerary from Toronto to Nicaragua in September 2009, a full month beforeVermont court ordered Miller to turn the young girl over to Janet Miller Jenkins. This flight was also nearly three months before it was suspected that Miller had kidnapped the couple’s daughter in violation of the court order. The affidavit also provides evidence tying Timothy David Miler to the kidnapping conspiracy. It appears that Timothy Miller was in either Managua or Waslala, Nicaragua, where he hosted the fugitive and kidnapped child for a time. Timothy Miller, who heads a Mennonite church in Managua, was arrested yesterday morning in Alexandria, Virginia.

Page 9 of the complaint shows that at least part of the airline tickets were “approved by Timothy” and the cardholder was Elaine R. Cooper, of Brethren, Michigan. Cooper is the adoptive mother of Timothy Miller’s wife. They made travel arrangements through a Christian travel agency, Golden Rule Travel. The agent who made the arrangements was Linda Rose Miller. Lots of Millers in the mix, although the FBI’s affidavit notes that no biological relationship has been established between the travel agent and Lisa Miller, or between Lisa Miller and Timothy Miller.

But here is where the web gets interesting. On Page 15 of the complaint, Philip Zodhiates, a wealthy “Liberty Leader,” owns a beach house in Nicaragua where Lisa and Isabella had been staying. He had requested that his daughter, Victoria Hyden, “disseminate a request to get Lisa Miller supplies.”

And who is Victoria Hyden?

She’s an administrative assistant for Liberty University’s School of Law’s financial aid department.

To complete the web further, Mat Staver, head of Liberty Counsel, is also the dean of Liberty’s School of Law. Lisa Miller’s lawyer, Rena Lindevaldsen, Miller’s attorney at Liberty Counsel, is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University.

A lot of fingers are pointing to Liberty Counsel and Liberty University: a wealthy benefactor who just happens to own property in Central America, and his daughter who happens to be a secretary at Liberty University. Gee, what are the odds that Miller would have found such generosity without the help of a certain associate professor or college dean?

And speaking of odds, we should note that there is evidence that the web is not limited to the collection of Millers, Liberty Counsel or Liberty University. There’s still the matter of Lynchburg-based ex-gay leader Debbie Thurman. (Lynchburg, of course, is the home of Liberty Counsel and Liberty University). Two months after the Miller fled the country but before it was confirmed that she was in hiding, Thurmam endorsed Lisa Miller’s kidnapping of Isabella in violation of a court order, and she magically became the source of an extensive note from Lisa Miller on December 4 — more than two months after Miller fled the country. As Timothy and I have both noted with some impatience, Thurman still has not explained how she came into possession of that communication.

Undoubtedly, the FBI’s investigation is continuing.

UPDATE: 4/27/11

Debbie Thurman has provided us with the following response:

Do you think this has not been looked into by “the authorities”? It has.
They are the only ones who needed to hear from me on it. It was properly
dismissed last year as insignificant.



enough already
April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

My heart goes out to this poor child.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to loose one of your mothers – and she’s old enough to understand that not all she’s told is the truth.

Let’s hope this ends better than it has begun.

April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Liberty Law School should be stripped of its accreditation and all guilty lawyers involved should have their legal credentials revoked and do jail time for this.

Family values hypocrites.

April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Christine — Let’s hope this happens!

Ol’ Bam Bam makes all those stereotypical sleazy divorce lawyers look clean and squeaky by comparison!

I hope Janet gets either her lawyers and/or Morris Dees and the SPLC to sue the so-called “Liberty Council” out of existence!

Tony P
April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

So reading through the complaint I find that CAM even has Amish involvement? Here I was thinking the Amish were in the ‘mostly harmless’ category but I guess I was wrong.

Lindoro Almaviva
April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

I bet all those lawyers are about to pass out in fear.

I echo Christine’s sentiment. I hope they all get a meeting with the bar association and an orange jumpsuit.

I can only hope the university gets sued so hard it shakes its foundation.

The arrogance of it all

April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Why isn’t CNN reporting on this?

Let’s bring this to their attention:

Ben In Oakland
April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Oh noes. Dem powerful, vicius homaseksules is attacking our religious freedom and no little girl has two mommies. help help we’re da victims heah.

Lawyers cirucmventing the law. who woulda thunk?

April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

I truly hope that Jenkins, BTB, and the blogosphere see this through. It is a serious matter and shouldn’t be dropped.

This was open defiance of a court order. If Barber was knowingly involved in abetting the violation, that is criminal contempt. (Miller herself would be on the hook for both civil and criminal contempt.) I cannot think of any dean of a law school in the US being held in contempt – ever.

It strains credulity that Barber didn’t know what was going on, but that is a something that can’t be assumed. It
would need to be established beyond a reasonable doubt. And there would be a further question as to whether his conduct consisted solely of inaction or whether there were overt acts in furtherance of the violation. So there remain numerous questions that need to be answered. But all in all, based solely on what is known now, it is a fairly shocking story.

Bob Barnes
April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Don’t doubt for a second that Debbie Thurman had a heavy hand in all of this.Can’t wait to see what the FBI shakes out of this one.

April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

More perjury, hiding of evidence, obstruction of justice, and enabling flight of a fugitive from justice in the name of True Christianity.

Liberty University is getting itself quite a name in legal circles. Their most famous law school graduate was a lawbreaking political commissar in the Gonzalez DOJ, now its leadership is implicated in conspiracy enabling felonies.

April 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Here’s hoping the American Bar Association sweeps in and starts yanking not only the accreditation of their so-called “law school”, but the licenses of everyone associated with this illegal and immoral act.

Rob in San Diego
April 24th, 2011 | LINK

Reading this reminds me of watching Glen Beck and him connecting the dots of evil people on his chalk boards.

April 24th, 2011 | LINK

This Thurman woman is quite a piece of work. Self-aggrandizing, ignorant, self-righteous, and completely sure that her smallest opinion is God’s will. A perfect example of how the current manifestation of protestant Christianity becomes weaponized by the right.

Tony P. The Amish are Mennonites, most of them, but all Mennonites aren’t Amish. They don’t have any involvement.

Regan DuCasse
April 24th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with the rest of the board that LU deserves loss of their accreditation and it’s lawyers their licenses to practice. It’s unconscionable that they’d deliberately get between the legal parent of a child. Period. Janet Jenkins is not an abusive or criminal parent who endangered their little girl. She is a loving parent committed to raising her child. And no one should be getting between such a relationship between parent and child.
Indeed, LU is setting a bad precedent for their disrespect of the adoptive and step parent relationships by asserting that ONLY biological parents matter.
Their religious ideology that precipitated this, is an unenforceable situation.
Stay tuned for the victim card to be played that their religious liberty is at risk because they couldn’t keep this child from her lawful mother and ONLY other parent.

And when will it be acknowledged that religious groups risk their credibility by cruel enforcement EXCLUSIVELY against gay people and no others, regardless if they meet the same religious constraints?
To say nothing of running roughshod over every Constitutional protection FOR others than themselves?

Debbie Thurman and I had many personal emails or blog exchanges between each other and she struck me as essentially a very weak and spineless person who thinks claiming her religious commitment was a character reference that didn’t deserve challenge. I don’t like Christians like that. It’s hypocritical to expect acceptance on your word alone, and ignoring the deeds by which you’re being scrutinized.
She was a frequent contributor to Warren Throckmorton’s blog. He must support HER if she’s got such an access.
And he must know about this, but I don’t remember any opinion about this case from him one way or the other. Perhaps some of our other friends can enlighten on that order.
The fact that none of these people cared about the pain and grief that Janet Jenkins suffered and mocked the fact that she HAD any feelings for her child, further proves the Debbie Thurman and the suspects of LU don’t think gay people have any feelings.

A review of their license to operate and loss of the ability TO operate, would be appropriate.

Regan DuCasse
April 24th, 2011 | LINK

And further: Miller was taking this kid all over the planet! El Salvador? Nicaragua?
Aren’t their uncles and aunts and grandparents being alienated from being with this little one too?
She’s with mostly strangers except for her mother, and she’s being estranged from her only OTHER parent.

Indeed, with ‘family values’ people like this looking after Isabella, it’s no wonder she doesn’t really know who that family IS.

April 24th, 2011 | LINK

Thurman is a devoted and frequent commenter at the throckmorton site. It’s pointless to try to discuss anything with her as she’s only interested in parading her own sense of ‘morality’ and is constantly defaming gay people. I’m most likely banned there as I posted a snip of this story as it related to her with a rather testy remark about Thurman. She has two daughters who either are attending or have attended LU, and an involvement in the ex-gay racket. Thurman, not the daughters.

April 24th, 2011 | LINK

I won’t be satisfied until Matt Barber is lead away in leg irons!

April 25th, 2011 | LINK

Amish are not mennonites. They are both anabaptist groups and at times inter-marry
but they are NOT the same. It intrigues me though, because this university’s theology is not mennonite,
and yes Amish are “mostly harmless” unless you belong to their group and screw up any of their rules…they don’t care about you because you arent one of them and are going to hell anyway

April 25th, 2011 | LINK

@A., it’s clear that he isn’t Amish. There’s no way he could get from Virginia to Nicaragua, to El Salvadore, back to Virgina and back to Nicaragua as often, and as quickly, as he does with a horse and buggy! I say that partially tongue in cheek and partially seriously.

I read on another site that he was Quaker! That’s even more unbelievable to me since most Quakers I know are VERY liberal and very supportive of gay rights, including equal marriage rights.

Menonite makes much more sense.

Jim Burroway
April 25th, 2011 | LINK

He is described as Amish-Mennonite, which is not to be confused with Old Order Amish. Those are the ones popularly known as the horse-and-buggy crowd. Old Order Amish is but one of many different Anababtist traditions, which include many different flavors of Amish and Mennonite denominations and groups.

April 25th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks for explicating that, JB. I wasn’t aware that Mennonitism (yes? Mennonism?) was still so widespread.

April 25th, 2011 | LINK

There’s lots of both Amish and Mennonites just about half an hour north of where I live. Unlike Mr. Miller, they pretty much mind their own business and don’t mess with other people’s lives.

April 25th, 2011 | LINK

I read on another site that he was Quaker! That’s even more unbelievable to me since most Quakers I know are VERY liberal and very supportive of gay rights, including equal marriage rights.

There are several varieties of Quaker groups in America resulting from schisms in the 19th century. Large proportions went over (some say retrogressed) to conventional Christianity. Existing selfidentifying Quaker groups in the Midwest mostly quite closely resemble evangelicals- they usually have churches, organs, formal services, paid ministers, are dogmatic Christocentrists, etc. (Richard Nixon was member of such a group.)

The largest and most liberal selfidentifying Quaker organization, the FGC (Friends General Conference) representing on the order of 35-40% of American Quakers, is strongly in favor of extending civil rights to gay people. The ‘moderate’ major grouping (FUM, Friends United Meeting) in recent years has struggled with and not embraced gay equality and is essentially conservative. The openly evangelical Christian grouping (EFI, Evangelical Friends International) isn’t considered meaningfully Quaker at this point and rejects gay equality. There are also some small splinter groups which are variously conservative.

The label of “Quaker” is mostly used as as something of a credential to con people these days, sadly. Often by people who’ve left Quaker groups. The people of integrity who belong to these groups and give them their reputation of being morally and personally upstanding tend to use the term “Friends” as group identifier when possible and avoid “Quaker” except as clarification to outsiders.

April 25th, 2011 | LINK

Falwell and his successors were and are always quick to smear others as socialist or communist sympathizers. Falwell himself denounced South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu on that basis. And of course this is the charge they now regularly level against the President of the United States.

So I can’t help but note the delicious hypocrisy of these anti-communist, family values folks flying Isabella into a socialist country run by a strongman who has been accused by his adopted daughter of child molestation and who escaped prosecution only b/c he hid beyond immunity as a member of parliament. Also interesting that a “Liberty Leader” feels comfortable owning property there and subsidizing the ever-expanding Sandinista-controlled sectors of the Nicaraguan economy.

@Regan Ducasse:

Thurman is a commenter on Throckmorton’s blog, not a contributor. She doesn’t have any special access beyond what any member of the public enjoys. Not fair to try to tag Throckmorton, who is a decent guy, with the alleged actions of an obnoxious blog commenter.

Warren Throckmorton
April 26th, 2011 | LINK

Regan wrote:

She was a frequent contributor to Warren Throckmorton’s blog. He must support HER if she’s got such an access.
And he must know about this, but I don’t remember any opinion about this case from him one way or the other.

There you go again Regan.

Theo is correct. Mrs. Thurman is a commenter and not a contributor. For the record, I believe Lisa Miller should have complied with court orders regarding visitation and custody. I believe anyone who aided her flight should face commensurate penalties. Your statements are recklessly vague and tendentious.

Christina Archer
May 1st, 2011 | LINK

I’m quite surprised that Liberty University is accredited in any way, shape or form. The late Jerry Falwell was somebody saying the right things to the right people at the right time. He made the mistake of confusing his own little world with the great big wide world. I’m sorry for the little girl who is getting pulled apart. Being an ‘ex-gay’ does not make a good mother.

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