Liberty Law School Teaches Students To Violate The Law
May 16th, 2011
There have been quite a few observations that leading officials at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University Law School and the non-profit legal firm Liberty Counsel are deeply entangled in Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case. Today, we learn that the attorneys for the kidnapper are teaching their students at Liberty University to break the law when confronted with a nearly identical case.
To recap, a pastor, Timothy David Miller, was arrested on Friday in Alexandria, VA, for his role in providing plane tickets and shelter for Lisa Miller, who kidnapped 9-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins as part of a custody fight with her former civil union partner Janet Jenkins. Miller is believed to have fled to Nicaragua shortly before a Vermont court awarded primary custody to Jenkins over Miller’s refusal to cooperate with Jenkins’s visitation rights. It appears that Miller fled with considerable support from an employee and benefactor of Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, who provided for Miller’s legal defense, as well as encouragement from at least one ex-gay leader in the Lynchburg, Virginia area.
Today, Religion Dispatches associate editor Sarah Posner reports that Lisa Miller’s attorneys Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, who teach a required Foundations of Law course at Liberty University, are teaching their students that when confronted with a case like Lisa Miller’s, that the attorney has an obligation to resolve the conflict between “God’s Law” and “man’s law” by advising the client to solve the conflict through “civil disobedience”:
This student and two others, who all requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by Staver (who is also the law school’s dean), recounted the classroom discussion of civil disobedience, as well as efforts to draw comparisons between choosing “God’s law” over “man’s law” to the American revolution and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. According to one student, in the Foundations course both Staver and Lindevaldsen “espoused the opinion that in situations where God’s law is in direct contradiction to man’s law, we have an obligation to disobey it.”
…That semester’s mid-term exam, obtained by RD [see excerpts of the actual exam here], included a question based on Miller’s case asking students to describe what advice they would give her “as a friend who is a Christian lawyer.” After laying out a slanted history of the protracted legal battle, the exam asked, “Lisa needs your counsel on how to think through her legal situation and how to respond as a Christian to this difficult problem. Relying only on what we have learned thus far in class, how would you counsel Lisa?”
Students who wrote that Miller should comply with court orders received bad grades while those who wrote she should engage in civil disobedience received an A, the three students said. “People were appalled,” said one of the students, adding, “especially as lawyers to be, who are trained and licensed to practice the law—to disobey that law, that seemed completely counterintuitive to all of us.”
Some of the students who got an “A” on that exam write that the client should engage in civil disobedience and leave the country. The student added, “I knew that I needed to write that.” Some students worry that as more people learn what is being taught at Liberty University, that lawyers who are Liberty grads will be “laughed out of the courtroom.” A painting of Mat Staver hangs in “Revolutionary Hall,” which also commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Mother Teresa and others.
If one wonders where Lisa Miller got the idea and support necessary to flee to Nicaragua, look no further than her own attorneys.