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Posts for June, 2013

Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver: Recognizing People’s Marriages Is Just Like Slavery, Eugenics and the Japanese Internment

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2013

They’re still chattering. Via Right Wing Watch:

I’m very dissapointed in this decision. I think this decision represents a line that the court has crossed into illegitimacy. We’ve seen this before in its history, where it decided the Dred Scott decision, which was an illigitimate decision; the Korematsu decision which was the Japanese interment decision; the Buck v. Bell decision that says its okay to force people to be sterilized, an illegitimate decision. All of which we say were dark spots in the Court’s history. I think today’s decision falls into that same category. This decision is by five justices that cut the tether between themselves and the Constitution. They are in their own fantasy world that there is somehow an equal protection right to mame-sex marriage.

Speaking of illegitimate: Mat Staver founder of Liberty Counsel. He’s also a vice president at Liberty university and the dean of its law school, which teaches his law students should ignore the law counsel their clients to break the law in favor of “God’s Law.” And according to a RICO lawsuit filed last year connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school practices what he teaches.

Being Gay At Falwell’s University

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2013

Can you imagine what that must have been like? Go ahead… imagine it. Then read Brandon Ambrisono’s account in The Atlantic of his time there, asking, “Why would I, the world’s most hypersexual fag, come to Jerry Falwell’s university?!” It turns out it’s probably a bit different from what you imagined:

Many of us view the world as an ugly place with a few beautiful redeeming characteristics. Unfortunately, that’s also how we view humans. But what I learned at Liberty was that this idea is the exact opposite of reality: The world and the people in it are really wonderful with just a smidge of ugliness about them. I think the really vocal anti-gay Christians display this smidge, but I also think the really vocal anti-Christian gays display it as well. Not tolerating someone for his narrow-mindedness is perhaps the epitome of intolerance. I learned from my time at Liberty that this bigotry happens on both sides: not only were there some Christians who wanted to stone some gays, but there were even some gays who wanted to stone a few Christians.

Pastor Sentenced in Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping Conspiracy

Jim Burroway

March 5th, 2013

Kenneth Miller

Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller was sentenced to 27 months in prison for helping Lisa Miller violate a court custody order requiring that she turn over then- seven-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins to the child’s other mother, Janet Jenkins. Instead of complying with the 20o9 court order, Miller fled to central America and went into hiding. According to an FBI investigation, her flight across international borders was aided by several pastors and personnel from Liberty Council and Liberty University.

Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa Miller) was found guilty last August. The pastor of the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect in Stuart’s Draft, Va, who is also one of many defendants in a RICO lawsuit, was defiant in yesterday’s hearing:

During a two-hour sentencing hearing, Miller told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III he couldn’t promise he would not commit again aid in international parental kidnapping…. “I give myself unto you to do with me as you see fit,” an obviously emotional Miller told the judge in a courtroom packed with the same supporters who later sang with him outside.

Sessions said he admired Miller for the depth of his convictions, but he could not allow him to choose God’s law over his country’s, saying the pastor had helped deprive Isabella of Jenkins’ love.

Kenneth Miller’s sentence will likely be put on hold while the case is appealed, a process which could take years.

Liberty University’s law school, which is also named the RICO lawsuit, teaches its students to advise their future clients to disregard civil law if it conflicts with “God’s law.” Lisa Miller’s attorneys, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, are both professors at Liberty University’s Law School. Staver is also the school’s dean and head of Liberty Counsel.

In last August’s trial, prosecutors showed that Kenneth Miller arranged the purchase of airline tickets to Nicaragua for Lisa Miller and Isabella, dressed them in traditional Mennonite clothing for their trip to the Toronto airport, and arranged for Mennonites in Nicaragua to meet them and take them into hiding.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins turns eleven next month.

Mat Staver Reacts

Jim Burroway

November 8th, 2012

The Deaon of Liberty University Law School says elections don’t matter:

The event we have just witnessed was far more than a general election – it was a referendum on the soul of America. We grieve today like we have lost a friend or a close relative. Millions of Americans looked evil in the eye and adopted it. Some Christian observers called the Democratic Party platform for 2012 a “Romans 1 Platform,” and they were right. Abortion, same-sex marriage, and immorality carried the day.

God is not through with our nation! God calls us to remain faithful, no matter the consequences. We might be a Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany who never lived to see the fruit of his faithful labor. We might be a Wilberforce in England who saw the fruit of his labor (the abolition of slavery and reformation of morals), but died soon after, never getting the chance to enjoy the results. We might even be a David who stood up against popular opinion and defeated a giant who blasphemed God Almighty.

We have a higher calling than the world. Our calling and our values do not depend on a survey or an election. Whether we are on the verge of revival or are soon to face the death chamber makes no difference in how we respond or how we act. Our obedience is to Christ and to Christ alone!

Not a surprising stand for him to take. His law school teaches his law students to ignore the law — and even counsel clients to break the law — in favor of “God’s Law.” And according to a RICO lawsuit filed in August connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school practices what he preaches.

RICO Suit Filed Against Liberty University and Others Over Isabella Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2012

Yesterday, Mennonite minister Kenneth Miller was convicted of aiding and abetting the abduction of Isabella Miller-Jenkins by her mother, Lisa Miller, who fled to Nicaragua with Isabella in violation of a court order transferring custody of Isabella to her former partner Janet Jenkins. (Kenneth Miller is reportedly not related to Lisa Miller.) During the trial, jurors heard testimony which revealed a wide-ranging conspiracy to illegally transport Lisa Miller and Isabella to Nicaragua, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. That conspiracy included several people, including those with ties to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University

While the jury was deliberating, Janet Jenkins filed a lawsuit (PDF: 415KB/17 pages) with the U.S. District Court in Vermont under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), naming the following as defendants in an alleged international conspiracy to facilitate the kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins:

  • Kenneth L. Miller (No relation to Lisa Miller)
  • Lisa Ann Miller f/k/a Lisa Miller Jenkins
  • Timothy D. Miller (No relation to Lisa Miller)
  • Andrew Yoder, individually and as an agent for Christian AID Ministries, Inc.
  • Christian AID Ministries Inc.
  • Response Unlimited, Inc.
  • Philip Zodhiates, individually and as an agent for Response Unlimited, Inc.
  • Victoria Hyden f/k/a/ Victoria Zodhiates, individually and as an agent for both Repsonse Unlimited, Inc and Liberty University School of Law and its related ministry, Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • Liberty University School of Law and its related ministry, Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • Linda M Wall, individually and as an agent for Thomas Road Baptist Church.
  • Douglas Wright

The filing ties these names together in a remarkably detailed timeline in its charge against the defendants. Some of the info in this document have been reported before, and some of it appears to have come from the FBI’s original criminal complaint against Timithy Miller. The lawsuit alleges that by late summer of 2009, Lisa Miller, who had moved to Virginia with the assistance of Thomas Road Baptist Church:

35. On September 19, 2009, two days before her departure for Nicaragua, Lisa Miller and Isabella travelled back to Winchester, VA. During this trip, Lisa arranged to meet Defendant Wright in a parking lot so that she and Isabella could say “good-bye” to him. Defendant Wright testified under oath that by good-bye, he understood that Lisa and Isabella were leaving and he would not be seeing them again. At this meeting, Lisa Miller also asked Defendant Wright to help her dispose of some personal items. Pastor Wright understood that Lisa Miller would be taking Isabella away, and he did nothing to notify law enforcement of the situation

36. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, on September 21,2009, Lisa Miller and Isabella were transported, in disguise as Amish-Mennonites, to the Canadian border by Philip Zodhiates and at least one other Response Unlimited, Inc. employee. Lisa Miller and Isabella crossed the border at the Rainbow Bridge in a taxi in the early morning hours of September 22, 2009, just days prior to the contact ordered by the Rutland Family Court in its September 2009 Interim Order.

37. In the days prior to September 22, 2009, Lisa Miller and Philip Zodhiates conspired with Kenneth Miller, a member of the Virginia Beachy Amish-Mennonite Brotherhood with whom both Victoria and Philip Zodhiates were acquainted, to arrange the purchase of plane tickets from Canada to Nicaragua for Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins. Kenneth Miller also arranged for a Canadian member of the Brotherhood to transport Lisa Miller from an Ontario Hotel to the Toronto airport. Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins flew to Mexico, then El Salvador, and then met Timothy Miller in Nicaragua. Timothy Miller was instructed by Kenneth Miller to purchase plane tickets for Lisa Miller and Isabella, and used his mother-in-law’s credit card to do so. Several days later, Kenneth Miller used cash to send a money order to reimburse Timothy Miller’s mother-in-law. This was done anonymously, and in such a way as to avoid detection in a clear effort to avoid the September visit, and the anticipated transfer of custody.

Timothy Miller was arrested in April, 2011 and charged with aiding in the removal of a child from the U.S. and retaining a child with intent to obstruct parental rights. Charges were later dropped in exchange for Timothy Miller’s cooperation, but it was during his arrest that the FBI’s criminal complaint detailed a wider network of conspirators in the kidnapping saga. Some of the information revealed in that criminal complaint makes its appearance in this lawsuit, but with a few additional details tying it all together:

38. Kenneth Miller was a pastor at the Pilgrim Christian Fellowship in Stuart’s Draft, VA and a leader within the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Community. He was also employed at his family’s garden center, Millmont Greenhouses, Inc., in Stuart’s Draft, VA.

39. Starting in September 2009, Lisa Miller and Isabella lived near or among the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Community in Nicaragua, hereinafter the (“Nicaragua Brethren”). This was all done in secret and in such a way as to avoid detection by United States authorities and Janet Jenkins. Lisa Miller would eventually go into “hiding” with Isabella among the Nicaragua Brethren, but would continue to communicate with members of Thomas Road Baptist Church with the assistance of Mr. Zodhiates, Kenneth Miller and members of the Nicaragua Brethren. Lisa Miller went by the name “Sarah” and Isabella was called “Lydia” while in Nicaragua.

41. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, in 2009 Victoria Zodhiates (now Hyden) was an employee of Response Unlimited, Inc., and also a “student worker” at Liberty University School of Law. On information and belief, Victoria Zodhiates sent an email during this time period to her co-workers at the law school requesting donations for supplies to send to Lisa Miller to enable her to remain outside the country. Lisa Miller’s attorney, Matthew Staver was the Dean of the Law School and Ms. Zodhiates’s boss. Matthew Staver and Philip Zodhiates were also personal acquaintances at this time. On September 20, 2009, both Philip Zodhiates and Victoria Hyden called Lisa Miller’s father, Terry Miller in Tennessee to assist in arranging her and Isabella’s transportation from a Walmart parking lot in Lynchburg, Virginia, to Waynesboro, Virginia, from whence they would depart for Canada and Nicaragua the next day.

New to this lawsuit is the allegation which, if proven true, would directly implicate Thomas Road Baptist Church as part of the conspiracy:

42. In early November, 2009, elders of the Thomas Road Baptist Church packed up the personal belongings of Lisa Miller in two bags. These bags were picked up from Lynchburg, Virginia by Philip Zodhiates who arranged to have the bags transported to Nicaragua by sending them with his son’s school teacher who was taking some children on a mission trip to Managua. Philip Zodhiates arranged for the teacher, John Collmus, to deliver the bags at the airport to Timothy Miller. The bags also contained some supplies for Lisa Miller, such as peanut butter.

The lawsuit also includes the incident which we reported in December, 2009, when Deborah Thurman,  the facilitator of an apparently defunct ex-gay ministry in Lynchburg, VA, called The Formers, posted a threat of civil violence on her web site. The complaint also includes the revelation that Lisa Miller’s attorneys, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, both professors at Liberty University’s Law School, provided a case history nearly identical to the Miller-Jenkins case and instructed their students that the proper course of action would be to engage in “civil disobedience” and defy the court order.

The problem with conspiracies is that the more people who are involved, the greater the chance is that one of them will have a bit too big of a mouth and draw attention to the operation. In addition to Thurman’s reckless blog post, another member of the conspiracy felt compelled to brag as well. In 2008, Linda Wall and other members of Thomas Road Baptist Church, had formed the Protect Isabella Coalition (PIC), when it became clear to them that Virginia law would not prevent Janet Jenkins from gaining custody of Isabella. PIC allegedly was the nucleus of the movement that morphed into the larger conspiracy. According to the lawsuit, Linda Wall essentially admitted that there was an active kidnapping conspiracy and that she as a part of it.

51. In January 2010, Linda Wall appeared on television with several members of the PIC and TRBC [Thomas Road Baptist Church], including TRBC’s Pastor for Outreach and Assimilation Tipton Killingsworth, to endorse the kidnapping. In discussing her role, Wall compared herself to Harriet Tubman, and suggested she would take similar actions with regard to more children from same-sex families. Pastor Killingsworth also publically supported Lisa Miller’s actions and threatened ongoing kidnapping activity. He wrote in an internet chat on February 22, 2010:

“No one has been “kidnapped. “It may come to that as when the Pharoah tried to do the same thing to the Israelites in Egypt. Just as it was necessary for Moses to be in the basket, that might be necessary for Izzy but time will tell. As you’ve said, Lisa is certainly Izzy’s refuge from the VT law. “

52. Defendant Wall also wrote on Facebook that if anyone knew of Lisa and Isabella’s whereabouts, they should not tell anyone. She also made several phone calls to law enforcement to instruct them that they should not look for Lisa and Isabella.

This just carries us to 2010. There is so much more, including allegations of money laundering, Liberty University Law School employees who were fired, and Law School employees (the same ones perhaps?) who were “too intimidated to come forward to law enforcement for fear of angering Dean Staver and losing their jobs.” If Janet Jenkins’s lawyer has the proof to back up these allegations — and it appears that much of it is already available from various criminal complaints and Kenneth Miller’s trial testimony — then the trial promises to be an exceptionally enlightening affair. I can hardly wait.

Minister Found Guilty of Aiding Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2012

Kenneth Miller

A jury in Burlington, Vermont has found Kenneth Miller guilty of aiding and abetting international kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, now ten years old, whose mother, Lisa Miller, fled to Nicaragua after losing 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.

The jury deliberated for only a few hours before finding Kenneth Miller guilty:

Federal prosecutors say Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, helped orchestrate Lisa Miller’s flight to Canada and Nicaragua in 2009 with her daughter out of Christian solidarity with her decision to reject homosexuality and her former partner. The two Millers are not related.

…Joshua Autrey, a lawyer for Kenneth Miller, did not dispute evidence about his client’s role in organizing Lisa Miller’s secretive flight days before a court-ordered visitation with Jenkins.

Instead, the defense attorney offered a nuanced legal argument that his client did not know about her intent to violate Jenkins’ visitation rights. The attorney said Kenneth Miller helped her leave the country ahead of an anticipated Vermont family court ruling granting full custody to Jenkins.

While the jury was deliberating, Janet Jenkins filed a lawsuit against both Millers and others associated with the case.

Kenneth Miller, who is a pastor of the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect, contacted other Mennonite pastors to drive Lisa Miller and Isabelle to Canada where they caught a flight to Central America. According to court testimony, Kenneth Miller was careful to ensure that the Canadian fight did not touch down on American soil, undermining his claim that he didn’t know that Lisa Miller was under a court order. His claims were further undermined when the Canadian Mennonite pastor, Ervin Horst, testified that he refused to cross into the United States to drive the pair across the border into Canada. Miller and Miller-Jenkins arrived in Canada in a taxi while wearing Mennonite clothing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and her fugitive mother Lisa Miller

Other Mennonites in Nicaragua picked them up at the airport there and made living arrangements for the pair. Prosecutors say that Lisa and Isabella have changed their names in Nicaragua to Sarah and Lydia. In addition to the Mennonite accomplices, jurors also heard about a collaboration from a Virginia businessman by the name of Philip Zodhiates:

Telephone records suggest that Mr. Zodhiates was in touch with Ms. Miller for months and drove her and her daughter to the Canadian border for their escape.

Mr. Zodhiates has not been indicted, and declined to comment.

Telephone records also indicated that as he drove home from the border, Mr. Zodhiates tried to call a cellphone number registered to Liberty Counsel, an evangelical legal group.

That cellphone number has sometimes been used by Mathew D. Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, dean of the Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va., and a leader of Ms. Miller’s defense team.

In an e-mail Tuesday, Mr. Staver said that the phone number in question had been widely circulated as a contact number for Liberty Counsel’s public relations office and that he had no knowledge of Ms. Miller’s flight and had never discussed her case with Mr. Zodhiates.

Zodhiates has been identified as a prominent financial backer for Liberty University who, according to an FBI report, owns a beach house in Nicaragua where Lisa and Isabella had been staying. The FBI report held that Zodhiates had requested that his daughter, Victoria Hyden, “disseminate a request to get Lisa Miller supplies.” Hyden just happens to be an administrative assistant for Liberty University’s School of Law’s financial aid department.

Kenneth Miller faces up to three years imprisonment.

Romney Talks Marriage at Liberty U, With a Shout-Out to Rick Santorum

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2012

Gov. Mitt Romney gave a shout-out to Sen. Rick Santorum during today’s commencement address at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA:

The power of these values is evidenced by a Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention.  For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%.  But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor.  Culture matters.

As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate.  So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage.  Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.

Those were just two of Romney’s applause lines today, the second one earning him an standing-O. By the way, when I typed that last sentence, I miss-typed “applause” and my spellcheck suggested changing it to “appease.” My iMac may be trying to insert its own commentary into this post, but I think it’s not as smart as it thinks it is. Not if the AFA’s Bryan Fischer is any indication:

Bryan Fischer: "Mitt's speech at Liberty: did not hurt him with evangelicals, did not help him. Needle didn't budge."

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 12

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Mitt Romney Gives Commencement Address at Liberty University: Lynchburg, VA. Following in the well-worn footsteps of John McCain, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan (not to mention Glenn Beck), presumptive GOP presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney will deliver the commencement address to the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University today.

The school’s decision to extend the invitation to the Mormon nominee sparked a backlash among some students, requiring Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. to intervene and explain that the “purpose of having a prominent Commencement speaker is not to promote the speaker or his views but rather to inspire and challenge the graduates and showcase Liberty and its mission.” Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that if Romney emphasizes his views “about how every child has a right, a God-given right, to have a mother and a father, and you can’t separate the financial malaise we are in from the moral malaise,” then he should do just fine. Given Obama’s embrace of marriage equality and revelations of Romney’s own gay-bashing incident in high school, his speech today will certainly be closely watched. The commencement ceremony begins today at 10:00 a.m. EDT.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend:Angers, France; Bergen, Norway; Brussels, Belgium; Chisinau, Moldova; Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; New Hope, PA; Northhampton, MA and Uppsala, Sweden.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Ohunquit, ME and Stockton, CA.

Other Events This Weekend: Boston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Boston, MA; Beach Bear Weekend, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Big Horn Rodeo, Las Vegas, NV Paradise Festival, Oahu, HI.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Time Magazine Reports on the First Gay Students Group: 1967. “Equal rights” was a common catchphrase on college campuses in 1967 as students across the country became politically engaged in issues of racial equality and women’s rights. Time magazine reported on another group that had formed to protest discrimination and injustice when Columbia University recognized the Student Homophile League, making the campus the first major university in the country to offer recognition to a gay rights student group. Getting the group officially recognized was a challenge; in 1967, no gay or lesbians students felt that it was safe to come out:

The University Committee on Student Organizations at first denied the league recognition, since it refused to name its organizers The dozen interested students then shrewdly enlisted eight officers of other campus organizations, all presumably heterosexual, to sign as sponsors, under a university rule that their names need not be made public. The committee then decided that it had no legal reason not to grant the group official status.

While declining to identify himself or other members by name (“We would be losing jobs for the rest of our lives”), the league’s chairman insists the group is educational, not social, and “plans no mixers with Harvard.” So far, Columbia students seem little interested in joining. Shrugged Sophomore Elliot Stern: “As long as they don’t bother the rest of us, it’s O.K.” The league’s biggest problem will probably be its self-imposed secrecy. As some students asked: How do you treat them equally when you don’t know who they are?

[Thanks to a BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of this report.]

California Decriminalizes Homosexuality: 1975. Efforts to repeal California’s Sodomy law began in 1969 when San Francisco Assemblyman Willie Brown introduced what became known as the Brown Bill into the lower House. He reintroduced the bill every year until its passage in 1975. That year, the bill advanced through the House only to run into trouble in the Senate. The vote stood at a 20-20 tie when Senate Majority Leader George Moscone (who later became mayor of San Francisco) locked the chamber’s doors until Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymallyin could fly in from Denver to deliver the tie-breaking vote. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law when it finally reached his desk.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Katharine Hepburn: 1907. Star of Morning Glory, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion In Winter, and On Golden Pond among countless others, she holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins — four out of twelve nominations. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of suffragist Katharine Martha Houghton (who co-founded Planned Parenthood) and Dr. Thomas Hepburn, a urologist from Virginia. He insisted that his daughters learn to play tennis and golf, to ride and to swim, an activity she especially enjoyed. She attended Bryn Mawr College where she earned a degree in history and philosophy. She also earned a suspension for smoking and breaking curfew: after dark, she would swim naked in the college’s “Cloisters” fountain.

Her background and drive are what make Hepburn widely admired today, but she was very unconventional and controversial in her day. She disdained makeup and often went to interviews dressed in men’s suits, saying they were more comfortable. She was straightforward, outspoken, and unabashedly intellectual, earning her the nickname, “Katharine of Arrogance.” She was also fearless. While filming The African Queen on location with Humphrey Bogart and director John Houston, she asked to go along when the two went big game hunting. Houston described her as a “Diana of the Hunt” who was able to shoot with the best of them. She recognized no limits. “I can remember when walking as a child, it was not customary to say you were fatigued. It was customary to complete the goal of the expedition.”

Bruce Voeller: 1934. Where to begin? He was a tireless gay rights advocate who co-founded the National Gay Task Force in 1973 and served as its director until 1978. He was a talented biologist, having studied biochemistry, developmental biology and genetics. That put him on the front lines as a researcher for a new disease that others started calling Gay-Related Immune Disorder (GRID), a name that he challenged for its medical inaccuracy. It is Voeller who is credited for giving the new disease the more accurate name of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Voeller had married Dr. Kytja Scott Voeller, whom he met in grad school. Together they had three children. He came out in 1964 when he was 29, and the resulting divorce was messy. Voeller had to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court to gain child visitation rights. By then, he was heavily involved in the resurgent gay rights movement. He was among the founders of the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969 and served as its third president. But where the GAA was more interested in street activism, he sought to bring gay activism into the mainstream of political discourse. In 1973, he left the GAA and founded NGTF (later, NGLTF), and built it into a nation advocacy organization. As NGTF director, he attended a historic White House meeting in 1977 with thirteen other LGBT advocates to raise awareness about discriminatory laws and policies.

In 1978, Voeller left he NGTF and established the Mariposa Education and Research Foundation to conduct human sexuality research. Among his concerns was that books, papers, and other ephemera on the LGBT movement was easily lost or destroyed, posing a danger that LGBT history itself would vanish. So he created a network of volunteers to search for and gather as much as possible, and that extensive collection was donated to the Cornell University Library in 1988. With the advent of AIDS, Voeller returned to his biologist’s roots and the Foundation shifted its focus to reducing the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. His 1989 study warned that mineral oil lubricants caused rapid deterioration of latex condoms, leading to a shift to water-based sexual lubricants. He pioneered the use of nonoxynol-9 as a spermacide and topical virus-transmission preventative,, and he studied the reliability of various brands of condoms in disease prevention. The results of that study even appeared in Consumer Reports, making the information widely available and accessible to the public. He was conducting studies on viral leakage for the (then) recently approved “female” condom when he passed away in 1994 of an AIDS-related illness.

Jared Polis: 1975. Polis earned his fortune when he founded American Information Systems, an Internet access, web hosting and application service provider. He also co-founded an online greeting card company and an online florist. After selling those companies during the height of the dot-com bubble, he used his wealth to found the Jared Polis Foundation in 2000, with the mission to “create opportunities for success through education and access to technology.” The foundation has refurbished and donated more than 3,500 computers each year to schools and other non-profits. He also founded two charter schools for at-risk students, and another school for older immigrant youths. He founded another school in Denver to serve youth who are homeless or living in unstable conditions.

When he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Colorado’s Second District in 2008, he was the first openly gay man to be elected as a freshmen (all the others came out while already in office). He is also the first openly gay parent in Congress. As congressman, he has been a tireless advocate for LGBT equality. In 2011, he launched the Fearless Campaign, dedicated to “empowering our political leaders with the moral courage it takes to vote fearlessly on the politically charged issues of today, regardless of the perceived political risk.”

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Mat Staver: Gays Threaten Survival of Western Civilization

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011

Mat Staver, head of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University’s law school, appeared on an American Family Association radio program this morning just before introducing GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum at the Values Voter Summit. Staver told AFA Radio that “the sexual anarchy with the agenda of the homosexual movement” threatens the survival of Western Civilization:

YouTube Preview Image

Staver: We are facing the survival of western values, western civilization. And I think those survival, whether they win or lose, what will the future of America be will be determined in our lifetime…. One of the most significant threats to our freedom is in the area of sexual anarchy with the agenda of the homosexual movement, the so-called LGBT movement. It does several things, first of all it undermines family and the very first building block of our society, but secondly, it’s a zero sum game as well and it’s a direct assault on our religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Do you really want to know what threatens the survival of Western Civilization? Well, if one of the great pillars of Western Civilization is the rule of law, then Staver’s Liberty Counsel and law school pose a far greater threat to Western Civilization than treating all people equally. Members of Staver’s organizations have been implicated in facilitating the kidnapping of then- seven-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins, in defiance of a court order ordering Isabella’s mother, Lisa Miller, to turn custody of the child over to her other mother from a civil union, Janet Jenkins, after Miller refused to follow to previous court orders granting visitation rights. There is considerable evidence that Miller may be following the advice of legal counsel in defying the courts’ rulings. Teachers at Staver’s law school presented a case study that was remarkably similar to the Miller-Jenkins case, and taught students that, as future lawyers, they should encourage their clients to chose “God’s law” over “man’s law” and defy the legal system. Students who responded on an exam that the client should follow the court order were given bad grades, while students who responded that the client should be urged to break the law got A’s.

If there is a threat to Western Civilization, it’s posed by those who would impose legal anarchy to further their narrow religious agenda in open defiance of the law.

Liberty Law School Teaches Students To Violate The Law

Jim Burroway

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.

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.