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Posts for March, 2013

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.

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.

Miller-Jenkins kidnapping conspirator faces trial

Timothy Kincaid

August 7th, 2012

From the Chronicle:

Eleven women and three men were impaneled to hear the case against Mennonite Pastor Kenneth Miller, accused of helping a woman flee the United States with her daughter rather than share custody of the child with her former lesbian partner.

Miller, 46, of Stuarts Draft, Va., is charged with aiding in international kidnapping. A conviction carries a maximum prison term of three years. The jury was selected Tuesday and court will resume with opening statements Wednesday.

The case, which we have covered comprehensively, involves a couple who got a civil union in Vermont, planned a family through artificial insemination, raised a child for years, and then broke up. Lisa Miller, the birth mother, fled to Virginia, hooked up with Thomas Road Baptist Church (Jerry Falwell’s church), renounced her orientation and claimed a new heterosexual Christian status, and refused to let the other mother visit. After numerous attempts to get her to comply with the courts, including trips to the Vermont and Virginia Supreme Courts, the frustrated family law judge awarded custody of Isabella Miller-Jenkins to Janet Jenkins. Rather than follow the law, Miller – with the help of various people named “Miller” – kidnapped her daughter and fled the country.

Miller’s team is expected to argue that the order changing custody was not yet filed when he conspired to whisk Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins out of the country.

Which makes me wonder… is it Mennonite theology to try and wiggle out of responsibility based on a filing date? I would think that either a man of God would either stand for the morality of his position or would recognize his behavior as immoral and seek forgiveness and face punishment. I wouldn’t think that “standing up for Christ” was mostly about arguing about filing dates.

But, then again, I’m not Mennonite so I guess I wouldn’t know.

Criminal Complaint In Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping Implicates Anti-Gay Web Site

Jim Burroway

December 27th, 2011

Last October, we learned that Federal authorities have dropped charges against Mennonite minister Timothy “Timo” Miller, who was arrested last spring and charged with aiding and abetting in the kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, specifically for purchasing airline tickets for the Isabella and Lisa Miller to Nicaragua. Miller, who is not related to Lisa Miller or to Isabella, was reportedly cooperating with the ongoing investigation into the kidnapping. Since then, another Mennonite minister, Kenneth Miller, was arrested and charged with aiding in Isabela’s international kidnapping conspiracy. The Advocate looked into the affidavit against Kenneth Miller, and discovered that the conspirators suggested using Life Site News, an unofficial Catholic anti-gay web site, could be used as an intermediary for communications:

In one November 2010 email exchange from addresses linked to Kenneth Miller and Timo Miller, Kenneth Miller allegedly expressed concern about the whereabouts of Lisa Miller and Isabella. Referencing an October 2010 news article on Lez Get Real reporting that Miller and her daughter were in Quito, Ecuador, Kenneth Miller wrote to Timo Miller in Nicaragua, “Is she still in the same country that she was? Can you get a hold of her?” The email was written in a mix of English and Pennsylvania German, a dialect spoken by some Mennonites.

“When we still want, we can send a letter about her through this, and we can get it mailed from another country over here. We can send it to a site that’s called lifesitenews,” Kenneth Miller continued in the email, according to a translation by an FBI contract linguist. “That’s a way that to get word to [unintelligible] friends. What do you think of that?”

The affidavit shows that Miller appeared surprised by the reference to Quito, Ecuador. “I don’t believe it,” he wrote, “but have you heard anything like that? Is she still in the same country that she was?…” Melanie Nathan, who had been an author at LezGetReal but left before it was revealed that the blog’s main writer was a hoax, now says that she believes the story she wrote placing Isabella at Quito was based on fraudulent “tips” passed to her by LezGetReal’s fake lesbian “Paula Brooks” (real name: Bill Graber). That would explain Miller’s apparent astonishment about reports of Isabella’s whereabouts and his desire to learn whether she was “still in the same country that she was,” namely Nicaragua.

The Advocate, which posted its story shortly before Christmas, notes that Life Site News has written extensively about the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping:

With headlines such as “Lisa Miller’s Daughter Appeared Traumatized by Visits With Lesbian ‘Mother,’” to “Ex-Lesbian Fighting for Custody of Own Child Against ‘Civil Union’ Partner,” Life Site News’ coverage of the multiyear custody battle between Miller and her former partner, Janet Jenkins, has been extensive. It includes forceful commentary in support of Miller’s conduct—a warrant for her arrest was issued in April 2010—as well as Timo Miller’s alleged involvement in the kidnapping. In a December 1 Life Site News op-ed titled “Cowardice: The State and Homosexualist Powers Against a Former Lesbian and Her Daughter,” Brazilian antigay activist Julio Severo characterized Lisa Miller and her daughter as victims in a perceived war against religious freedom. Jenkins, meanwhile, was cast as a predator and cynical “lesbian activist.”

Other anti-gay organizations have also been implicated in the kidnapping case. An FBI investigation revealed that Miller fled with considerable support from an employee and benefactor of Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, which provided for Miller’s legal defense.

A Millerial conspiracy

Timothy Kincaid

December 7th, 2011
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Lisa is wanted for kidnapping.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

When Lisa Miller fled the country with her daughter Isabella Jenkins-Miller, I wondered how long it would be before we saw either of them. But in April of this year progress was made on the case. The FBI reported that it had determined that Miller had fled to Nicaragua and had been assisted there by Mennonite missionaries.

When Timothy (“Timo”) Miller, the Mennonite missionary, was arrested for for his role in providing plane tickets and shelter for Lisa Miller, it was noted that he was not related. The last name similarity was just coincidental. And I was willing to buy it.

But today we read of a new arrest (Fox)

A Virginia man who federal prosecutors say helped a woman leave the country with her daughter so she wouldn’t have to turn custody of the girl over to her former lesbian partner surrendered Tuesday to face charges he aided in international parental kidnapping.

A complaint unsealed Tuesday said Kenneth L. Miller, 46, of Stuarts Draft, Va., arranged passage for Lisa Miller to travel to Canada before flying with her daughter in September 2009 to Nicaragua, where she was sheltered for a time by a group of Mennonite missionaries.

Okay. I’m sorry. That’s just too many Millers to be coincidental.

So what’s going on here? I have a hypothesis. And if I’m right, it was rather clever of Lisa’s supporters.

If you want to sneak someone out of the country, you want to be inconspicuous. You want to raise as little attention as possible. But if you buy tickets for someone of the same name, it raises no attention. And if you are a Mennonite missionary, it seems natural that someone with your last name comes visiting. By being assisted by other people named Miller, Lisa could disappear.

Now I can’t claim that there’s a Millerial conspiracy (sorry, Millerite was already taken). But if so, then you have to wonder just how Lisa Miller came in contact with these other non-related Millers. One would almost have to have access to a large data base from which to solicit people named Miller for their support.

Kidnapping Charges Dropped As Suspect Cooperates In Miller-Jenkins Case

Jim Burroway

October 31st, 2011

The Advocate is reporting that kidnapping charges have been dropped against Mennonite minister Timothy “Timo” Miller, who was arrested last spring and charged with aiding and abetting in the kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins. Miller, who is not related to Lisa Miller or to Isabella, is reportedly cooperating with the ongoing investigation into the kidnapping:

In the Friday order, U.S. Attorney Tristram J. Coffin dropped the grand jury indictment against Timo Miller in the kidnapping.“In light of Timothy Miller’s role in the international parental [kidnapping], and his agreement to cooperate with the investigation of the United States government, including an agreement to return to the United States and to provide truthful testimony as requested in any proceedings in this matter, further prosecution is not in the interests of the United States at this time,” the order, signed by Coffin and U.S. district judge Christina M. Reiss, read.

Miller’s passport has since been returned. U.S. Attorney Coffin and Miller’s lead attorney, Jeff Conrad, could not be immediately reached for comment. Reached by phone, Jenkins’ attorney, Sarah Star, declined comment.

Miller was arrested in Alexandria, VA, for his role in providing plane tickets and shelter for Lisa Miller, who kidnapped Isabella Miller-Jenkins, now nine years old, 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. An FBI investigation revealed that Miller fled with considerable support from an employee and benefactor of Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, who provided for Miller’s legal defense, and with the encouragement from at least one ex-gay leader in the Lynchburg, Virginia area.

A book review: Only One Mommy

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2011

Here is the review I offered to Amazon for Only One Mommy: A Woman’s Battle for Her Life, Her Daughter, and Her Freedom: The Lisa Miller Story by Janet Miller’s attorney, Rena Lindevaldsen.

In 1991 Sally Fields starred in Not Without My Daughter, the story of a woman whose Muslim husband fled with their daughter to a Iran in order to have sole custody and control over the child. He believed that he should have sole decision making authority and his religion taught him that he wasn’t subject to the American judicial system.

Rena Lindevaldsen has now stood that story on it’s head. No longer the sole territory of Islamist states and radical Muslim extremists, Christians are now justifying kidnapping in the name of their faith.

In September 2010, Janet Miller absconded with Isabella Jenkens-Miller and disappeared so as to avoid court-ordered visitation. Her church, Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Hill Baptist Church, encouraged her to ignore the orders of the court because Linda Jenkins was a lesbian and, frankly, they don’t believe lesbians are entitled to the same rights as Baptists.

And Liberty Counsel (part of the Falwell empire) fought a court battle designed to delay and obstruct justice. So obvious were their efforts that a judge finally ordered that Isabella be turned over to Linda’s custody. But Janet was gone by then and Rena Lindevaldsen, her lead counsel, had “no idea where she went.”

Then in April 2011, Janet was discovered living in El Salvador in a home owned by the father of one of Rena’s employees.

And now Rena has penned her version of the story. Written from the perspective of the fugitive, Lindevaldsen justifies parental kidnapping and flouting the American judicial system. Because, as Rena teachers her laws students, Christians are subject to God’s laws and not Man’s laws.

This book should be seen as a warning. In the United States we tell ourselves that we believe in freedom, that we respect differing faiths, that religion does not dictate to those who don’t believe their doctrines. But there is a growing movement – one that mirrors the Islamists in the Middle East – of people who believe that their religious faith entitles them to ‘dominion’ over non-believers, over the government, over society, and over you.

Rena is but one voice pleading their case. It is imperative that we listen – and when tempted to think, “they don’t REALLY mean that do they?”, the answer is yes. They do.

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.

Pastor Arrested in Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping Case Free on Bond

Jim Burroway

April 25th, 2011

Timothy David Miller leaving the courtroom on a $25,000 bond (WCAX-TV)

According to the AP:

A Christian missionary charged with helping a woman involved in a custody dispute with her former lesbian partner abscond to Central America with the couple’s daughter is free on $25,000 bond. …[Timothy David] Miller is charged with aiding in the removal of a child from the U.S. and retaining a child with intent to obstruct parental rights.

WCAX-TV in Burlington reports that  Miller was charged with aiding in an international kidnapping, which carries a potential three-year prison term. He will be back in court for a probable cause hearing on May 10th.

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.

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.

Falwell’s empire catches FBI attention over Jenkins-Miller kidnapping

Timothy Kincaid

April 22nd, 2011

The FBI has released a criminal complaint in association with its arrest of Timo Miller for his efforts in sneaking Lisa Miller and her absconded daughter Isabella out of the country. Miller has been traced to Nicaragua, and has been receiving shelter and care from individuals affiliated with Liberty University, Thomas Road Baptist Church, and Liberty Counsel.

For example, the complaint notes that “one of the elders of the local church” (presumably Thomas Road) had packed items to be sent to Miller in Nicaragua. Further, the complaint notes the connection between the man who owns the house Miller has been staying in and Liberty University.

It is too early to know who knew what, but this does raise again the possibility that Isabella’s kidnapping and Lisa’s criminal flight out of the country was not organized without the knowledge of the Falwell empire.

It further raises questions about what certain individuals knew and whether they obstructed justice. For example, evidence is provided that on September 22, 2009, Miller took Isabella and flew from Canada to Mexico and then to El Salvador. On the following day she flew to Nicaragua, where they now are residing.

On December 4, 2009, Debbie Thurman posted “A Note From Lisa” which is presented as a direct message from Lisa Miller to those who support her criminal activity. Although Thurman has repeatedly claimed that she has no knowledge about Millers’ whereabouts, she has not adequately explained how she came to possess this note nearly two months after Miller fled the country.

Right Wing Watch notes that the connection to Mat Staver and Liberty counsel should trouble the organization:

How it is that Liberty Counsel’s most high profile client kidnaps her daughter and flees the country and the organization insists for more than a year that it has no idea where she is … only to have it turn out that she is reportedly living in a home owned by the father of an admin assistant in Staver’s very own office?

Arrest Made In Miller-Jenkins Custody Case

Jim Burroway

April 22nd, 2011

The Massachusetts-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) has sent out a press release announcing that an arrest has been made in custody case involving former civil union partners Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, and their daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins. GLAD points to a the Rutland Herald (pay site) article, saying that Timothy David Miller has been arrested in connection with the case.

The Washington Post picks up the thread, reporting that the FBI arrested Miller and accused him of helping Lisa Miller flee to Nicaragua with the couple’s daughter in September 2009. The relationship between Timothy and Lisa Miller is unknown at this time. Miller will appear in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont on Monday April 25.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered a Vermont civil union in 2000, and Isabella was born in 2002, with Miller as her birth mother. The couple split up in 2003 when Miller moved to Virginia, became an evangelical Christian and entered the ex-gay movement. She was initially granted custody, but Jenkins was awarded visitation rights. When Miller refused to allow Jenkins to visit their daughter, courts in Virginia and Vermont ordered Miller to surrender custody to Jenkins. Miller went into hiding at the encouragement of ex-gay activists, and failed to appear at a court ordered custody exchange on January 1, 2010.

According to GLAD’s press release, Janet Jenkins issued the following statement from her home in Vermont:

“I’m grateful to everyone in law enforcement for working so hard on finding my daughter, as well as to my attorney, Sarah Star.  I know very little at this point, but I really hope that this means that Isabella is safe and well.  I am looking forward to having my daughter home safe with me very soon.”

Attorney Sarah Star of Middlebury, who has been representing Janet, said, “It is clear that the government has been working hard on this. Janet is very pleased and we are both hopeful that this will be a step in the right direction of bringing Isabella home. At this point we need to let law enforcement do their work, and recognize that there are still steps to go.”

SCOTUS declines to hear Lisa Miller’s appeal

Timothy Kincaid

November 8th, 2010

From the Washington Post

The Supreme Court has declined to step into a lesbian custody dispute between a woman who has renounced her homosexuality and her onetime partner.

The justices on Monday turned down an appeal from Lisa Miller, the biological mother of an 8-year-old girl. Miller wanted the court to undo a Virginia court decision allowing Janet Jenkins visitation rights with the girl.

Actually it is no longer just over visitation rights. Now the courts have granted Janet Jenkins full custody. Meanwhile Lisa Miller has taken little Isabella and disappeared.

VT Supremes uphold Miller-Jenkins custody ruling

Timothy Kincaid

November 1st, 2010

The Supreme Court of Vermont has confirmed Judge Cohen’s custody order. (WaPo)

The Vermont Supreme Court says a family court was right to award custody of an 8-year-old girl to her non-biological mother in a lesbian custody case.

In a ruling released Monday, the court upheld a 2009 order giving Janet Jenkins sole custody of Isabella Miller-Jenkins. It rejected an appeal by attorneys for biological mother Lisa Miller.

It’s rather fascinating that Lisa Miller’s attorneys are continuing to act on her behalf, all while claiming that they haven’t heard from her in a year.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins may be in El Salvador

Timothy Kincaid

June 3rd, 2010
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

The attorneys for Lisa Miller, who kidnapped daughter Isabella Miller-Jenkins and fled, will be back in court this month to argue that the judge erred in reassigning custody to Janet Jenkins, Isabella’s other mother. But this may be a difficult sell, considering that Lisa and Isabella have not been seen from since last September.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were in a Civil Union living in Vermont when they decided to bring Isabella into the world. But after breaking up with Jenkins, Miller converted to conservative Christianity, decided that she was no longer a lesbian, and followed the encouragement of her fellow believers to deny Jenkins her parental rights.

Courts granted Jenkins visitation but for years Miller refused to comply and instead expressed in news media her contempt for the courts and her intention to ignore their rulings while her attorneys posted endless appeals. Eventually the US Supreme Court weighed in, upholding Jenkins’ rights and, after it was clear that Miller would never comply with visitation orders, full custody was granted to Jenkins.

But by then it was too late. Miller had disappeared with Isabella.

Her attorneys (Liberty Counsel), her church (the late Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church), Isabella’s school (affiliated with the church), and her supporters sat on her disappearance for as long as they could, providing the illusion that Lisa was still living in Virginia. It was not until December of last year that the charade fell apart and it became clear to Janet and the courts that Lisa had fled several months prior.

Now there is a report that Miller, a fugitive with an arrest warrant, may have fled to El Salvador to thwart the court in its efforts to provide for Isabella’s best interests in her custody dispute with Jenkins. (WaPo)

The girl, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, and her birth mother, Lisa Miller, failed to appear for a court-ordered custody swap in January and are believed to have flown to El Salvador last September, said attorney Sarah Star, who represents ex-partner Janet Jenkins.

Star said a Virginia police officer told her that Miller and the girl flew to El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, from Juarez, Mexico, which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Miller has no known legitimate source of income and is not believed to speak Spanish. It is highly unlikely that Miller has pulled off this disappearing act without significant involvement, if not coordination, from members of the Thomas Road Baptist Church or perhaps other anti-gay activists. Considering that they all conspired to keep her disappearance unknown, it would be interesting to know if they were complicit in Isabella’s kidnapping.

The last known contact from Lisa was through Debbie Thurman, a ex-gay activist and church friend who had been administering Lisa’s website. Debbie posted a note from Lisa on December 4, 2009, about three months after Lisa disappeared.

However, while Miller has a rich, powerful, politically connected network on her side, Jenkins is not alone in her struggle to find her daughter and bring her home. Advocates for abducted children have joined the cause.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has turned its attention to Central America, distributing photos and information about Isabella to news outlets throughout the region, apparently believing she and her birth mother moved there, Star said Thursday.

Isabella, a pigtailed 4-foot-tall blonde, is listed on the Center’s website as a victim of a family abduction who may be in the company of Miller.

I very much hope that Isabella can be found and returned to her distraught mother and that Lisa Miller will be held responsible for her crimes.

Lisa Miller is now officially a fugitive

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2010
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

On January 1, Miller was to meet Janet Jenkins, with whom her civil union has been terminated, to turn over custody of their daughter Isabella. A court in Vermont, where they were civilly united and where they resided together, had ordered visitation rights to Jenkins and, after years of refusal by Miller, determined that the only way to keep both mothers in Isabella’s life was to reassign primary custody to Jenkins. But Miller went into hiding and hasn’t been seen by her neighbors since September, and the last public communication from Miller was in December, when she passed a message to her supporters though ex-gay leader Debbie Thurman.

Last Tuesday, Judge Harrison of Bedford County Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court chose not to issue an arrest warrant for Lisa Miller. He determined that it could not be proven that Miller was aware of the court order to transfer custody, so he would reward her disrespect for the judicial system by refusing to press criminal charges against her. He scheduled another hearing for May 19.

It is clear that Miller is fully aware of her responsibility to turn over Isabella and to think otherwise requires an amazing suspension of disbelief. The story been covered by newspapers nationwide, and Miller was still in communication with her supporters after the November 20 order was announced. But Miller’s friends swore that they don’t know where she is and the judge chose to give credence to their testimony (I’ll let you decide for yourself whether the reputation of conservative Christians encourages you to trust them or to immediately assume that they are lying through their teeth).

In January, Judge Cohen, the Vermont judge who has been involved with the custody since the breakup, gave Miller’s supporters an additional 30 days to convince her to follow the law. Miller did not show up, so Judge Cohen has now found her in contempt. (WaPo)

Family Court Judge William Cohen found Lisa Miller of Forest, Va., in contempt of court during a hearing Tuesday and issued the arrest warrant.

Considering the entrenched homophobia in Virginia and the political power of Thomas Road Baptist Church, I am not hopeful that the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department will do much to recover Isabella. However, unless I am mistaken, this arrest warrant would allow bounty hunters and private investigators to initiate steps to rescue Isabella from a life on the run with the fugitive Lisa Miller.

Janet Jenkins tells her story on Nightline

Timothy Kincaid

January 29th, 2010

Janet Jenkins went on Nightline last night to tell her story and appeal to the public to help her find her daughter.

“My goal has never been to separate Isabella from her other mother, Lisa,” said Jenkins. “I just want what is best for our child, and that is to know both of her parents.”

Lisa Miller given 30 more days in hiding before arrest warrant

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2010

From the Washington Post:

A judge is giving a Virginia woman at the center of a lesbian custody dispute 30 days to appear in court with her 7-year-old daughter or face possible arrest.

Despite all the accusations of judicial activism from the supporters of Lisa Miller, Judge Cohen has been, to my way of thinking, extremely generous in giving Miller chance after chance after chance to simply conform to the custody to which she agreed. And even though it is clear that Miller is actively thwarting the will of the court, he generously gives her more time.

Of course those who see the world in terms of good (Miller) and evil (militant radical deviant homosexualist bloggers like me) will continue to denounce Cohen as a tool of Satan and see this continued generosity as a sign of the miraculous hand of God.

Deacon succinctly lays out Catholic objection to marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2010

Writing in Catholic Online, Deacon Keith Fournier laments that courts have treated Janet Jenkins with respect and honored the commitments that she and Lisa Miller made. In the midst of his tirade, is a sentence that epitomizes the attitudes of those who rally forth to oppose equality.

They want the State to treat homosexual partnerships as the equivalent of marriage, thereby denying real marriage and the family founded upon it, the favored legal place it has long held as the first society.

It is not that they wish to “preserve tradition” or “uphold the definition” or are “worried about the children”. Those are just subterfuges presented to the media to distract from the real reason.

No, they truly believe that they deserve a favored legal place and that our lives, our relationships and our very citizenship is inferior to their own.

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