In early December of 2009, Lisa Miller and her then 7 year old daughter Isabella fled their home in Virginia, spirited away in a car by evangelical Christian supporters to Buffalo New York. From there they took a taxi to Canada where they boarded a flight out of the country ending up in Nicaragua. They remain in hiding there to this day.
What precipitated this was a decade-long drama that began with a civil union between two women and their dreams of having a family together. Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were married in a civil ceremony in Vermont in 2000. In 2002, Miller gave birth to Isabella who was conceived by artificial insemination. Things unraveled for the family in 2003 when Miller became an evangelical Christian and denounced lesbianism as an addictive sin. A contentious court battle ensued over custody of the child. Miller fought to have any parental rights granted to Jenkins but the court rightly saw things differently and ordered her visitation rights. Miller defied the judge and repeatedly prevented Jenkins from seeing her daughter. The judge, tired of Miller flouting his order, told her that he was prepared to transfer full custody to Jenkins unless she complied with his order. Shortly afterwards, both Miller and her daughter disappeared.
The FBI and Interpol have been searching for Miller in Nicaragua ever since. Their investigation into the parental kidnapping exposed a conspiracy among a group of evangelical Christians who helped Miller unlawfully take Isabella and who continue to hide her whereabouts in Nicaragua. In the meantime, the court has granted full custody to Jenkins.
Last Monday, Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa Miller), a pastor from Virginia was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role in the kidnapping of Isabella.
At the trial in August, prosecutors showed that Mr. Miller had arranged for the purchase of air tickets for Ms. Miller and her daughter, gave them traditional Mennonite dresses to wear while fleeing the United States and arranged for church colleagues in Nicaragua to greet and house the pair.Kenneth Miller plans to appeal the decision and the judge has agreed that he should remain free under limited supervision until the appeal has been decided. Even though this was a bit of a victory for the good pastor, the cries of Christian persecution have already begun. Leading the way is the ever odious screech owl, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
They also presented evidence implicating others whom they have called co-conspirators, including Philip Zodhiates, a wealthy conservative businessman who lives near Mr. Miller in Virginia, and his daughter, Victoria Hyden, an administrative assistant at the Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va. Ms. Miller was living in Lynchburg before her flight and was represented in custody proceedings by the dean and associate dean of that law school.
After his conviction, Mr. Miller refused to testify before a grand jury about others who aided Ms. Miller, telling his supporters: “If I were to bring testimony against a fellow member of Christ’s kingdom, for honoring Christ’s kingdom’s laws, I would be disloyal to his kingdom and to Christ.” As a result he has been jailed for the last month for contempt of court, but Judge Sessions suspended the contempt charge on Monday, leaving Mr. Miller free to go.
Faced with losing her seven-year-old daughter to her former lesbian partner, Lisa Miller made the only choice a new Christian could: she sought her minister's help. After two courts ordered Lisa to transfer custody of her biological daughter to a woman with no adoptive rights, she felt she had no choice but to flee the country. Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor from Vermont, helped her escape--and will now be paying for it with a 27-month prison sentence.So Tony Perkins is now advocating the abduction of children to save them from their evil gay parents. Nice. Will CNN have him on to argue that kidnapping is A-okay if you are doing it for Jesus? These fundamentalists are just fine wasting everyone's time gumming up the courts with their weak arguments based on hatred and bigotry. When things don't go their way, they see themselves free to flout any decision that doesn't comport with their narrow world view. While doing so, they will scream religious persecution should they be held accountable for their unlawful actions. These same people have been ramping up manufactured fear that the Obama Administration has all along had a nefarious plan to jail Christians for their beliefs. They now think they have a new martyr in Kenneth Miller to hold up for all to see that they are indeed the victims of a campaign of destruction being waged against them. The fact of the matter is Kenneth Miller committed a crime and a very serious one at that. No amount of using Christ as their cover will make it right.
Last summer, a jury found him guilty of helping Lisa and her daughter, Isabella, travel from Virginia to the Canadian border and then to Central America via the Toronto airport. During the two-hour sentencing, Miller told the judge he 'couldn't promise' that he would never again help a parent smuggle a son or daughter out of the country. He saw, as so many of us do, a vulnerable child--and a government bent on redefining family law to the exclusion of the actual parents. 'I give myself unto you to do with me as you see fit,' an emotional Miller told the court. To many of us, the pastor's predicament seems extreme--but a day may come when we all have to make a similar choice.
Obviously, there are things we can do between now and then to protect ourselves, like electing strong conservative leaders and resisting the ever-growing reach of the federal government. But under an administration as hostile to faith as this one is, Christians may soon find themselves in the same position of breaking an unjust law. Will you have the courage to do what Kenneth Miller did? Don't wait until the moment is upon you before contemplating this. Are you willing to accept the penalty instead of compromising your principles?