Pastor Gets 27 Months for Helping Ex-Lesbian and Daughter Flee Country
By Jerry A. Kane
Two days ago U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III sentenced Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller to 27 months for helping Lisa Miller (no relation) and her seven-year-old daughter, Isabella, flee the country in 2009 to prevent her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, from taking custody of the child.
“The horror of this cannot be overstated.”—William Sessions III, U.S. District Court Judge
Last August, Miller was found guilty of aiding in international parental kidnapping and has been locked up on a contempt-of-court charge since January 24 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury seeking information about others who were involved in helping the mother and her biological daughter flee the country.
“I’ve already surrendered my freedom to Christ, and if this is the path he chooses for me, I will walk it. I am willing to accept the consequences. I am at peace with God. I am at peace with my conscience. I give it over to God.”—Kenneth L. Miller, Mennonite pastor
Miller told Sessions that the idea of same-sex marriage offended his religious convictions and he helped the woman and her daughter get out of the country to keep the girl from being raised by Jenkins and exposed to her lesbian lifestyle.
“He didn’t see her [Jenkins] as a human being. He saw her primarily as a homosexual associated with the powers of darkness.”—Christina Nolan, Assistant United States Attorney
At the end of Monday’s hearing, Sessions dropped the contempt charges saying it was unlikely that more jail time would compel Miller to testify. The judge also agreed to put Miller’s sentence on hold until the appeal process is finished. Miller plans to appeal his conviction on the grounds that the case was wrongly tried in Vermont because no part of the crime or its planning occurred in the state.
In 2000, Jenkins and Miller were living in Virginia and moved to Vermont to obtain a civil union. The couple separated, and Miller renounced her homosexuality. She returned to Virginia with Isabella.
In 2008, a Vermont court granted Jenkins unsupervised visitations with Isabella, but the court’s visitation order was nullified by a Virginia judge after the state’s ban on same-sex marriage took effect. The Virginia Court of Appeals then reversed the judge’s ruling and ordered Miller to obey the Vermont court order. Miller refused to give Isabella to Jenkins for visitations, so in November 2009 a Vermont judge awarded Jenkins custody of the child.
In September 2009, the Mennonite pastor took Miller and Isabella by car from Virginia to Toronto, Canada, where the two boarded a flight for Central America to live with Mennonites in Nicaragua before the court could award Jenkins custody of the child.
In November 2009, a Vermont judge awarded Jenkins custody of the child.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made it illegal to help fugitive slaves flee the country, yet some people ignored the law and put themselves in harm’s way to help fugitive slaves travel the Underground Railroad into Canada and Mexico.
During World War Two, people from many countries ignored Nazi laws and risked their lives to help the Jews escape genocide. They did it because they believed it was their “moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
“An unjust law is no law at all.” It inflicts harm and creates chaos. It tramples freedom of conscience and does the exact opposite of what a just law is meant to do.
“[A]n individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”—Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
Well done, Pastor Miller. Our Constitutional Republic could have been saved had more Americans possessed the courage of your convictions.
“No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”—Thomas Jefferson
For more on the story, see Pastor Sentenced in Vt. Lesbian Custody Case, Vt. Court to Sentence Pastor for Helping Ex-Lesbian, Child Flee Country, and Up to 3 years sought in Vt. custody dispute.
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