BURLINGTON, Vt. — A Mennonite pastor who was convicted of providing assistance to an ex-lesbian who fled the country with her daughter has been ordered to report to prison next month after losing his appeal.
As previously reported, Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia was convicted in August 2012 for helping Lisa Miller (no relation) and her young daughter Isabella travel to Buffalo, New York, where they crossed the border into Canada and then escaped to Nicaragua.
The situation began in 2000, when Lisa Miller, then a homosexual, joined in a civil union with lesbian Janet Jenkins in the state of Vermont. Following an artificial insemination procedure, Miller gave birth to baby Isabella in 2002.
In 2003, Miller and Jenkins split, and Miller moved to Virginia. She renounced homosexuality and reportedly turned to Jesus Christ for salvation. When the civil union was officially dissolved, the court gave custody to Miller, while also granting visitation rights to Jenkins.
While Miller did allow Isabella to spend time with Jenkins for awhile, she reportedly became very concerned at the information that her daughter was providing to her following the visitations.
Later, Miller testified to the court that the visits were causing great trauma to Isabella. She claimed that at six years old, the girl was forced to take baths together with Jenkins, and that the girl was openly touching herself inappropriately. She also stated that Isabella was withdrawn and talked about suicide at times.
“Isabella came home and said, ‘Mommy, will you please tell Janet that I don’t have to take a bath anymore at her house,’” Miller told reporters in 2008. “I asked her what happened. She said, ‘Janet took a bath with me.’ I asked her if she had a bathing suit on. ‘No, Mommy.’ She had no clothes on and it totally scared Isabella. She had never seen this woman except once in 2 ½ years and she takes a bath with her.”
“Last year, Isabella put a comb up to her neck and said she wanted to kill herself after one of the visits,” she outlined. “She took a comb and pressed it into her neck and said, ‘I want to kill myself.’ I don’t know where she got that. It was immediately after a visit. Other people have seen huge changes.”
Miller then filed for exclusive custody of Isabella, and the court agreed. However, Jenkins fought the ruling all the way up to the Virginia Supreme Court, which in 2008, ruled in favor of granting Miller’s former lesbian partner visitation rights. Miller refused.
The following year, family court judge Richard Cohen warned Miller that she must allow Isabella to visit Jenkins and threatened that if she did not do so, he would transfer full custody to Jenkins. In November 2009, Cohen followed through with his threats.
However, Miller had fled the country with Isabella before he issued the transfer order, and for some time, none knew the whereabouts of the two. Information later turned up that Miller and Isabella had taken refuge in Nicaragua. It was also alleged that Pastor Kenneth Miller had a part helping Miller flee the country.
“It was in very painful circumstances that Lisa came to the Anabaptists in Virginia for help, which as a follower of Jesus, Ken could not ignore,” Miller’s website, MillerCase.org explains. “Ken supported Lisa’s desire to remove herself and Isabella from former relationships which were not in accord with Jesus’ standard. However, he felt only love and compassion for Lisa’s former partner and others involved.”
In 2013, months after Miller had been convicted of aiding in international kidnapping in federal court, Judge William Sessions gave Miller the maximum sentence of 27 months behind bars as requested by prosecutor Christina Nolan, plus one year of supervised federal probation.
Miller had already been incarcerated for a month for refusing to testify in the case of another man who is also facing charges for his participation in the matter.
However, because a “substantial question” existed over whether the case should have been heard in Miller’s home state of Virginia rather than in Vermont, Sessions stayed the sentence until an appeal is heard over the issue. He then set Miller free.
Last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Sessions’ ruling, and on Tuesday, Sessions ordered Miller to report to prison on March 22nd to begin serving his sentence. The date had initially been set for March 1, but was moved at Miller’s request.
“Ken and the government have come to the agreement that Ken will not pursue further appeals, and the government will not pursue additional charges,” Miller’s website outlines. “Pray for us as family and church work to send him off well and prepare for his absence.”
Philip Zodhiates, the second man facing charges in the matter, is expected to go on trial in September in Buffalo, New York.