My ‘Faith’ Won’t Allow It: Judge Holds Imprisoned Pastor in Contempt During ‘International Kidnapping’ Trial

MillerBUFFALO, N.Y. — A federal judge held a Mennonite minister in contempt of court on Thursday after refusing to testify for reasons of “faith and conscience” at the trial of a Virginia man who is being accused of aiding an ex-lesbian turned professing Christian who fled the country with her daughter in 2009 to escape a court order.

Kenneth Miller, who is currently serving a 27-month sentence in a federal prison in Vermont for likewise helping Lisa Miller—no relation—flee to Nicaragua, is now potentially facing new charges and a longer prison sentence for declining to testify against others.

Miller had been escorted into the courtroom by federal marshals after being ordered to testify in the trial of Philip Zodhiates, who is charged with international parental kidnapping and conspiracy for allegedly driving Lisa Miller and her then seven-year-old child from Virginia to New York.

Kenneth Miller’s attorney, Herbert Greenman of Buffalo, had advised the court in advance that the pastor was going to decline to testify, citing the Fifth Amendment. The jury was consequently recessed until the court discovered whether or not Miller would comply.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Paul Van De Graaf of Burlington, Vermont informed Miller that he had been granted immunity in speaking—that his testimony would not be held against him.

“You no longer have a Fifth Amendment right not to answer,” advised Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara, who then asked Van De Graaf to read aloud the immunity order.

Moment later, Van De Graaf proceeded with the questioning as Miller was placed on the stand.

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“In September 2009, where did you live?” he asked.

“On the advice of my attorney, I decline to answer the question,” Miller replied humbly, choking up as he sought to respect the court but chose to stand by his convictions.

Van De Graaf repeated the question.

“For reasons of faith and conscience, I am not answering,” Miller again replied.

Arcara warned Miller that if he did not answer the questions he would be held in contempt of court, which could escalate to criminal contempt of court. Miller understood.


Arcara asked Van De Graaf to ask Miller additional questions, giving him further opportunity to comply. He remarked that there was “no lawful basis” for Miller to decline as Arcara had granted him immunity for testifying.

“Have you met Lisa Miller?” Van De Graaf asked.

Miller again responded that he could not answer for “reasons of faith and conscience.”

“Did you call Timothy Miller?” Van De Graaf questioned.

As Miller stood firm and again declined to answer, Arcara held Miller in contempt of court under 18 U.S. Code 6002. His supporters remained standing until he was escorted out the courtroom. Van De Graaf smirked.

Miller, who has been serving his sentence in Vermont, is now being held in a Buffalo prison for the duration of the trial in the unlikely event that he changes his mind.

Others prior to Miller agreed to testify before the court on Thursday, including Tara Devine, an attorney who had been appointed before Lisa Miller’s departure to oversee the child’s custody in the case, and Annie Joyner, a telephone company employee who discussed Zodhiates’ phone records.

William Sidebottom, who handled direct marketing for the religious liberties organization Liberty Counsel, was also questioned about an email he received from Zodhiates, asking, “Is there no legal recourse now for Lisa Miller?” Zodhiates had advised that he wanted to communicate with her.

A woman from Oregon by the name of Jessica, who worked with Timothy Miller in Nicaragua, told the court that someone had used her email account to send communication without her knowledge and permission, and that she had met Lisa Miller and her daughter, known to her as Sarah and Lydia.

As previously reported, the situation began in 2000, when Miller, then a homosexual, joined in a civil union with lesbian Jenkins in the state of Vermont. Following an artificial insemination procedure from a male sperm donor, Miller gave birth to a daughter, named Isabella, in 2002. But even then, Miller had concern.

“There were numerous incidents of Janet going to [the Internet] and putting up naked women on the screen saver, and I would ask her to please change it,” Lisa later told the court, according to the Washington Post.

“I don’t have clean hands, either. Previously, before … the baby was born, [pornography] was used in our relationship,” she said. “When we moved to Vermont, Isabella was 4 months old, and I said this stuff has to go … There’s a baby in this house now. I don’t want that.”

In 2003, Miller and Jenkins split over continued tension in their relationship, and Miller moved to Virginia. She renounced homosexuality and reportedly turned to Jesus Christ for salvation.“It wasn’t a struggle,” she recalled of walking away from the homosexual lifestyle. “I felt peace.”

Miller, who had previously been married to her college boyfriend, said that she had struggled with being intimate with her husband due to an abusive childhood, which adversely affected their marriage. She turned to alcohol for solace, and later became involved in a relationship with a woman, but only for the companionship.

“I did not feel sexually attracted to women,” Miller said.

She met Jenkins at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting while seeking help and soon moved in with her, where one step led to another.

When the civil union between Miller and Jenkins 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 a while, she reportedly became concerned at the information that her daughter was providing to her following the visitations.

Miller and Isabella
Miller and Isabella

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. She told the Washington Post, “I don’t see Janet as a parent, first and foremost. Secondly, I don’t want to expose Isabella to Janet’s lifestyle. It goes against all my beliefs. I am raising Isabella to pattern herself after Christ. That’s my job as a Christian mom. Homosexuality is a sin.”

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 and ordered Miller to hand the child over to Jenkins.

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. It was later discovered that they had fled to Nicaragua via the help of a number of Mennonite Christians and their contacts.

Zodhiates is accused of driving Miller from Virginia to Buffalo, New York, where she then crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. (See the indictment here.)

American missionary to Nicaragua Timothy “Timo” Miller—no relation to any in the case—is also accused of arranging Lisa Miller’s travel arrangements from Canada and assisting her upon her arrival to Nicaragua.

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  • David van Heerden

    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    The article says,”The jury was consequently recessed until the court discovered whether or not Miller would comply.” This is not true. The jury was removed from the court room so that they would not discover the facts of the matter. It is exceedingly relevant to the case that the accused has a friend who refuses to testify against him. Men do not choose to suffer for a sinner to sustain him in his sin. This speaks volumes about his innocence – volumes of truth that the smirking judge holds in unrighteousness.

    • james blue

      If he was innocent surely he would have testified that he had no part instead of remaining silent

    • Jack

      What facts would they have discovered had they stayed in the courtroom?

      His silence doesn’t speak to his innocence. It speaks to his being committed to not cooperating. If his testimony would show the defendant innocent, wouldn’t he gladly give it?

      • David van Heerden

        I think you are confusing trial by jury and the railroading of justice.

        • Jack

          So, you have no answer. That’s OK.

          • David van Heerden

            My good answer to your stupid question earns troll reply. I’m doing well.

          • Jack

            Not everyone admits, as you did, that he is a troll.

            I like that I explained why I disagreed with you. It goes to show that I am reasonable. Unlike you, who just spouts off.

          • David van Heerden

            You have an amazing way with words. Specifically with twisting them.

          • Jack

            And yet you weren’t specific. An accusation without an explanation is a mere conclusory statement.

      • Wade

        Unlike the rest of you I worked with Ken Miller. This is a man who is dedicated to God and his laws not man’s laws. If this man’s name were Clinton, well then we know there wouldn’t even be a trial. Ken is guilty before man’s laws but innocence before God’s laws. When we all die we will stand before God not some human judge. God is totally righteous our system of justice isn’t.

        • Jack

          He’s name isn’t Clinton. Deal with the facts.

          It’s great for him that he is innocent before G-d’s law. Evidently G-d’s law condones lying about others and taking off to a country without an extradition treaty to avoid complying with an inconvenient court order.

          It’s great for you that your G-d allows you to do what you want.

          • Wade

            The court order was handed down after she was in Central America. I talked with his brother and son. You deal with the facts.

          • Jack

            “The court order was handed down after she was in Central America. ”

            So? She fled the jurisdiction of the court without permission. Do you offer that statement to exculpate her?

            Look at the girl’s reaction? You mean the mother’s claims. If there were credible proof the court would not have acted as it did.

            “Is this the side you defend Jack?”

            Is Jenkins on trial here?

            Corrie Ten Boom definitely lied to save a lot of Jewish lives. Lives she had personal knowledge of.

            Keep your nose clean and the courts won’t be judging you. All I will accuse you of is reaching a conclusion with no evidence.

    • Wade

      I worked with Ken Miller and know his family. They are Godly people who stand on principle. Ken has saved this girl from child abuse. The government though is for child abuse.

  • Nidalap

    In a court filled with kangaroos, someone decided not to hop on command…

    • james blue

      If the situation was reversed and it was the biological mother who “remained” a lesbian and fled the country to prevent visitation of the “ex lesbian” who had converted to Christianity would you be defending the actions of the person who helped her defy a court order? Would that be a “kangaroo court”?

      • Nidalap

        Actually, yes and yes. Biological mama holds sway, whether I agree with her lifestyle or not.
        Having a moral anchor means you don’t shift with the tide…

        • Jack

          Bio mom didn’t do it alone. Non-bio mom has legal rights. The court gave custody to the bio mom and very limited visitation to her ex-partner, w/o whom she probably would not have had a child.

          • Nidalap

            Heh. Probably woulda-shoulda-coulda. In this instance, she most certainly COULD have had this exact child without her! 🙂

          • Jack

            But she didn’t. And it’s THIS case that we are dealing with.

            And responding with “could” when I said “would” is cheating.

        • james blue

          Nice to know your stance is consistent and not isn’t based on who breaks the law. I asked a similar question a while back when the story first broke and of those who replied nearly all had different stances when the parent was changed.

          I will disagree with he kangaroo court theory mind you. The men did break the law, no matter what the back story was.

  • David Cary Hart

    Faith is not an acceptable excuse for breaking the law. “My faith won’t let me pay taxes.” It’s a form of arrogance to assert that your faith supersedes the rules of a civil society. The person who best espoused this was Justice Scalia in his opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. Yes, that Justice Scalia. Sorry but people cannot pick and choose which laws they will obey.

    As for Miller, the trial court including an independent psychological exam of the child, found absolutely no evidence that anything she was saying was true. She got religion and decided that her lesbian lover was a pervert. Miller has been lying from the very beginning,

    • Lexical Cannibal

      As a pagan, a small, cynical part of me almost wishes that the conservative Christians got their wish and passed a law expanding religious discrimination before slowly, and with horror, realizing that it means people like me get to use it, now, too. Against them. A part of me wants them to see the blank check they’re writing for all the other faiths they don’t like, but only too late to rectify their mistake.

      The rest of me, however, understands that legalizing that kind of discrimination is a game that nobody wins. Not even them.

    • cadcoke5

      Faith is an acceptable excuse for breaking the law, when the law requires you to do something evil. It is an appropriate action, done to protect this child.

      • Jack

        Well, faith is not an acceptable excuse for breaking a law in a trial for breaking that law.

        You know who kidnaps their children because of their faith? Foreign Muslims married to American women. It’s done to “protect” the child.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Why do politicians and federal workers get away with not-testifying but not the commoners? What is the difference? Aren’t all people equal?

    • Jack

      You’re going to have to give examples if you want an answer.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        The use of the 5th ammendment. IRS workers who discriminated against the conservatives and Hillary’s aids who erased off her e-mails got away. It all costs human life at the end – every crime does. Who is being fair? Who can be trusted? Must Americans, among the all peoples on earth, endure this discrimination from the rich and powerfuls? It sounds like a Third Worls nation instead of USA. What was the purpose of the creation of America? Is this the kind of world American Founding Fathers dreamed, a nation’s commoners oppressed by the elite powerful rich? Isn’t this the exact picture the American fathers tried to prevent to happen by applying the Biblical principles into the US laws?

        • Jack

          This man wasn’t denied use of the 5th Amendment. He relinquished that right because he wasn’t in jeopardy.

          So by “getting away with,” you mean the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. You should have known that. The 5th Amendment that was ratified by our Founders.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            The Founding Fathers wanted to protect innocent people, not guilty criminals. People should testify the truth unconditionally unless the hearers are the life-threatening villain enemies such as Nazis trying to find the Jews for slaughter. Non-christian USA has no justice and Americans do not admit it; that’s what’s happening this century. Americans laws and US Constitution mean not a thing apart from the Ten Commandments. You Westerners need Christianity to be good; secularists only have inclination to sexual immorality, apart from Christianity. Your whole system is bent towards it, after having lost Christianity. And other religions are only amusement to you. Pre-christian = barbarism. Post-christian = Sodom. Christianity = light, truth, purity, life.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        If you are a Western Sodomy supporter, stop using the image of Buddha; the Buddhists are not sexual pervs like the Western Sodomites. You unbelieving Westerners are too well-fed and being bored and that’s why you mock other people’s serious religions, shaming all your normal ancestors.

        • Jack

          Please don’t tell me what image to use or not use. You may suggest or request. But not order.

          Make all the assumptions you want. It looks so good on you. How could you possibly know my origin? You sound like a Christian to me.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Jack is a Western name. Yes, I’m a Christian. Jesus Christ is everything the Buddhists have dreamed about and longed for. Jesus alone is the Saviour of the world. You need to repent of your sin and believe in Jesus to get saved; quests for self-improvement or self-worship and self-centeredness can never save you or bring you peace. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts ch.16)

          • Jack

            Grace is a Western name. Chew on that.

            How do secular Westerners talk and how does my talking match that?

            I don’t feel sorry for religious people who are mocked by Western hedonists by the abusive use of the religious symbols because they have their religion to give them strength. Well, maybe you don’t.

            I do feel sorry for people like you who are condemned to live in an ugly world created by their own fears.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            I consider myself an American patriot. You sounded like a typical Westerner from the start who uses the symbols of Buddhism or any famous religion to dwell in self’s uncontrollable hedonism because Eastern religions have no clear condemnation upon humanity’s sins and lead mankind to self-worship. The Creator God is forever set apart from the creation world. (Genesis ch.1) Life and the whereabouts of the world is not a circle but linear as the Holy Bible teaches so. It looks vortex but there is the definite End. There is the beginning and the end in the matter of every human on earth.

            There will be Judgment Day and then eternal justice with conscieousness. (Revelation ch.20) You must stop excusing your staunch hedonism using other people’s rather moral serious religions; no established religion can support the de-christianized Western hedonists’ chaotic mentally-ill immorality. I feel sorry for your forefathers. Repent of your sins before your Creator God, and accept His Truth to get saved from the dire consequences of your deadly autonomy. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews ch.9)

          • Jack

            You’re terrific.

            I just read your first sentence. I try not to pay attention to mindless blathering based on stereotypes. Be a shrew with your man.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You must seek the truth instead of selfish personal peace. Quest for peace is meaningless and rather harmful to self and to others if it does not accompany truth and righteousness – the reason pagan East was beaten by the Christian West. Today, many from the Buddhist nations found Christ and got saved. Many Buddhist nations still need the copies of the Holy Bible, human rights, literacy, and freedom. Secular West does not care about human sufferings and abuses and paganisms are powerless, but Christian Church cares and brings the light and the Word of Life.

  • jael2

    May the Lord God Almighty protect and shield Miss Miller and her daughter from the schemes of the enemy.

    May the Lord God Almighty empower Mr. Miller with a holy boldness and sustain him through this fiery trial.

    May other Christians become emboldened to fear God rather than man, and see the fruit of obedience to Christ.

    “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ… Phil. 1:12-13

  • George Jenkins

    Reminds me of the courage of the Mennonites and Amish during the US civil war. They stood for their convictions and were persecuted by both sides. As “Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

    • mirele

      There’s no courage here, just discrimination in a particularly ugly form. It’s sick to see people who call themselves “Christians” hate on LGBT people in such a particular way. Everyone involved in this, the mother, the Liberty law school deans who encouraged this, the Mennonite pastors, anyone involved in the kidnapping, should be brought up on charges. But no, you don’t care about the law when it involves one of you and yours.

      • George Jenkins

        I am sure you see all Christians as sick. Do you have a point or just vitriol?

      • Wade

        I work with Ken Miller, he does not hate LGBT. He and his family are some of the most loving people I know. There is the law of God and the law of man. There is a man named Jesus Christ who broke the law and they crucified him. But because he was God he arose from the dead. Our system of justice in this case supports child abuse. Read the whole story. Look at the reaction of the little girl. This child was terrified. If this man’s name was Clinton, well we know there wouldn’t even be a trial. Justice isn’t really blind in America.

      • Miss Deplorable Chrissy Vee

        Discrimination: recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another: ~ Like right and wrong, good and evil, Godly and ungodly. That is the only “Discrimination” Christians use. It has nothing to do with hating anybody.