STUARTS DRAFT, Va. — A Mennonite minister who spent two years in prison for allegedly helping a woman flee the country with her daughter in defiance of a court order requiring that the child be allowed to have visitation with her mother’s previous lesbian partner is now free.
Ken Miller, who reported to prison in March 2016 to serve a 27-month sentence, returned home last month and was greeted at his church with much jubilation.
“He was given a grand welcome at our church by flashing lights, sirens, and a shower, courtesy of the Amish Auxiliary of the Stuarts Draft Volunteer Fire Dept.,” a website that provides updates on Miller’s case outlines. “We held a joyful and praise-filled welcome home service…”
Miller had been convicted in 2012 of helping Lisa Miller (no relation) and her young daughter Isabella travel to Buffalo, New York, where they then took a taxi and crossed the border into Canada, boarding a plane to Nicaragua.
Lisa Miller, who turned to Christ in 2003, had been threatened by family court judge Richard Cohen that if she did not allow her daughter to have visitations with her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, he would transfer full custody to Jenkins.
Kenneth Miller was sentenced in 2013 for his part in helping Miller flee pending an appeal, which was unsuccessful. Miller has never publicly declared either guilt or innocence, and has declined to testify against others.
“I commit myself to the ultimate Judge who gives me freedom which no man can take away,” Miller said before the court. “I have sought to stay true to my faith and my conscience.”
Prosecutors took issue with Miller and his beliefs, and accused him of “acting upon his religion.”
“He sees Ms. Jenkins as a homosexual associated with the powers of darkness,” attorney Christina Nolan asserted with scorn during the sentencing hearing. “He answers to a Court higher than this one … [and] blames the victim for his crime.”
As previously reported, the situation began in 2000, when Lisa Miller, then involved in a homosexual relationship, 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 difficulty 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.
“I think, with women, what I was trying to do was trying to recreate a mother/daughter bond that I never had,” she explained. “I really believe, looking back on it, I was trying to recreate something that I never had with my mom. It was just such a tangled web because you can’t recreate that. The only person who can fill that void is Jesus and I know that now.”
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.
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 that she didn’t want her daughter exposed to homosexuality.
“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,” Miller stated. “I am raising Isabella to pattern herself after Christ. That’s my job as a Christian mom. Homosexuality is a sin.”
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, desiring to train her child in the ways of the Lord and keep her from ungodly influences.
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 several Mennonite Christians and their contacts, one being Kenneth Miller.
Miller says that he sang hymns of praise to God while incarcerated.
“Tonight after my shower, I was in fine voice and I didn’t care what the entire federal prison complex at Petersburg thought. I took that hymnbook to the end of the hallway, and by the grace of God, let the world know about the glories of heaven,” he wrote in a blog post in September.
American Mennonite missionary to Nicaragua Timothy “Timo” Miller (not related to either Miller) was sentenced to probation in March 2017 after pleading guilty, and businessman Philip Zodhiates, who is not Mennonite, was sentenced to three years in prison that same month following a two-week trial.
Zodhiates is the son of the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, a Greek-born Bible scholar who founded the missions and relief ministry Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel International (AMG). His father also published the Hebrew-Greek KeyWord Study Bible and was a radio and television host, teaching on the New Testament from its original Greek meaning.
In 2012, the Nicaraguan Brotherhood said in a statement, “Because of this very controversial situation, as followers of Jesus Christ, we find ourselves in a very difficult position. We believe that the Bible also teaches us to respect and obey our government and the laws of the land as long as they do not conflict with God’s holy laws.”
“The fact is that suddenly we find ourselves having to choose between obeying God and man made laws. We have chosen to obey God. We are willing to give up our rights, go to jail, or even die, for the cause of helping anyone become free from a sinful life and helping that person to live in obedience to God’s Word.”