A Mennonite pastor from Virginia who helped a woman flee the United States with her daughter to prevent the woman's former lesbian partner from getting custody of the child, was sentenced to 21 to 27 months in prison by a federal judge in Vermont last Monday.
But according to a News Channel 5 report, the judge, William Sessions, also decided to release the pastor, Kenneth Miller, pending an appeal of the sentence, which could take several years.
In the News Channel 5 report, Miller's supporters sang hymns and spiritual songs of praise in celebration outside the federal courthouse as it snowed lightly around them. Miller had been in custody for about a month before the sentencing for refusing to testify in the case of another man that allegedly helped Lisa Miller and her daughter escape. Miller told the court that his faith prevented him from testifying.
When asked if he had expected to be released that day, Miller said he didn't think it was going to happen. "No mam, I did not [expect release]," Miller told the News Channel 5 reporter. "This is wholly unexpected and I am very grateful for the mercy of God," he said.
A report on millercase.org noted that during the sentencing, Sessions questioned the pastor and his lawyers about whether or not he maintains his actions were based on faith and conscience in helping the woman and her child and whether or not he would do it again.
Pastor Miller maintained that his actions were carried out based on faith and conscience but couldn't respond directly to the hypothetical question of whether or not he would do it again now that he had a better understanding of the legal ramifications. He said among other things that he would have to pray about the decision.
When he was eventually given the opportunity to address the court, Pastor Miller reportedly explained his great respect for law and order but also highlighted the dilemma he faced when the law came in direct conflict with the tenets of his faith. When asked to explain how his faith led to his offense of the law, he reportedly said: "I and my people would believe and teach that marriage is ordained by God as being the union of a man and a woman and that a child's parentage is of a father and a mother."
Last August a jury convicted Miller for his role in helping a still-missing Lisa Miller flee the United States with her 7-year-old daughter Isabella before a judge was able to transfer custody of Isabella to her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins.
Isabella is Lisa Miller's biological daughter who was born while she was in a civil union with Jenkins. They lived together in Virginia but moved to Vermont so they could join together in a civil union. The couple later broke up when Lisa Miller renounced the homosexual lifestyle and returned with Isabella to Virginia.
The break-up soon set in motion a custody battle between the two women. Lisa Miller did not want Isabella exposed to the homosexual life while Jenkins fought for visitation. In 2008, a Vermont court ruled in favor of Jenkins' visitation rights and said she was entitled to unsupervised visits with Isabella.
Lisa Miller then asked a Virginia court to overturn the ruling after the state's same-sex ban took effect and got it, but the Vermont court's ruling survived on appeal. Lisa Miller disregarded the ruling anyhow, and after her repeated failure to turn over Isabella to Jenkins, the Vermont court awarded custody of the child to Jenkins in November 2009.
With the help of others, prosecutors reported that the pastor took Lisa Miller and Isabella by car from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., in September 2009 and allowed them to flee to Canada from there. They are now reportedly living with Mennonites in Nicaragua.
A post made on millercase.org last Saturday under the name Ken Miller said: "It was obvious to me that Lisa Miller was a woman of great faith. Her appearance and demeanor demonstrated that she was at peace with God and at peace with herself. The expression on her face reflected an inner joy that was even more remarkable in light of the difficult situation she was in at the time. It was evident to me in the short time I was with her that here was a woman who walked with God."