Vt. Court to Sentence Pastor for Helping Ex-Lesbian, Child Flee Country
A federal court is scheduled on Monday to sentence a Mennonite pastor who was convicted of helping a Lesbian-turned-Christian woman to flee the country with her daughter after her former partner was awarded custody of the girl.
Kenneth L. Miller of Stuarts Draft, Va., will appear before Burlington, Vt., Judge William Sessions on Monday afternoon, and faces up to three years in prison, according to The Associated Press.
Prosecutors want Miller to be sentenced to two-and-a-half or three years in prison – the maximum sentence for his conviction in abetting international parental kidnapping. "Because of his brazen intervention, a child – an American citizen – is growing up outside this country, and a mother must bear the unimaginable daily torment of being separated from her child, without any word on her child's health or well-being. Kenneth Miller's offense could not be more serious," prosecutors said in documents filed in the court.
The pastor's attorney counter he should not be sentenced to prison because he is a law-abiding pastor with no previous criminal record. He's a leader in his community who regularly helps people, including Lisa Miller (no relation), whom he didn't know when she came to him for help in 2009, saying she wanted to protect her daughter from her former partner's lesbian lifestyle.
Miller and several other people were involved in helping Lisa Miller and her seven-year-old daughter Isabella out of the country in September 2009 before a judge could transfer custody of the child to Lisa's former partner, Janet Jenkins.
The two women lived in Virginia but went to Vermont to obtain a civil union in 2000. The couple split in Vermont, and Lisa Miller moved back to Virginia with her daughter after renouncing her homosexuality.
Then ensued a battle over the custody of Isabella, who was conceived when the two women were living together in Virginia. Lisa Miller is her biological mother, and did not want her to be exposed to the homosexual lifestyle.
In 2008, a Vermont court ordered Lisa Miller to turn over Isabella for unsupervised visitations with Jenkins. Lisa Miller later asked a Frederick County, Va., judge to nullify the visitation order after Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage took effect. The judge agreed but that ruling was reversed by the Virginia Court of Appeals, which said the Vermont court's order must be recognized.
After repeatedly failing to turn over Isabella to Jenkins for visitations, Judge William Cohen of Vermont in November 2009 awarded Jenkins custody of the girl.
However, prosecutors say, Pastor Miller took Lisa Miller and her daughter in a car from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., on Sept. 22, 2009, and the two crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. Then they flew to Central America to live with Mennonites in Nicaragua.
Pastor Miller has been in prison for about a month for his refusal to testify in the case of another man that is also facing charges for his involvement in the matter. Miller reportedly told Judge Sessions that his religious beliefs prohibited him from testifying in the case.
Miller's attorney, David Bercot, says his client has been in good spirits while in prison. "Ken has been doing well," he recently wrote in an online post. "We hear that a guard quieted his enthusiastic singing in the shower. The same guard later awarded him with some extra telephone time. He's been reading about 40 chapters of Scripture a day. He's been receiving a lot of correspondence, which is wonderful. At mealtimes, he was asking the blessing for his own food. The inmates at his table asked him to begin saying grace for the whole table. His wife and a few children were up to visit him on the weekend, and found him well."
After his conviction last August, Pastor Miller told reporters, "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."