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August 24, 2012

Vermont mom files RICO suit against anti-gay groups

Organized crime accused in daughter’s kidnapping by former partner

Burlington, Vt.--August 14 was a busy day for Janet Jenkins, whose former partner Lisa Miller renounced their relationship nine year ago, converted to conservative Christianity and moved to Virginia before disappearing in 2010 with their now-ten-year-old daughter Isabella.

A jury convicted Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite minister, of aiding in international parental kidnapping by helping Lisa Miller, who is not related to him, take Isabella to Canada and then to Nicaragua. He faces up to three years in prison.

On the same day, Jenkins filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act suit against both Millers and an array of individuals and organizations who her attorney says aided in Lisa Miller’s flight to Nicaragua. They believe she is still living there in hiding with her daughter, who they say has been turned against Jenkins.

Jenkins and Miller were joined in a civil union in 2000. Two years later, through assisted fertilization, Lisa Miller gave birth to their daughter, a year before the couple separated.

A Vermont family court granted Miller primary custody and Jenkins visitation rights in the dissolution of their civil union. Miller moved to Virginia, became a fundamentalist and said that she was no longer a lesbian and would not allow Jenkins to visit their daughter.

Miller petitioned a Virginia court to declare her the girl’s legal parent, and Jenkins appealed, arguing that the Virginia courts, regardless of whether or not the state recognizes a Vermont civil union, were obligated to honor the Vermont court’s ruling. In November 2006, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jenkins.

Miller, however, spent the next three years denying Jenkins the visitations ordered by courts in both states. Because of this, a Vermont court ordered in late 2009 that Jenkins be given sole custody of their daughter on January 1, 2010. But Lisa Miller never showed up with Isabella.

Timothy Miller (also unrelated) and other Mennonite missionaries helped Lisa Miller get to Nicaragua, with the alleged involvement of staff at the law school of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Response Unlimited and Christian Aid Ministries, many of whom are named as defendants in the RICO case.

The religious newspaper Mennonite World Review’s Tim Huber argues that Kenneth Miller went beyond their church’s concept of civil disobedience, and questioned the connection between the Beachy Amish, a division of the Mennonite faith, and the conservative evangelicals at Liberty University, “the political brand that seeks to advance its interpretation of Christianity at every level of government.”

They point to a fundraising website benefiting Kenneth Miller’s defense, which states, “Anabaptists have always believed that we are not to participate in the affairs of the State, while we gladly submit to its rule under God. We also recognize that there are many legal battles being fought in relation to homosexuality. We have no desire to participate in these conflicts.”

Huber continues, “Yet participate they did, with material and logistical aid in abundance, and Ken Miller waded into the murky waters of obeying God rather than earthly rulers.”

“Refusing to obey laws that violate one’s conscience is an Anabaptist tradition, but aiding a kidnapping exceeds justified civil disobedience,” Huber opines. “Ken Miller helped break up a family, even if he didn’t approve of the court’s family definition. It is far from obvious that Lisa Miller is a fit mother and Jenkins is not, and it seems presumptuous for Ken Miller to claim to know who deserves custody.”

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