BURLINGTON, Vt. – A Virginia Mennonite pastor facing up to three years in prison says he is being judged because of his faith and conscience for helping a woman and her daughter flee the country rather than share custody of the child with her former lesbian partner.
Western society is seeking to re-engineer and redefine marriage, family and parenthood, Kenneth Miller, of Stuarts Draft, Va., said in a four-page letter to the federal court judge who will sentence him Monday. He said that's why he helped Lisa Miller and daughter Isabella flee the country in 2009 after the woman went to him begging for help.
"If it is true that my actions flow out of my faith in Jesus, and from my deeply held moral believes — and I sincerely think they do — then it must follow that whatever judgment is being brought against me by the United States of America, is judgment on my faith and conscience and deeply help moral beliefs," he wrote.
"I was faced with a woman in distress who needed help to protect her daughter from what seemed to be an inhumane court decree," Miller said, writing from the jail where he has been held for refusing to tell a grand jury about other people involved in the case.
Kenneth Miller, 47, was convicted last summer on a charge of aiding in international parental kidnapping. During the four-day trial, prosecutors laid out how he arranged for Lisa Miller and Isabella to be taken by car from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., where they crossed into Canada and were met by an Ontario Mennonite who took them to the airport in Toronto. From there, they flew to Mexico and on to Nicaragua, where they are still believed to be in hiding.
The Millers are not related.
Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000 and Isabella was born to Lisa in 2002. The couple split in 2003. The Vermont family court gave custody of Isabella to Lisa Miller and gave Jenkins regular visitation.
Lisa Miller then returned to Virginia, became a conservative Christian, renounced homosexuality and sought full custody of the girl. She stopped following court-ordered visitation schedules. Two months after Lisa Miller and Isabella fled to Nicaragua, a Vermont family court judge transferred custody of the girl to Jenkins.
Jenkins' attorney, Sarah Star, said Jenkins would not be in court Monday.
Prosecutors have asked Judge William Sessions III to sentence Kenneth Miller to 2½ to three years in prison, the maximum. His attorneys counter he should not be jailed because he had no previous criminal record and has been an upstanding member of his community. They have asked that the sentence be delayed until an appeal can be heard.
In his letter to Sessions, Kenneth Miller explained why he helped Lisa Miller and why he refused to testify before the grand jury.
"After more than three weeks of incarceration ... I find my faith and conscience and moral convictions considerably strengthened," he said. "My position remains the same. I am unable for reasons of faith and conscience ... to answer certain questions before the federal grand jury. I take no delight in burdening the court, but find myself compelled to this position by my deeply held religious beliefs."