On December 9, Life Site News, an antigay and anti-abortion website, reported on the arrest of a Mennonite minister charged with aiding in the international kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, a young girl at the center of a long-standing custody dispute who has been missing for more than two years and is believed to be in Nicaragua with her “ex-gay” biological mother.
What the author left out of the story, headlined “Obama Administration Makes New Indictment in Hunt for Girl Claimed by Lesbian,” is that Life Site News itself was mentioned in the criminal complaint against the minister, Kenneth L. Miller, in a curious way.
According to the affidavit filed by a deputy U.S. marshal against Miller last month and made public on December 6, the 46-year-old minister from Stuarts Draft, Va., contacted a group of Mennonite associates and the proprietor of a conservative Christian direct-mail marketing firm to aid Lisa Miller in the kidnapping of her daughter, now 9 years old. Miller is believed to have crossed the U.S.-Canadian border at Buffalo, N.Y., in the early morning hours of September 22, 2009. She then traveled from Toronto to Managua, Nicaragua.
The plane tickets for the trip were allegedly purchased by a Mennonite missionary based in Nicaragua named Timothy “Timo” Miller at the request of Kenneth Miller (the men are not believed to be related to each other, nor to the on-the-run mother). In April law enforcement agents arrested Timo Miller at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., upon his return to the United States with his wife and their four children. Charges against the missionary were dropped in October after Timo Miller agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, and reports indicate he intends to return to Nicaragua with his family in the coming weeks.
According to the criminal complaint, Kenneth Miller had suggested that Life Site News could act as an intermediary for communication between Lisa Miller and supporters elsewhere.
In one November 2010 email exchange from addresses linked to Kenneth Miller and Timo Miller, Kenneth Miller allegedly expressed concern about the whereabouts of Lisa Miller and Isabella. Referencing an October 2010 news article on Lez Get Real reporting that Miller and her daughter were in Quito, Ecuador, Kenneth Miller wrote to Timo Miller in Nicaragua, “Is she still in the same country that she was? Can you get a hold of her?” The email was written in a mix of English and Pennsylvania German, a dialect spoken by some Mennonites.
“When we still want, we can send a letter about her through this, and we can get it mailed from another country over here. We can send it to a site that’s called lifesitenews,” Kenneth Miller continued in the email, according to a translation by an FBI contract linguist. “That’s a way that to get word to [unintelligible] friends. What do you think of that?"
Life Site News was founded by the Toronto-based anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, which has also opposed marriage equality and LGBT rights in Canada. The website's editor, John-Henry Westen, and U.S. bureau chief, Kathleen Gilbert, did not respond to calls for comment.
With headlines such as “Lisa Miller’s Daughter Appeared Traumatized by Visits With Lesbian ‘Mother,’” to “Ex-Lesbian Fighting for Custody of Own Child Against ‘Civil Union' Partner,” Life Site News’ coverage of the multiyear custody battle between Miller and her former partner, Janet Jenkins, has been extensive. It includes forceful commentary in support of Miller’s conduct—a warrant for her arrest was issued in April 2010—as well as Timo Miller’s alleged involvement in the kidnapping.
In a December 1 Life Site News op-ed titled “Cowardice: The State and Homosexualist Powers Against a Former Lesbian and Her Daughter,” Brazilian antigay activist Julio Severo characterized Lisa Miller and her daughter as victims in a perceived war against religious freedom. Jenkins, meanwhile, was cast as a predator and cynical “lesbian activist.”
Jenkins, who entered into a civil union in Vermont with Lisa Miller in 2000 and split with her partner three years later, was granted sole custody of Isabella by a Vermont family court judge after Miller repeatedly defied court visitation orders.
Miller and her attorneys had sought relief from the courts in Virginia, where she lived with Isabella and where voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same-sex marriage. The case has further highlighted the legal uncertainty faced by gay parents in many parts of the country.
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Of prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against Timo Miller, Severo wrote that the missionary “is now free from the ominous claws of the FBI, which in a sane legal system would persecute thugs and terrorists. But Lisa and Isabella are not free: the FBI is after them. At any time, they may be captured. At any time, Isabella may be kidnapped by the FBI and her mother arrested. … This tragedy was made possible only because gay civil unions were allowed in Vermont. And when homosexual ‘marriage’ is allowed, the gay agenda and the State become united in an unholy ‘marriage,’ where special rights and freedoms are granted to those in the footsteps of Sodom.”
Kenneth Miller was indicted on one count of aiding and abetting the international kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins in a court filing dated December 15 and signed by U.S. Attorney Tristram J. Coffin. He appeared in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt. on December 6 and was released on $10,000 bail. No other arrests have been made in the case, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Van de Graaf.
Another individual mentioned in the Kenneth Miller complaint is Philip Zodhiates, who according to Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission records is the owner and registered agent of the Christian direct-mail firm Response Unlimited in Waynesboro, Va., located a few miles east of Stuarts Draft.
The affidavit alleges that on September 21 and September 22, 2009, the day of Lisa Miller’s border crossing into Canada, Kenneth Miller made phone calls to a Mennonite pastor in Ontario as well as multiple calls to cell phones tied to the company owned by Zodhiates. Roaming activity on the Response Unlimited cell phones “is consistent with a pattern of travel for those phones from Virginia to Buffalo, NY on September 21, 2009, with a return from Buffalo, NY to Virginia on September 22, 2009.”
According to an April affidavit against Timo Miller, Zodhiates had asked his daughter, an administrative assistant at Liberty University School of Law, to “disseminate a request to get Lisa Miller supplies” in Nicaragua, where she and her daughter had allegedly been staying at a beach house owned by Zodhiates (Zodhiates’s daughter has denied that she was contacted with such a request).
Liberty University School of Law dean Mathew D. Staver is also founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represented Lisa Miller in court proceedings. Staver and fellow Liberty Counsel attorney Rena Lindevaldsen, who recently wrote a book on the case, have said they have not had contact with Miller following her disappearance. “From our perspective, she just dropped off the face of the earth. We haven’t heard from her or from anyone who said they’ve heard from her,” Staver told the Associated Press earlier this year.
Meanwhile, a new website supporting Kenneth Miller and created by Mennonite churches affiliated with the minister expresses “solidarity with Ken as he faces charges for choices and actions we believe were correct. By God’s grace we would want to make the same choices he did.”
“Our involvement with Lisa and Isabella Miller has stemmed from a desire to obey our Lord Jesus — both His commands and example,” the website’s unidentified authors wrote.
Attorneys for Kenneth Miller did not respond to calls for comment.