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Kenneth Miller (Justin Altman/The Burlington Free Press/AP)

Bearing consequences

Religion | Pastor faces prison for helping mother keep her child from former lesbian partner

Issue: "Syria's pain," Sept. 8, 2012

A federal jury in Vermont on Aug. 14 convicted Amish Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller of aiding an international parental kidnapping. The 46-year-old pastor helped Lisa Miller, 44, flee to Nicaragua three years ago to prevent her former lesbian partner from gaining custody of Isabella, Lisa Miller's biological daughter. (The two Millers are unrelated.) Kenneth Miller, from Stuarts Draft, Va., faces up to three years in prison.

Lisa Miller became pregnant with Isabella in 2002 by artificial insemination. She and partner Janet Jenkins had traveled to Vermont two years earlier to enter into a civil union, and later moved there, but dissolved their union in 2004. Professing Christian faith and renouncing homosexuality, Lisa Miller tried to block Jenkins' court-ordered visitations with Isabella.

When an annoyed family court judge in Vermont threatened to transfer custody of the girl to Jenkins, Lisa Miller took up Kenneth Miller's offer to arrange for her and Isabella to hide with an Amish Mennonite community in Central America.

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The community reportedly lost track of the mother and daughter last year, though authorities believe they are still in Nicaragua. Lisa Miller is wanted by the FBI and Interpol on kidnapping charges, and in Vermont, a judge has given Jenkins custody of the missing Isabella, now 10.

As Kenneth Miller listened to the verdict in the Burlington, Vt., courtroom, an attorney for Jenkins filed a new civil lawsuit against him and others who allegedly helped with the flight. Outside the building, where fellow Mennonites sang hymns such as "Amazing Grace," the pastor said afterward, "With the grace of God and by His help, we will bear the consequences.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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