Pastor Sentenced in Vt. Lesbian Custody Case
A Mennonite pastor who helped a still-missing woman and her daughter flee the country - and a custody fight with the woman’s former lesbian partner - joined his supporters in song Monday after being told his 27-month prison sentenced could be put on hold while he appeals his conviction.
Kenneth Miller was still wearing his prison jumpsuit when he left federal court in Burlington and met a crowd of about 100 supporters who came to Vermont from as far away as his home state of Virginia.
"I am grateful for the mercy of God," Miller said, before joining his supporters in singing a hymn, "Our God, He is alive."
During a two-hour sentencing hearing, Miller told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III he couldn’t promise he would not commit again aid in international parental kidnapping. Last summer a jury found him guilty of helping Lisa Miller and her now-10-year-old daughter, Isabella, travel from Virginia to the Canadian border and then on to Nicaragua via the Toronto airport.
Lisa Miller and Isabella are still believed to be hiding in Central America. They are not related to the pastor.
Kenneth Miller, 47, of Stuarts Draft, Va., said he acted out of conscience and a religious belief that finds the idea of same-sex marriage offensive after a desperate Lisa Miller came to him in September 2009. Miller said the woman pleaded for help escaping a court order that Isabella spend time with her former partner, Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vt.
"I give myself unto you to do with me as you see fit," an obviously emotional Miller told the judge in a courtroom packed with the same supporters who later sang with him outside.
Sessions said he admired Miller for the depth of his convictions, but he could not allow him to choose God’s law over his country’s, saying the pastor had helped deprive Isabella of Jenkins’ love.