Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A lesbian is suing the university and church founded by Jerry Falwell for allegedly helping a former partner who became a Christian and forsook homosexual behavior flee the U.S. with the convert’s biological child.
The case brought in federal court in Vermont by Janet Jenkins seeks money for legal fees, emotional distress and other alleged injuries from Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.
The action was brought just as a Mennonite pastor unrelated to the university or church was convicted of helping Lisa Miller flee. Miller, a former member of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, traveled with her daughter to Canada, then to Nicaragua, where she was last known to reside.
The pastor is Kenneth Miller, who is not related to Lisa Miller of Virginia.
Lisa Miller was under a Vermont family court order to hand over her daughter to her former lesbian partner, who was granted full custody. Instead, just as her attorneys with Liberty Counsel were advising that the dispute could reach the U.S. Supreme Court, she vanished.
Janet Jenkins’ case also seeks damages from several individuals and their ministries or corporations, claiming violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO, for allegedly helping Miller and the daughter, Isabella, leave the U.S.
Lisa Miller and her daughter, Isabella (photo courtesy Barbara Curtis)
Liberty Counsel, a legal team that advocates for Christian and religious rights, provided representation for Lisa Miller until she vanished in 2009 without a word of her plans.
Jenkins’ lawsuit alleges Liberty University is liable because a student worker sought donations to help Miller. The suit makes similar claims about a member of Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, told WND the case is “outrageously frivolous.”
He said it’s the same tactic abortionists used during the 1990s, which Liberty Counsel successfully defended. The abortionists make claims against anyone available, he said, even people who only agreed to pray about the abortion industry.
“I don’t know how a church with a 5,000-seat sanctuary can be responsible for the act of one person,” Staver said.
He called the action a “press release filed in federal court.”
Lisa Miller vanished in 2009 as the legal team was working on her case. She suddenly did not respond to emails or telephone messages, and when a visit to her residence was made, she was gone, he said.
“She never gave anyone indication of her plans,” Staver said. “She was counseled to obey the court orders.”
Since then, she reportedly first traveled to Canada, then Nicaragua, and may still be living there.
Staver said the email cited in the lawsuit from a Liberty University student worker asking for help for Lisa Miller never existed.
“That’s just bogus,” he said.
The New York Times reported the conviction of Kenneth Miller in a trial in Burlington, Vt. The jury decided he helped Lisa Miller in 2009 avoid court-ordered visits for her daughter with Jenkins, with whom Lisa Miller shared a lesbian relationship for a time before splitting up in 2003.
Also complicating the case was the fact that the laws in Vermont, where Jenkins resided, and Virginia, where Lisa Miller lived, did not coincide.
WND reported on the case at the time, including when a Vermont judge ruled Jenkins, who has not been involved in Isabella’s life for years, first must have the right to visit Miller’s biological daughter then be granted full custody.
The ACLU and Lambda Legal Defense Fund had been demanding that Miller give up her daughter to Jenkins, who had neither a blood relationship nor an adoptive relationship with the child.
In Virginia, the issue was whether Virginia must enforce custody and visitation orders arising from a Vermont same-sex civil union. Staver argued at the time Virginia’s state law and constitution expressly ban enforcement of any right or order arising from same-sex marriage, civil union or domestic partnership.
At that point, Staver believes the issue may have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lisa Miller had refused to allow her daughter to visit Jenkins after the child reported she was compelled to bathe naked with Jenkins.
Virginia court rulings had declared Miller to be the sole parent.
The custody fight was complicated earlier when Jenkins’ Virginia attorney withdrew “after he was indicted for obstructing justice and tampering with evidence regarding a murder that occurred in his home, where his college male friend was sodomized and killed,” Liberty Counsel said.