A federal judge has ordered a Virginia pastor jailed for at least one week after he refused to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the circumstances surrounding a mother who fled the country with her daughter while in a custody battle with her former civil-union partner.
The Rev. Kenneth Miller said his religious beliefs demanded that he not testify against any other people who might have been involved in helping the woman and child disappear.
U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III was reluctant to order Miller held and gave him several chances to change his mind.
“We can’t function as a criminal justice system without the grand jury,” Sessions said. “I appreciate your faithfulness to your religion and your moral beliefs, and perhaps there is an inherent conflict here.”
In August, Miller, a Mennonite pastor, was convicted in federal court in Burlington for helping the woman and child flee the country rather than share custody with her former partner. Miller, who is due for sentencing March 4, is facing up to three years in prison.The woman and the daughter were last thought to be in Nicaragua.
Miller and Jenkins were joined in a 2000 Vermont civil union, and Miller then had a daughter. By 2003 the couple had split. Miller later returned to Virginia, became a conservative Christian, renounced homosexuality and sought full custody of the girl.Burlington lawyer David Williams, who with Brooks McArthur is help representing Kenneth Miller, argued in court that jailing Miller would do nothing to reverse his silence. Williams said Miller is holding firm to his religious beliefs.
Miller’s third lawyer, David Bercot, an Anabaptist lawyer from Amberson, Pa., said after the hearing that Miller answered some of the questions from the grand jury. He balked at others concerning getting Lisa Miller and Isabella out of the country because of their shared beliefs.“These people they wanted him to testify against are fellow citizens of God’s kingdom,” Bercot said. “And it’s like, you wanted me to be a rat, you know, to turn on my fellow citizens. That’s basically what it came down to.”
I hope Miller stands strong! Good job. And the girl does NOT have two mothers, only one – who apparently is on her way to resolve or has resolved her previous homosexuality problem. And who dearly loves her daughter.