BURLINGTON, Vt. Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor who helped a still-missing woman flee the United States with her daughter in order to escape a custody battle with the woman's former lesbian partner, was sentenced to 27 months in prison Mar. 4. But Miller, along with supporters, rejoiced after finding out he is free to return home to Virginia as he awaits an appeal, which could take several years.
"I am grateful for the mercy of God," Miller said as he left federal court in Burlington, Vt., to join a group of about 100 supporters. "Our God, He is alive."
During the two-hour sentencing hearing, Miller told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III he could not promise he would not aid once again in "international parental kidnapping" if it were in the best interest of the child.
Last summer, a jury found Miller guilty of helping former lesbian Lisa Miller (no relation) and her now-10-year-old daughter, Isabella, make the trek from Virginia to the Canadian border, and then on to Nicaragua via plane.
The mother-daughter pair is still believed to be in hiding in Central America.
Miller, 47, said Lisa Miller, a Virginia native, came to him in 2009 desperate to escape a court order that required her daughter spend time with her former partner, Janet Jenkins, who lives in Vermont. The pastor from Stuarts Draft, Va., said he acted on his religious conviction that same-sex relationships/"marriage" is against God's plan.
"I give myself unto you to do with me as you see fit," an emotional Kenneth Miller told the judge before sentencing.
Sessions said he admired Miller for the strength of his convictions, but he could not permit him to choose God's law over his country's.
Miller's attorneys argue the law that allowed the Virginia pastor to be tried in Vermont for a crime that neither occurred nor was planned in the state was likely to be overturned on appeal.
In a four-page letter to the judge, Miller wrote: "If it is true that my actions flow out of my faith in Jesus, and from my deeply held moral beliefs, and I sincerely think they do, then it must follow that whatever judgment is being brought against me by the United States of America, is judgment on my faith and conscience and deeply held moral beliefs. … I was faced with a woman in distress who needed help to protect her daughter from what seemed to be an inhumane court decree."