Activism gone too far
Kidnapping reaches beyond civil disobedience
In the lamentable case of Lisa Miller kidnapping her own daughter to another country, the teaming up of Beachy Amish members and Liberty University officials was one of the peculiar parts.
Founded by Jerry Falwell, Liberty is known for conservative evangelicalism — the political brand that seeks to advance its interpretation of Christianity at every level of government.
After Lisa Miller divorced Janet Jenkins, she got a job at Liberty Christian School in Virginia. With the aid of Liberty Counsel, she fought for exclusive custody of their daughter in Virginia and was represented by Matthew D. Staver and Rena M. Lindevaldsen, dean and associate dean of Liberty University Law School. But the Virginia Supreme Court ultimately sided with Vermont, where the couple were married, and granted custody to Jenkins after Miller did not comply with even occasional visits.
According to millercase.org, a fundraising website run by supporters of Ken Miller — a Beachy Amish minister who facilitated the kidnapping and was found guilty Aug. 14 in federal court in Vermont (see ‘Guilty verdict in Miller trial’) — Lisa Miller “came to the Anabaptists in Virginia for help.” The Beachy Amish were faced with a decision: get involved or accept the court’s ruling. In the trial and elsewhere, Ken Miller fully acknowledged helping Lisa Miller and her daughter leave the U.S. and meet up with other church members in Nicaragua.
“We wish to clarify that this was an act of mercy without a political agenda,” says a website statement, which tends to be in conflict with itself. “… Anabaptists have always believed that we are not to participate in the affairs of the State, while we gladly submit to its rule under God. We also recognize that there are many legal battles being fought in relation to homosexuality. We have no desire to participate in these conflicts.”
Yet participate they did, with material and logistical aid in abundance, and Ken Miller waded into the murky waters of obeying God rather than earthly rulers.
Refusing to obey laws that violate one’s conscience is an Anabaptist tradition, but aiding a kidnapping exceeds justified civil disobedience. Ken Miller helped break up a family, even if he didn’t approve of the court’s family definition. It is far from obvious that Lisa Miller is a fit mother and Jenkins is not, and it seems presumptuous for Ken Miller to claim to know who deserves custody.
Lisa Miller is wanted by Interpol and the FBI. Federal marshals are hunting her in Nicaragua. Church members fear their phones are tapped. All because some Anabaptists in Virginia were willing to do what even Liberty University wasn’t willing to do itself.
Ken Miller and his supporters claim to “gladly submit” to the state but fought charges the state brought against him. Mercy may have been the motive, but the actions stand on shaky ground, theologically and legally.
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