Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Virginia Pastor Jailed For His Beliefs

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Writing from jail, Pastor Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor says, "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 judgement is being brought against me by the United States of America, is judgement on my faith and conscience and deeply held moral beliefs."

So what did he do?

He says, "I was faced with a women in distress who needed help to protect her daughter from what seemed to be an inhumane court decree."

Here's her story.

Pastor Miller was convicted last summer on a charge of aiding in international parental kidnapping.

During his trial, prosecutors made the case of how he arranged for Lisa Miller (no relation) and her daughter, Isabella, to be taken from Virginia to Buffalo, NY, where they crossed the border into Canada and were met by an Ontario Mennonite who then took them to the Toronto airport. From there they flew to Mexico then on to Nicaragua, where it is presumed they are still hiding.

Why did he do it?

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Isabella was born to Lisa in 2002. The couple split up in 2003.

The Vermont family court gave custody to Lisa and gave Jenkins regular visitation rights.

Lisa Miller moved back to Virginia where she accepted Christ and denounced homosexuality, her former behavior and sought full custody of Isabella.

She then stopped following court ordered visitation schedules.

A judge then threatened to transfer custody to Jenkins.

Two months later, she fled to Nicaragua with Pastor Miller's assistance.

Pastor Miller was charged with a crime. He was ordered to testify before a grand jury whose intention was to find where Lisa and Isabella were hiding.

He refused. He has been in jail.

The prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence him to the maximum 3 years in jail.

They have also named as co-conspirators with Pastor Miller, Philip Zodhiates, a wealthy businessman who lives near Pastor Miller, and Zodhiates' daughter, Victoria Hyden, who is an administrative assistant at Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg.

Miller's attorneys have told the judge he should not receive jail time because he has no previous criminal record and is a well respected leader in the community.

Pastor Miller wrote a letter to the judge a few days ago in which he said, "After more than three weeks of incarceration ...I find my faith and conscience and moral convictions considerably strengthened. My position remains the same. I am unable, for reasons of faith, to answer certain questions before the grand jury. I take no delight in burdening the court, but find myself compelled to this position by my deeply held religious beliefs."

The judge's ruling is imminent.

What do you think about his actions?

Should he be sentenced?

Should he have violated his beliefs and conscience and complied?

In Acts 5: 28 and 29, the authorities have forbidden the apostles to preach the gospel in "Jesus name." They continued to do so. They have now been brought before the court and the high priest or judge because of their conduct. The high priest asks them, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?"

Peter and the other apostles answered him and said, "We ought to obey God rather than man."

Does this apply to pastor Miller?

The outcome, as most of you know, was that the authorities beat the apostles, warned them again and released them. The conversation among the authorities was that they did not want to appear to some to be fighting God.

Verse 41 says the apostles "rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer shame for Christ."

Verse 42 says, "They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

How will this judge rule?

Update: As I am finishing this column, the New York Times is reporting, "A Virginia pastor who said that his actions 'flow out of my faith in Jesus,' was sentenced to 27 months in prison for abetting the international parental kidnapping of a girl in a high-profile case involving a same-sex union and the condemnation of homosexuality by conservative Christians."

The Times says in a partial victory for the pastor, he will not be required to begin serving his time until a planned appeal is settled, which may take up to 2 years.

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Bold. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.