Religious Right Activist Convicted In Ex-Gay International Kidnapping Saga

Back in 2009, we started covering the story of Lisa Miller, a self-declared former lesbian who had become a hero to the Religious Right for defying legal orders to allow her former partner, Janet Jenkins, to see their daughter. After the couple had separated, Miller had moved from Vermont to Virginia, where she joined Jerry Falwell’s church, renounced her homosexuality and then refused to allow Jenkins to see the daughter they had had together. During the legal battle, Miller was represented by Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver and lawyers affiliated with Liberty University, both of which are connected to Falwell’s church.

Eventually, due to her intransigence and refusal to follow visitation orders, a judge in Vermont ordered Miller to transfer custody to Jenkins, but Miller refused and disappeared with her daughter.

Anti-gay activists heaped praise upon Miller for defying the court order and absconding with her daughter, while Liberty Counsel immediately went silent and began to try and wash its hands of the case,insisting that it had no idea where Miller had gone and that it had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Eventually, it was discovered that Miller had fled the country and, according to an FBI affidavit, wound up at a home in Nicaragua owned by Philip Zodhiates, a Religious Right activist whose daughter just so happened to be an administrative assistant at Liberty University Law School, where Miller’s Liberty Counsel attorneys, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, both worked. Even more amazingly, Miller’s attorneys reportedly just so happened to be teaching law students at Liberty University that Christian lawyers handling a case like Miller’s have a religious duty to counsel their client that they have an obligation to ignore the law and engage in “civil disobedience” in order to uphold God’s law.

In 2012, Liberty Law School was hit with a RICO lawsuit by Jenkins for allegedly playing a role in Miller’s kidnapping of their daughter, while Zodhiates was charged with conspiracy and international parental kidnapping in federal court. 

Zodhiates’ case concluded yesterday with a guilty verdict:

A Waynesboro businessman has been found guilty of international parental kidnapping after getting involved in a Vermont same-sex couple’s child custody fight.

A federal jury in Buffalo returned the verdict against Philip Zodhiates (zoh-dee-YAH’-taze) on Thursday following a trial that began last week. Zodhiates was also found guilty of conspiracy.

He faces up to eight years in prison.

The verdict, which followed a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, is the latest development in a case that has captured the nation’s interest and cast a spotlight on issues such as same sex marriage and parental rights.

Prosecutors say the Waynesboro, Virginia, resident helped a woman – Lisa A. Miller – and her 7-year-old daughter leave the country in 2009 when it was clear the woman — who had renounced her homosexuality — was losing a custody battle to her former partner.

Prosecutors say that Zodhiates drove Lisa Miller and the child from Virginia to the Rainbow Bridge, in western New York, where they crossed into Canada on their way to Nicaragua.

Prosecutors say the kidnapping was Miller’s attempt at keeping Isabella away from Janet Jenkins, her former partner, and what Miller now calls “the homosexual lifestyle.