Parsing the Arrest in the Miller/Jenkins Custody Case

One of the most interesting, and confusing, stories of the weekend is the arrest of Timothy David Miller for allegedly helping Lisa Miller take her child to Nicaragua to avoid being reunited with the child’s custodial parent, Isabella Miller-Jenkins. I first read about the arrest from my former family law professor Nancy Polikoff, a blogger at Bilerico Project.

While I’m not sure it is correct that Miller is an “evangelical church worker,” the column was a nice start to explain the twisted narrative that leads from Vermont to Virginia to Liberty University and finally a charity run by conservative Mennonites and Anabaptists in Nicaragua.

Reporters are lucky to have access to the criminal complaint filed against Miller to get all the details.  It’s a little hard to follow, but the details are pretty riveting (and scary, if you are someone concerned about the government accessing emails and website information).  We’ve seen some good reporting by the New York Times and the AP.

I especially liked Lisa Keen’s reporting, which is widely distributed in the LGBT press, as well as the story by The Advocate (which was sourced later by the NYT). Keen and the Advocate clear up some of the details, and begin to connect the dots between Lisa Miller’s attendance at Thomas Road Baptist Church, the former church of Jerry Falwell. Falwell is also the founder of Liberty University, which spawned Liberty Counsel. The daughter of the man whose home was allegedly used to hide the little girl was an employee at Liberty and Liberty Counsel represented Lisa Miller in her custody dispute.

The oddest detail is about Timothy David Miller, who is described variously as a preacher and missionary.  He allegedly worked for Christian Aid Ministries, a group associated with Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups.  Anabaptists are decidedly not “evangelicals” and have not previously been seen as part of the Christian conservative movement that work works against LGBT rights.   I can’t wait to learn more about him and figure out if he allegedly has any connection with the folks at Liberty.

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