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Philip Zodhiates is still in prison [Updated]

I have been wanting to say something about Philip Zodhiates for some time, because he is still in federal prison, a true prisoner of conscience, and because I now have more readers of my work who are probably completely unaware of the case. People are often shocked when I describe it.

Check out the tag, here, for more posts. But briefly, here is a summary:

More than eighteen years ago, Lisa Miller entered into a civil union with Janet Jenkins in Vermont. (Please remember this story next time someone advocates civil unions as not as "bad" from a conservative p.o.v. as gay "marriage." They're legally identical.)


During this civil union, Miller conceived and bore a child by using a sperm donor. The little girl, Isabella, was only eighteen months old when Miller left the relationship and formally broke it up legally. Miller converted to Christianity, left the homosexual lifestyle behind her, and fled to Virginia to keep her child away from Jenkins, who represented all that she had repented of and was now leaving behind. Jenkins, let us bear in mind, is not in any way related to Isabella and has not lived with her since she was eighteen months old.

Vermont courts, to whom the custody decision was ultimately given, treated the unrelated lesbian Jenkins as Isabella's "other mother" and insisted on unsupervised visitation, even though Jenkins was, from Isabella's perspective, a stranger. Isabella made some of these visits but was so upset by them (and alleged that Jenkins had bathed with her naked) that Miller refused to allow any more such visits with Jenkins, who had neither any natural claim on Isabella whatsoever nor any relationship with her. Miller became so concerned by Isabella's statements and by her bizarre behaviors at such a young age (including the sudden onset of open masturbation and saying she wanted to kill herself) that she eventually refused to allow unsupervised visits. The Vermont judge and Jenkins refused to compromise (e.g., to limit Jenkins only to supervised, non-overnight visits). Miller exhausted all her legal options. Eventually the judge was poised to order full custoy to Jenkins to punish Miller for denying Jenkins unsupervised "parental" visits (even though she was not in any sense at all the child's parent).

At that point, Miller fled the country with her little girl. (My understanding is that at the time of her flight she still had official legal custody of Isabella.) She apparently fled successfully to Nicaragua. In doing so she had help to drive across state lines from Philip Zodhiates and help with arranging her flight from Mennonite Pastor Kenneth Miller (no relation). Mennonite missionary Timothy Miller (also no relation) helped her in Nicaragua.

Many years have passed now. Isabella has recently turned eighteen, wherever she is. Lisa is still technically a fugitive from "justice." You see, the U.S. federal government declared this an international kidnapping, and it set out to punish Lisa and everyone who had helped her.

Kenneth Miller has served a several-year federal prison sentence. Philip Zodhiates is currently serving a three-year prison sentence. Timothy Miller was extradited from Nicaragua (even though Nicaragua technically has no extradition agreement with the U.S.) and before being shipped back was literally kept in a Nicaraguan dungeon in very rough conditions. He has since had his sentence commuted to probation but must stay in the U.S. and as far as I know is still in that situation.

Nor will these men's ordeal be over after they are done serving prison time. Not only is Zodhiates at least (and possibly Kenneth Miller?) many thousands of dollars in debt for legal fees, but Janet Jenkins, like some bizarre Inspector Javert, is attempting to ruin them yet furtehr and anyone who was Lisa's lawyer back at the time via a civil lawsuit for depriving her of Isabella's company. That lawsuit is moving at the speed of molasses, which I suppose is a good thing in a way, but it is supposed to gear back up this spring some time.

Zodhiates sought a compassionate release as a non-violent prisoner during Covid (that did happen for various people even in federal prison), but since "international kidnapping" is deemed a violent crime by definition, he was denied. Naturally, when The Orange One was issuing pardons and clemencies all over the place in his last days, these folks were not among those pardoned. This could also have been done earlier in his term. In fairness, it's possible that no one had his ear to bring the cases before him.

Philip Zodhiates keeps his spirits up via his faith in God. He and all of these men, to my mind, exemplify to an astonishing extent the injunction to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).

Zodhiates has a prison blog that is mostly musings about Scripture and faith. It's found here. For a long time it wasn't being updated, even though (via an e-mail list) I knew that he was writing entries. I made some inquiries, and since then a few of his entries since August, 2020, have been posted. Here is the crowdfunding site for him. Here was Pastor Ken Miller's blog during his imprisonment, which has stopped being updated since he was released. I find that one is likely to get e-mail updates if one joins the crowdfunding effort for Zodhiates.

It is interesting to me that things are getting so much worse now in America, in terms of censorship. (Focus on the Family was just bumped from Twitter for saying that a man cannot turn into a woman. Hate speech, y'know.) And yet this case goes back ten years!

I find that many people are shocked to learn that men have served and one is still serving time in federal prison for the "crime" of helping an ex-lesbian who repented escape with her daughter so that her young daughter would not be turned over to her former lesbian lover. The case is not much talked about or known, even among those who continue to be conservative or remotely sane on these issues.

I am grateful that it seems that these men have been protected physically in prison. Pray for Philip Zodhiates and also for the others who will be targeted by the civil lawsuit. Also, pray that Zodhiates will be able to find new lawyers. His previous lawyers were apparently offended when he made an appeal for his sentence to be vacated on the grounds that his lawyers refused at his trial to bring up the concerns that he had about sexual abuse which were a part of his motivation for driving Lisa to New York as part of her escape. So now he needs new lawyers, not to mention needing money to hire them. I have a feeling he's going to find a lot of his fellow Christians shockingly weak-willed when he gets out of prison, having been through the fire and having been involved in prison ministry from the inside.

STOP PRESS: Literally just a couple of hours after posting this, I checked a different blog that seems "plugged in" to the Mennonite community. Lisa Miller has surrendered herself to U.S. authorities and has been sent to Miami to be quarantined and to await trial for "kidnapping" her own daughter! Isabella was issued a temporary U.S. visa. I don't know if she is returning to the U.S. yet, though she is now eighteen years of age and free from the threat of being made to have a relationship with Janet Jenkins. I'm not sure this was a good idea on Lisa's part. I hope that Isabella has a support network here in the U.S. to come to, since she will no longer have her mother. 18-year-old girls need their mothers, too! And no doubt they are very close after all of these years. I think that Lisa must have felt it was her duty to return to the U.S. and stand trial after what the men who helped her have endured--to stand with them. Here and here are posts about this.

Comments (9)

Thanks for this update, Lydia. A horrific situation indeed.

Thanks so much for the update. It was the early '00s (I *think*, I can't find it on the net) when an employee was fired from Brooks Brothers after being cajoled by his manager for his views on same-sex marriage which she (and Brooks Brothers bigwigs) deemed unacceptable. I discerned then that this is from where the spearhead of a new wave of assaults on Christians was going to come.

The Lisa-Isabella Miller case was to my mind one of the sharpest manifestations of this. A sign of the ascendancy of what Brian Niemeier describes as the Death Cult: "In a nutshell, the Death Cult is a heretical mutant offshoot of Christianity that discards Christian doctrines it doesn't like, warps the others into anti-human inversions of their original purpose, and enforces them with rabid zeal." https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/06/a-tale-of-two-cults.html

I have little doubt that in their time in Nicaragua, they were hidden by God's pinions as the psalm says, but naturally I'd be curious about any practical pointers they have about girding loins, fleeing, and staying one step ahead of the "law". Like a Christian version of the Anarchist's Cookbook.

I'm also curious why they returned now that Grandpa Abortion Warlock is in the oval office and who is currently scraping the bottom of the Tumblr barrel for appointments.

Prayers for them going up.

Scott, I think you are thinking of the Peter Vadala firing from a Brookstone store in Massachusetts. Coincidentally around the same time as Lisa fled.

https://www.foxnews.com/story/massachusetts-man-says-he-was-fired-for-telling-colleague-her-gay-marriage-is-wrong

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/11/speak_now_or_forever_hold_your.html


I have little doubt that in their time in Nicaragua, they were hidden by God's pinions as the psalm says, but naturally I'd be curious about any practical pointers they have about girding loins, fleeing, and staying one step ahead of the "law". Like a Christian version of the Anarchist's Cookbook. I'm also curious why they returned now that Grandpa Abortion Warlock is in the oval office and who is currently scraping the bottom of the Tumblr barrel for appointments.

My guess is they were hidden by the tight-knit Mennonite community. And that she won't reveal the secrets for any inducement or threat. (After all, IIRC, Timo Miller was considered to have committed a U.S. federal crime for helping her *in Nicaragua*.)

This may also explain why Lisa came back. According to one of the blog posts I linked in the postscript, there has been increasing zeal from the Nicaraguan govt. recently in trying to find her, and this seems to have led to danger to those who were hiding them. (Unless the sentence in question was referring to the arrest of Timo Miller a few years ago. But to me it looks like it was referring to a more recent incident.) My best guess is that, whatever the cause of this zeal in Nicaragua, she felt she wasn't justified in endangering her friends any longer. Turns out Isabella turned 18 last April. Maybe she would have come back then if it weren't for Covid lockdown. She was probably also very much afraid of being caught by the Nicaraguans first instead of the Americans, given Timo's bad treatment. Or having that happen to anyone harboring her.

It's interesting to wonder why the recent enthusiasm by the Nicaraguan authorities. She turned herself in before Biden's inauguration. To some extent the processes of prosecution grind along on their own steam, based on the zeal of those already ensconced in prosecutor's and judges' roles, aside from administration. It's not like this all took a pause during the Trump administration. So I don't know what to say there. These things seem to follow rhythms--possibly of corruption and bribery in Nicaragua, possibly of individual whim--that are less simple than who is President in the U.S.

In a few communications on the mailing list I've seen references to her returning eventually in order somehow to show solidarity with the men who helped her. There is some kind of idea that it would be cowardly of her to let them take the rap after Isabella is technically safe, while she goes free. Almost a "survivor guilt" thing. They may also be hoping that Isabella's testimony can help somehow in the upcoming civil trial.

And finally, they were hoping for a last-minute pardon. It looks to me like she surrendered when she saw that all hope of that was lost.

It's interesting to wonder why the recent enthusiasm by the Nicaraguan authorities.

This is a just a wild guess on my part. I'm a bit of a geek for history of the Colombian civil war after Escobar. Today, was just doing a search of Colombian news items and stumbled on a story where close to a hundred "human-rights activists" were turning up murdered in Colombia. I put that in scare quotes because in the comments several people suggested that these aren't human-rights activists, but LGBT agitators, which the Colombians, thoroughly educated in solving problems with hot lead, have no patience for.

This makes me wonder if the Nicaraguan heat is part of a larger LGBT infiltration effort.

The craziest thing about all this is how it looks like the Vermont judge gave Lisa’s ex custody in order to punish her for no longer being homosexual. Does anyone think if Lisa had left her for another woman that the judge would have cared to give her daughter to a virtual stranger? This is a worrying president for those of us who no longer suffer from same sex attraction or gender dysphoria and are happy in our new lives in Christ. It makes it much harder if magistrates seek to punish us for violating their belief in orientation immutability.

The craziest thing about all this is how it looks like the Vermont judge gave Lisa’s ex custody in order to punish her for no longer being homosexual.

I'd say more it was to punish her for fleeing to Virginia and defying the visitation orders.

What I've found pretty consistently is that administrative judges such as family law judges, probate judges, etc., get very punitive when anyone defies their orders or their power or questions them. Lisa had stopped allowing Isabella to visit Jenkins at all. She had even paid fairly large fines. A judge in that situation gets like a stubborn parent: You won't do what I say, I'm going to have to bring in the "big guns" as far as punishment.

I'm somewhat guessing here, but I'd guess the judge's bias against Lisa (as a religious, homophobic kook, etc.) probably showed up most clearly in his insisting on the overnight, unsupervised visitations and his refusal to listen to any allegations that this was disturbing the child. Refusing to compromise and just order supervised visits or reconsider. He probably thought of this as just a bunch of bigots projecting their bigotry.

Once Lisa defied him and just hunkered down in Virginia, *then* he really got ticked off, and that aspect of it probably would have happened with any family law judge whom a parent sat in another state and defied. At that point, a family law judge might well order that primary custody be switched over just to show the parent that she can't stonewall like that.

In fact, I've had commentators on this very blog over the year defend what the judge did for that very reason! E.g. He's in charge, he has to have some kind of recourse if she won't do the custody arrangement that he insisted on. The court's in charge. Rule of law. Family courts have to have some kind of punishment with teeth for defiant parents. Lalalalala, I can't hear you. Etc.

In fact, I've had commentators on this very blog over the year defend what the judge did for that very reason! E.g. He's in charge, he has to have some kind of recourse if she won't do the custody arrangement that he insisted on. The court's in charge. Rule of law. Family courts have to have some kind of punishment with teeth for defiant parents. Lalalalala, I can't hear you. Etc.

I have never heard of any other cases where the family court's judicial rulings and contempt decisions were supported with a decades-long FEDERAL pursuit along with serious prison time 15 years later on a third party "accessory". In a system in which other much more flagrant federal criminals get off with probation, this is clearly an ideological vendetta pursued via ideological surrogates that in effect are committing conspiracy crimes themselves.

Yes, in theory, because they crossed state lines, and because the child was taken out of the country, this can be treated as a federal crime, but as far as I know there has never been another such case, especially with the pursuit and imprisonment of other people, including one who was an American citizen who helped her in another country. My memory may be off here, though I researched it carefully at one time, but my recollection is that Timo Miller assisted them only in Nicaragua yet was convicted of a crime as if committed in the U.S. And the pursuit of Ken Miller and Philip Zodhiates is similarly vendetta-like, though their so-called "crimes" were committed on U.S. soil.

The 419 Fund just sent out an update e-mail stating that Isabella is still in Nicaragua and has issued the following statement:


I, Isabella Ruth Miller, am grateful for the life that God has given me these past few years and rejoice in the blessings He has granted me. I am not willing to testify against Mama or anyone who has helped bless my life these past years. I am committed to continue to serve God in the days to come.

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