Michael Hamar

ABC News: Christian Network Involved in Lisa Miller Kidnapping

Filed By Michael Hamar | April 28, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch
Tags: Janet Jenkins, Jerry Falwell, kidnapping, Liberty Counsel, Liberty University, Lisa Miller, Matt Staver, Vermont

As more details emerge, it is increasingly obvious that Lisa Miller's flight from the USA in defiance jonathan.jpgof court orders was orchestrated and facilitated by a network of far right Christians, many with ties to Lynchburg, Virginia, or nearby Waynesboro. Matt Staver and the folks at Liberty University continue to claim total ignorance of the plot, yet it looks more and more far fetched to believe the denials.

ABC News looks at the story and finds an interconnecting web swirling around Liberty University which as reported earlier in the month received nearly a half billion dollars in federal funding via student loans.

As Salon noted:

Liberty University, the evangelical private Christian school founded by dead apartheid-supporting bigot Jerry Falwell, received $445 million in federal financial aid last year.

That massive sum was thanks to the growth of Liberty's online program, which enrolled 52,000 students last year. The school is the No. 1 recipient of Pell grant money in the state of Virginia. While it may seem like the federal government is basically subsidizing this formerly financially challenged ultra-conservative religious private school,LU's executive director of financial aid sees it differently: For Ritz -- a financial aid veteran who got his start at a small Bible college -- Liberty's use of federal financial aid does not run counter to the university's conservative values. Liberty does not receive the federal money directly, Ritz said, but through students, who use it to pay for tuition, room and board and other expenses.

"These funds are authorized by Congress and Congress is elected by voters. . . I've always been in the position where I believe I'm a steward of those federal funds. I'm a steward of tax-payer money." And I'm sure ACORN, Planned Parenthood and NPR feel the same way. Liberty University -- where the biology department teaches Young Earth Creationism -- is, astoundingly, an accredited school of higher learning.

But back to the Lisa Miller saga. While Matt Staver is feigning ignorance, it turns out Miller as on the payroll of Lynchburg Christian Academy, an affiliate of Thomas Road Baptist Church of which Jonathan Falwell (pictured above) is the senior pastor. Falwell conveniently also serves as the executive vice president of Spiritual Affairs at Liberty University and over sees that institution's School of Religion and Liberty Theological Seminary. Seems pretty interconnected to me - and unlikely that Falwell wasn't aware of Miller being subsidized by his entities. ABC News reports in part as follows:

Timothy Miller [the only individual arrested so far] appeared to work in conjunction with several groups. The plane tickets were purchased through Golden Rule Travel, a group focusing on "international adoption, humanitarian and missionary travel," according to court documents. When reached by phone, the manager of the Kansas office said that confidentiality rules prohibit them from disclosing whether they sold the tickets or not.

Timothy Miller was a pastor for the Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) in Nicaragua, and in an email he wrote in March 2010 he fretted, "Another big thing right now is CAM higher ups say she may not even go to CAM any more for the protection of the organization." Christian Aid Ministries would not comment on the investigation.

Bank records cited in the court documents state that Lisa Miller "received multiple payroll checks from the Lynchburg Christian Academy Payroll Account. Miller received the checks while she was teaching at the school between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, said Mathew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. Lynchburg Christian Academy, renamed Liberty Christian Academy, is linked to Liberty University and was founded by Jerry Falwell.

In addition, Philip Zodhiates, the owner of a company specializing in source lists for Christian telemarketers and retailers [based in Waynesboro, Virgina], has a home in Nicaragua, according to court documents. Investigators allege that Lisa Miller and Isabella are staying at the home.

Zodhiates' daughter, Victoria Hyden, works at Liberty University and investigators allege that her father asked her to disseminate a request for supplies to be sent to Lisa Miller and her daughter.

Despite all of these interconnections, Staver says neither he, Liberty University nor Liberty Counsel had any involvement in Miller's flight in defiance of court orders. Bob Felton at Civil Commotion sums up the situation well:

If the Justice Department has the guts to do a thorough investigation with an election looming, I think we're going to find that Lisa Miller's whereabouts was an open secret in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is simply not believable that so many of the people implicated could be swarming around the same teensy anthill without knowledge of each others' activities.

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Excellent reporting, Michael. Glad to see the noose tightening. I hope the crooks in Lynchburg get what's coming to them.

People should know more about the institutions that get government funds.

It's about time people just started naming them for what they are: a cult who wants total control over members' lives - the law be damned.