Liberty Counsel Responds to SPLC Lawsuit

Jun 5, 2017

BURLINGTON, VT — Today, Liberty Counsel filed a comprehensive response in federal court to the lawsuit backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the case of Jenkins v. Miller, et al. The legal Memorandum of Law is 116 pages, not counting affidavits. Liberty Counsel also filed a second Motion and Memorandum of Law raising Vermont’s anti-SLAPP, which prevents suits designed to restrict free speech.

While living in Virginia, Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered into a Vermont same-sex civil union.  Lisa gave birth to her biological child, Isabella. For a brief period, they moved to Vermont. There Lisa became a Christian and left the lesbian relationship. Lisa moved back to Virginia and a visitation battle ensued between the laws of Vermont (which recognized the civil union) and Virginia (which did not). Liberty Counsel represented Lisa from late 2004 until she disappeared in September 2009.

A Vermont state court judge granted Janet visitation of Lisa’s biological child, even though she was not the biological or adoptive parent and Vermont precedent did not recognize such parental rights. Isabella knew very little about Janet as she was a baby at the time of the split. Lisa complied with the visitation orders, but she raised concerns to the Vermont judge which he never addressed. Lisa presented evidence that Janet read Heather Has Two Mommies to Isabella and told her she was her mommy. Janet bathed naked with her, which greatly upset young Isabella. Lisa advised the court that Isabella was having emotional problems over the visitation. She began wetting her bed, clinging to Lisa, and even tried to harm herself. The case became a nationally watched legal battle because it was the first case in the country pitting the opposing laws on same-sex civil unions of two different states.

While the litigation and appeals were still proceeding in September 2009, Lisa stopped communicating. She did not respond to emails and her voicemail filled up. The last communication from Lisa was about a week prior to her disappearance in which she stated she was interviewing for a job in Virginia. Without any warning or hint of her plan to disappear, Lisa ceased all communication. We advised the Vermont court we had lost contact with Lisa and requested to withdraw, but the Vermont court denied the request. The withdrawal was later effectuated in 2010.

During the Obama administration, a federal prosecutor filed criminal charges against two Mennonite ministers associated with a Mennonite community in Nicaragua, both of them with the last name of Miller (Ken and Timothy), but with no relationship to Lisa. A third person in Northern Virginia was also charged. All three have been convicted of helping Lisa flee the country. The criminal investigation is complete and at least one of the criminal defendants is on appeal. Lisa had no prior association with the Mennonites.

Janet Jenkins, the former lesbian partner of Lisa, filed a civil complaint in a Vermont federal court in 2012, claiming the alleged defendants participated in helping Lisa flee. The 2012 lawsuit did not name Liberty Counsel, Rena Lindevaldsen or Mat Staver. Lindevaldsen worked on the Lisa Miller case with Liberty Counsel.

In late 2016, Jenkins moved to amend her lawsuit to include Liberty Counsel, Lindevaldsen and Staver. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) then joined the suit as the lead counsel for Jenkins.

The SPLC is a dangerous group because it creates a “Hate Map” listing “hate groups.” Mark Potock, with the SPLC, in an interview admitted: “Our criteria for a ‘hate group,’ first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.”

This false labeling has serious consequences. After the founder of Chick-fil-A said he believed marriage is between a man and a woman, Floyd Corkins went online to the SPLC Hate Map, entered the Family Research Council’s (FRC) office in Washington, D.C. fully-armed and carrying Chick-fil-A sandwiches. He intended to commit mass murder and rub the sandwiches in the faces of the dead bodies. Fortunately, the security guard wrestled Corkins to the ground. However, he was shot in the process. Corkins later confessed to the FBI that he sought to kill as many people at FRC after reading about the group on the SPLC Hate Map. Corkins is now in prison, but the SPLC refuses to take down its false and dangerous statements.

Mark Potok is on video in a public meeting stating: “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them…”

During the Obama administration, the SPLC frequently visited the White House. The SPLC even peddled its false ideological propaganda for some in the military until their extremism and false reporting got the group removed.

The Philanthropy Roundtable recently published an article about the SPLC pointing out the false labeling. The SPLC even labeled famed surgeon Dr. Ben Carson as a “hater.” The SPLC rakes in millions of dollars each year and has huge financial reserves, causing some to wonder what nonprofit work the SPLC does.

The Motions and Memoranda of Law to Dismiss the suit against Liberty Counsel, Staver and Lindevaldsen dismantle the Jenkin’s lawsuit, which has the sole purpose of harassing and “destroying” Liberty Counsel, Staver and Lindevaldsen. First, Jenkin’s complaint admits that Liberty Counsel, Staver and Lindevaldsen have always maintained they had no knowledge of Lisa’s plan to flee and had no part in her disappearance. Indeed, Lisa was always counseled to obey the court orders. The litigation was still in progress. Without any hint of her plan, Lisa disappeared with Isabella. Second, there are too many legal arguments to list here, but the Memoranda of Law demolishes the baseless complaint.

“The lawsuit by Janet Jenkins, with the backing of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is designed solely to harass and destroy,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “In the nearly eight years since Lisa Miller disappeared, and with the intense investigation conducted on this case by the federal government and Janet Jenkins, there is not one shred of evidence that points to Liberty Counsel, Rena Lindevaldsen or me. But the facts and the law are irrelevant to Janet Jenkins and the SPLC. The SPLC’s motivation for joining this suit is to publicize their dangerous agenda. Ultimately, they want to destroy us. But that will not happen. The truth, a word the SPLC does not like, shall prevail,” said Staver.

Jenkins and the SPLC will have to respond to the legal arguments, and at some point, the federal court will make its ruling.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.