Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

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Experts testify to trauma experienced by Isabella Miller in sworn testimony now published online

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

June 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - LifeSiteNews.com is publishing sworn affidavits by two experts and another eyewitness who testify to evidence of trauma suffered by ex-lesbian Lisa Miller’s daughter, Isabella Miller, following court-ordered visits to Miller’s former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins.

The documents, available for the first time on the internet, also include court testimony by Isabella Miller’s court-appointed advocate, who expressed concern that transferring custody from Miller to Jenkins would “turn her world upside down.”

Links to all four documents can be found at the conclusion of this article. Three of the four were originally quoted by LifeSiteNews in March of 2010, but were not published in their entirety until now.

The documents illustrate the concerns that presumably led Miller, who had repudiated the lesbian lifestyle and converted to Evangelical Christianity, to flee the United States to avoid further contact between her daughter and Jenkins, with whom she had shared a civil union in the state of Vermont.

Disturbing testimony

Among them is testimony by clinical therapist Sylvia Haydash, who had two clinical sessions with Isabella and observed her for an hour on another occasion. She concluded that the visits were doing serious harm to the child, causing anxiety, renewed bed-wetting, and general psychological regression.

“Isabella appears to have been traumatized by the limited visitation thus far, a serious consequence, taking Isabella in a negative direction as compared to Isabella’s condition before the recent visitations where she was a child that was well-adjusted, flourishing, above-the-curve developmentally, verbally gifted, and readily able to separate from Lisa and meet with other people,” wrote Haydash in 2007.

“At this point, after only two supervised two-hour visits, and the resulting regressive behaviors, it is my clinical opinion that leaving Isabella unsupervised with Janet for visitations would needlessly exacerbate Isabella’s trauma,” Haydash also stated. She added, “I further believe that unsupervised visits would be detrimental to Isabella at this time and could cause permanent damage to normal development.”

Gwen Corley, a social worker who also observed Isabella, noted the traumatic effects of Isabella’s relationship with Jenkins

“Isabella suffers from sleep disturbance and nightmares, having difficulty sleeping through the night,” she told the court in 2007, adding that “Isabella also talks about death, and has expressed fear that if her mother Lisa dies she will be at risk.  Without prompting, Isabella has said she is afraid that Janet Jenkins may take her away from Lisa.”

Corley added that “the distance from Virginia to Vermont, and the time it takes to travel back in forth, coupled with these emotional concerns, are simply too great to require a five year old to make the trip during the school year ... in my professional opinion it would be detrimental to Isabella’s emotional well-being for her to travel back and forth to Vermont during the school year.”

A final witness, a friend who sometimes cared for Isabella, also expressed her “great concern” at the child’s reactions to her visits with Jenkins in her November 2007 testimony.

Tammara Canfield told the court that Isabella had become “withdrawn” and “unhappy,” despite her normally cheerful demeanor. She also said that she didn’t want to talk about her visits with Janet because “it makes her cry.” She testified that pictures drawn by Isabella also “cause me concern.”

Similar concerns expressed by Miller

The concerns expressed in the affidavits reflect Lisa Miller’s own testimony. Miller told the court that her child had referred to being forced to bathe naked with Jenkins, had begun to touch herself sexually, and appeared disturbed and unhappy following visits. She elaborated on the troubling situation in an extensive interview with LifeSiteNews (LSN) in 2008.

“Last year, Isabella put a comb up to her neck and said she wanted to kill herself after one of the visits,” Miller told LSN.  “She took a comb and pressed it into her neck and said, “I want to kill myself.”  I don’t know where she got that.  It was immediately after a visit.  Other people have seen huge changes.  She also started openly masturbating which is not something that my child has done.”

“She is 6 now but this started when she was 5 – after visits.  The very first time that Janet ever saw Isabella after the two and a half years, her very first over-night visit – the court ordered it and I allowed it because it was in Virginia and she was supposed to have been supervised by her parents, Isabella came home and said, ‘Mommy, will you please tell Janet that I don’t have to take a bath anymore at her house.’”

“I asked her what happened.  She said, ‘Janet took a bath with me.’  I asked her if she had a bathing suit on.  ‘No, Mommy.’  She had no clothes on and it totally scared Isabella.  She had never seen this woman except once in 2 ½ years and she takes a bath with her.”

Court appointed legal advocate warns against ‘turning her world upside down’

Michelle Kenny, Isabella’s personal legal advocate appointed by the Vermont court, agreed in 2009 that transferring custody might be harmful to Isabella, and acknowledged that “the position of my client [Isabella] is that Virginia is her home and she wants to stay there” and that she is a “thriving and happy go lucky kid.”

Although Kenny claimed that Jenkins had “a right to a relationship” with Isabella, she told the court that “I certainly can extend to the Court that Isabella’s doing well, that she does want to stay where she’s at” and expressed concern that moving Isabella to Jenkins’ custody could cause an “adverse reaction” in the child.

“And I think that’s probably a concern of the Court, and I would certainly hope it’s a concern of all parties that this doesn’t go as well as the parties may otherwise be suggesting. I mean, we are talking about a complete change in Isabella’s life, and she’s seven years old,” Kenny stated.

She added that there was “a real risk that we have, turning her world upside down and changing, you know Virginia to Vermont.”

However, the Vermont court under judge Richard Cohen was not persuaded by Miller’s expert witnesses, nor Miller herself, and ruled that the visits were to continue.  When Miller refused, he attempted to remove her daughter from her custody and transfer it to Jenkins, discarding the concerns expressed by Isabella’s own attorney.

By the time Cohen issued his ruling transferring custody in January 2010, Miller had already fled the United States with her daughter.  As LifeSiteNews reported earlier this week, domestic and foreign police services are now hunting for the two in Nicaragua, where Miller reportedly took refuge from a government that is now determined to take her child from her.

The four documents appear below:

Testimony by clinical therapist Sylvia Haydash

Testimony by social worker Gwen Corley

Testimony by day care worker Tammara Canfield

Testimony by attorney Michelle Kenny, court-appointed advocate for Isabella Miller

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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease," Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that "it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the email to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in the ice bucket challenge," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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