YOU PAID FOR KIM DAVIS’S LAWYER
By Meg Langford
Let me begin by saying that the above fact repulses me as much as it does you. I’ll grant you, it was a bit of an inflammatory headline, but I needed to cut through some of the more brainless blathering and nattering about Kim Davis, in order to get your attention. Drastic measures were needed. If you are reading this, I assume I’ve accomplished my mission.
But how, you may ask, are you, the taxpayer, paying for Kim Davis’s lawyer?
Let me connect the dots for you, ever so briefly, and then expound.
Liberty University, the Love Child of Jerry Falwell and the Southern Baptists, gets half a billion of your tax dollars a year. They aren’t supposed to. But they do, in the form of Pell Grants, a form of financial aid which the student can hand over to the college or university of their choice. (For what it’s worth, Liberty is notorious for not returning Pell Grants, even when students have realized within the legal time limit that they have made a ghastly error in judgment and want their Pell Grant (your tax dollars) back. But that’s a subject for another time.
Liberty University is very closely allied with Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel is the firm representing Kim Davis. Liberty Counsel is a bunch of lawyers whose firm is, amazingly, a 501(c)(3), meaning it is a TAX EXEMPT NON-PROFIT. They don’t have to pay any taxes, or tell you anything about how they spend their money. Trust me--after researching the twin cherubs of Liberty Counsel and Liberty University for several years, I can assure you that all of their efforts, prayers, and monies co-mingle. I mean, these guys are close. Really close. Close like the banjo players on the front porch in Deliverance are close. And the lead banjo player is a man named Mathew Staver. He founded Liberty Counsel, and he is its president. More importantly, for the purposes of this article, he is also representing Kim Davis, and no doubt hopes to do so, right up to the steps of the Supreme Court.
A little more about Mathew Staver. Only one “t” in “Mathew”, folks, for your future Googling information. (I guess he made his other “t” into a little cross necklace.) I mention this because if you spell it with two “t”s, you connect with a very nice nature photographer who lives in Colorado, has done a galley of photos about marijuana, is clearly liberal, and most certainly doesn’t want to hear from you. At least, he doesn’t want to hear the names that you would most surely call him if you thought he was Mathew Staver of Liberty University.
Mathew Staver was actually the Dean of the Liberty University Law School for nearly a decade, until just last year, when he stepped down because of his alleged complicity in an international kidnapping ring. Granted, there was only one single child in question, a little girl, but it was a ring nonetheless. Lots of very religious people were involved, both here and abroad. And I have no doubt that they would kidnap lots of other children, if they thought it would fulfill their holy agenda: steal kids away from their gay parents in the name of God. And no, you won’t find this explanation of why he stepped down on his website, or on Liberty University's website. But it’s the truth of it. Indictments were being handed down, the FBI was descending, and a RICO case was roiling.
Just who is this Mathew Staver? Mathew Staver chooses to take on cases pro bono, and his taste in clients is bizarre, indeed. Let’s begin with the international kidnapping ring. The story started in Vermont, where two women joined in a legal union and then had a baby, sperm courtesy of an anonymous donor. They had a beautiful baby girl. So far, so good. Then one of the mothers, a one Lisa Miller, got cold feet and made her way from Vermont to the fortress of Liberty University in Southwest Virginia, where she claims to have had a CGI-effect (or Monty Python) type religious experience which miraculously transformed her into a straight Baptist person, and further instructed her to never let the other lesbian mother see the child again. Mathew Staver was intrigued at this point, but he was not quite certain if the woman was sincere.
Enter Linda Wall, a woman who used to be gay, and got in trouble for having an affair with a female student many years ago, but who then found Jesus, became not gay, and decided to run for office so she could vote on how other people should live, on account of her having a personal line to the Lord. Liberty Counsel asked her to check out Lisa Miller, the mother who had fled Vermont with the kid, and Lisa Wall promptly drove from Appomattox, Virginia to Lynchburg, Virginia, a twenty minute drive, during which she prayed for insight the entire time. When she saw Lisa Miller, she knew: this was the real McCoy. Those were the exact words she used. Lisa Miller was no longer gay. Linda Wall, a sturdy and proud spinster of several decades, went back to her political campaign and her job running “Buttons and Fun Fotos.” (This is always a tip off, by the way, that you are dealing with a fringe candidate: when your spellcheck wants to correct the way they spell their business, but your spellcheck, which is right, is wrong.)
Meanwhile, little Isabella’s other mother in Vermont was grieving deeply over the loss of her child. Legal machinations ensued, and the courts ruled that Janet Jenkins, the Vermont mother, should be able to see her daughter. But Lisa Miller disappeared so she would not have to comply. She gathered up all her generous donations from churchgoers and left without bothering to give away her daughter’s hamsters; they were found starved to death by the authorities a couple of weeks later. Bitch.
Now here’s where the kidnapping ring came in. Many very religious people--we know this because they are always talking about how God would like us to live and What Would Jesus Do and so forth--got involved. (By the way—I am sure Jesus would have seen to it that the hamsters had a good home.) A Mennonite pastor got involved. More Mennonites got involved. This is the part where they should have just stuck to making nice furniture and sewing quilts. The exchange of the child, from the mother to the Mennonites, (who would then spirit the child away to the slums of Nicaragua, of all places) happened in a Walmart parking lot, a detail which I find particularly painful. Imagine your world being ripped apart and your entire life changing for the worse in a Walmart parking lot. How’s that for cruel irony? Not that my life is ever in a great place when I am standing in a Walmart parking lot.
But think about it: the plane tickets, the living expenses, the documents, the bribes-- these things all cost money. Such international intrigue! And where did this money come from? Don’t listen to me, listen to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Here (in bold) are excerpts from an FBI affidavit sworn out against multiple parties, including Liberty University, Liberty Counsel, Mathew Staver, and his handmaiden (associate dean), Rena Lindevaldsen:
It was established through the evidence and through interviews that Mathew Staver and a local businessman named Philip Zodhiates were good friends, and that Zodhiates’ daughter worked as Mat Staver’s personal assistant.
From the FBI AFFADAVIT: “41 … Lisa Miller’s attorney, Mathew Staver, was the Dean of the Law School and Ms. Zodhiates’ boss. Mathew Staver and Philip Zodhiates were also personal acquaintances at this time.”
We also know that Philip Zodhiates engineered the entire kidnapping, and that once in Nicaragua, Lisa Miller and her daughter were staying in a property that he owned in Nicaragua.
From the FBI AFFADVAIT: “41. (continued) …On September 20, 2009, both Philip Zodhiates and Victoria Zodhiates-Hyden called Lisa Miller’s father, Terry Miller, in Tennessee to assist in arranging her and Isabella’s transportation from a WalMart parking lot in Lynchburg, Virginia to Waynesboro, Virginia from whence they would depart for Canada and Nicaragua.
We know that Philip’s daughter had several fundraisers for Lisa Miller and daughter Isabella, who had gone underground in defiance of court orders. And we know that Philip’s daughter was holding those fundraisers within Liberty Counsel. Philip’s daughter was a direct assistant to Mathew Staver, and those fundraisers were held with Mat Staver’s full knowledge:
From the FBI AFFADAVIT: 41. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, in 2009 Victoria Zodhiates (now Hyden) was an employee of Response Unlimited, Inc., and also a ‘student worker’ at Liberty University School of Law. On information and belief, Victoria Zodhiates sent an email during this time period to her co-workers at the law school requesting donations for supplies to send to Lisa Miller to enable her to remain outside the country.
--We know that Mathew Staver splits his time between Lynchburg, Virginia and Orlando. Liberty Counsel has offices in both cities. The night that Isabella was kidnapped, the mastermind of the kidnapping ring, Philip Zodhiates, was in constant contact with Mat Staver, head of the law school:
From the FBI AFFADAVIT: 57. At the trial, the government introduced phone records that showed phone calls made from Philip Zodhiates’s cell phone between 1:28 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on September 22nd, 2009, to a cell phone with an Orlando area code that is registered to Liberty Counsel, a landline registered to Liberty Counsel, and a landline registered to Liberty University School of Law. Mathew Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law, splits his time between Lynchburg, Virginia and Orlando, Florida. At the time that the calls were made, Philip Zodhiates was still en route back to Virginia, after depositing Lisa Miller and Isabella near the Canadian border.
So there you have it. A man who is sworn to uphold the law turns his back on his oath and then, with great secrecy and deceit, participates in a plot to steal a child away from its parent, violating that very law which he is sworn to uphold, and all the while, defying a number of state and federal court rulings in the process. Why is this man still practicing law?
But practice law he does, which brings me to one of my favorite examples: a hateful, spewing, tyrant of a man named Scott Lively.
Mathew Staver defended Scott Lively when Lively was being sued in 2012 by an American group called The Center for Constitutional Rights, who was in turn representing a Ugandan group called Sexual Minorities Uganda. They sued him for “crimes against humanity”. And man oh man, did he deserve it. After his own congregation basically kicked him out of the country because he was too rabidly homophobic for even a Texas church, he hightailed it as far and as fast as he could to Uganda, went on a big fancy speaking tour, and when he was done, Uganda basically decided to make homosexuality punishable by death. Uganda did backpedal a little on this when the international outcry was so deafening that the county could barely function, but you can still be sure that if you are too public about being gay in Uganda, you will face life in prison, a severe beating, or both. Being a homosexual in Uganda is kind of like being a rich heiress at Charles Manson’s Spahn Ranch, thanks to Lively’s oratorical ravings in draconian Uganda. “I have come to discover, through various leads, a dark and powerful homosexual presence in other historical periods: the Spanish Inquisition, the French Reign of Terror, the era of South African Apartheid, and two centuries of American slavery … homosexuality has truly been a poisoned stream in human history.”
And Mathew Staver knew more than just this about Scott when he decided to defend him. He knew that Scott Lively was the kind of Christian who, when it came to showing how he felt about gay people, did more than just talk. Once, in Oregon, when his group was planning to show an anti-gay film, a lesbian reporter showed up. Scott Lively threw her hard into a wall, dragged her across the floor by her hair, and shoved her out the door and onto the ground. Catherine Stauffer won a modest amount in a settlement--about 30,000 dollars--and Scott Lively arrogantly went on with his life. When the court judgment he received from this incident stood in the way of him getting his law degree, some years later, he asked his congregation to pay the fine. They did. Now he can practice law. (Although he must not be very good at it, since when he was sued over the Uganda hatespeak business, he did not choose to defend himself.)
There are other hints and clues which tip us off to the fact that Scott Lively may be the most homophobic man on the planet, now that Fred Phelps and his cowboy hat are line dancing with the devil. Scott Lively wrote a very detailed book called “The Pink Swastika,” in which he proves beyond all doubt--if you are a stupid person--that gays caused the Holocaust. Most Nazis were queers, he will tell you, and they are the ones guilty of all the shenanigans that caused World War II. They are the ones who gassed all those people. “Homosexuals created the Nazi Party,” Lively writes, “and everything that we think about when we think about Nazis comes from the minds and perverted ideas of homosexuals."
I find this central thesis odd, as so many homosexuals were gassed by these supposedly gay Nazis. I suppose in Scott Lively’s world, this happened as a result of vicarious self-shaming; sort of Stuart Smalley on steroids. ( … “I’m bad enough, I’m cruel enough, and doggonit, people loathe me.”)
For a while, in 2014, Scott Lively was running to be the Governor of Massachusetts. Although he did get enough signatures to get on the ballot (can you say Jonestown?), he got few enough votes to suggest that everybody thought it was a practical joke, and not a very funny one, at that. But today, in 2015, Scott Lively soldiers on. He now has a sort of church, and nearby, a Christian Coffeehouse where he recruits young people. This java hut is named “Holy Grounds.” I am not kidding. I am funnier than that, is how you know I am not kidding. Interestingly, Scott Lively, who researched a whole book and self-published it on Amazon and everything, could not spend the ten bucks for a rudimentary background check on a creepy fat guy with long kinky hair and a porcine body full of tattoos who, calls himself Michael Free, and who was willing to work for free forty hours a week, as long as he could work surrounded by these young Christian girls. Someone else did check, though: Michael Free is a Class 3 pedophile, convicted for Sexual Abuse in the First Degree against an eleven year old little girl. But Scott Lively hired him, shady appearance and criminal past notwithstanding. And when the whole ugly story broke, Scott handled it with his usual hagiographic hauteur: “I’m a person who believes God is in charge, and nothing in the universe happens without his permission.” To which I respond that actually, Scottie, if you had run a simple background check and told Mike Free to get the hell away from your Christian kids, you would have been the one in charge, a pedophile wouldn’t be in charge of your youth coffee shop, and both you and God could have gone on your merry way. Michael “Free” Fredioni also had an interesting take on his being “found out”, and on his job at Holy Grounds: “I talk to all the kids. I invite God to touch them, and he does.”
And this, my friend, is the man whose cause Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel chose to defend pro bono in a court case. You can check in on Scott; he is at scottlivelyministries.net, although for someone who is proselytizing to the world, I find it odd that he has removed the contact information that was present some months ago. It’s almost like he has been getting some hate mail or something.
But enough about Mathew’s client, Scott Lively. Let’s take an even closer look at Mathew himself. If you wonder about Mathew Staver’s view on the separation of church and state, there is no more informative place to look than in the illuminating article (talk about Revelations) by Sarah Posner in the publication Religious Dispatches, in which she researched the law courses that are taught at the Liberty University School of Law, where Matthew Staver was Dean for nearly a decade. Here is an excerpt from that article:
Students at Liberty Law School tell RD that in the required Foundations of Law class in the fall of 2008, taught by Miller’s attorneys Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, they were repeatedly instructed that when faced with a conflict between “God’s law” and “man’s law,” they should resolve that conflict through “civil disobedience.” One student said, “the idea was when you are confronted with a particular situation, for instance, if you have a court order against you that is in violation of what you see as God’s law, essentially… civil disobedience was the answer.”
This student and two others, who all requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by Staver (who is also the law school’s dean), recounted the classroom discussion of civil disobedience, as well as efforts to draw comparisons between choosing “God’s law” over “man’s law” to the American revolution and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. According to one student, in the Foundations course both Staver and Lindevaldsen “espoused the opinion that in situations where God’s law is in direct contradiction to man’s law, we have an obligation to disobey it.”
This is, of course, the same logic behind Sharia Law.
But hey, why should we be surprised? This is the same University whose science department claims that the correct answer on an evolution test is that Noah took teenage dinosaurs on the Ark. This is one of the reasons that archeologists were able to find the 3000 year old dinosaur bone that was once on proud display at the Liberty University Creationist Museum, until they had to remove it because so many people who enjoy both a grasp of evolution and a sense of humor crowded in to cackle at it and take funny pictures of themselves posing proudly beside it like Fred Flintstone. Steve Roose, a young liberal with a knack for sleuthing, transferred from Brown to Liberty University, to study this place which trained “Champions for Christ”, and he wrote a marvelous book about his experience called “The Unlikely Disciple”. Here is one of my favorite passages:
Some of the surprises I saw at Liberty were off-putting and worrisome. I remember opening my first Creationist Biology exam to find the question: "True or False: Noah's Ark was large enough to accommodate various species of dinosaurs." (According to my professor, the answer was "True" - since dinosaurs and humans co-habited the earth after the Flood, they would have had to find a way to squeeze onto the Ark. He suggested that they could have been teenage dinosaurs, so as to take up less space.)
It was attitudes like this that led the august Richard Dawkins, an Emeritus Fellow with a slew of awards who was listed by Time Magazine 2007 as one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People”, to tell all Liberty University students to “leave and go to a proper University.”
Let’s see, where does that leave us? Liberty University gets half a billion of your tax dollars each year, yet is tax exempt itself, because it doesn’t get political. That is the requirement of a religious learning institution, in order to secure and preserve its tax exempt status. And yet, it made the Democrat Club disband. Mathew Staver’s law firm, Liberty Counsel, is tax exempt also, because it doesn’t get political, it doesn’t take sides--and yet Liberty Counsel, along with Liberty University, is sponsoring the Values Voter Summit, including keynote speakers Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Chris Christie, Governor Rick Perry, Governor Scott Walker, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rand Paul, Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Bobby Jindal, Governor John Kasich, Senator Lindsey Graham, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorini, Mark Santorum, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and my personal favorite Sean “he’s a thug who deserved what he got” Hannity. Funny, when I hear the word “voter”, as in “Values Voter Conference”, I tend to think of politics. Which is NOT what religious tax exempt institutions are supposed to be involved with.
But both Liberty University and Liberty Counsel fervently proclaim that they aren’t political entities; they aren’t in the business of influencing politics in America.
So make no mistake, just as half a billion—that’s with a “b”, as in Bible Study—of your taxpayer dollars flow into Liberty in the form of those Pell Grants, so you can be assured that Liberty University money flows into Liberty Counsel. Mathew Staver had time to work pro bono cases at his law firm, because of his generous salary at Liberty University. But don’t think he works pro bono himself, no no no, he and his lovely wife stand at the helm of Liberty Counsel, and they pay themselves a tidy $137,758 (for her) and $153,591 (Mr. Mat) as of 2013, the last figures available. And that doesn’t include his salary for nearly a decade as dean of the Liberty Law School. All told, he probably makes at least a cozy third of a million.
Liberty Counsel’s income last year, according to citizenaudit.org, and papers that Staver rendered to the Roanoke Times, was a bit over 4.2 million dollars. Do we think he would have gotten that money, if he didn’t have the name “Liberty” in the title of his law firm? Do we think he would have gotten that money, without an impressive desk at the Liberty University School of Law? Liberty University and Liberty Counsel: they attend all of the same fundraisers, they man the same phone trees come donation time, they both sponsor the Values Voter Summit, the list could go on and on. And on. When Fundamentalist Christian political causes are at stake, one word from the Falwell Fatwah group, and Liberty Counsel is rolling in it.
And as Liberty University grows fat and happy on taxpayer Pell Grant Money, so grows Liberty Counsel. . .and those bloated coffers go a long way toward bailing Kim Davis out of jail, buying her a nice steak dinner, and taking her theocratic, holier-than-thou attitude all the way to the Supreme Court. And we’re paying for it.
I have tried to inject some humor into this article, because whenever I must drive by Liberty en route to other places I must go in my life, I am tempted to drive off the high cliffs that abut the campus, so depressing is life around Liberty University in the town of Lynchburg—and yes, that is exactly how the town got its name.
But all kidding aside—isn’t it time for a grand groundswell of a movement? Petitions, calls to Congressmen, and boycotts against Liberty Counsel, including their online pipeline to God, Liberty University—to end this farcical and quite possibly evil alliance? Who is behind all this, I wonder, and who was Jerry Falwell in league with, when he caused this place and its policies to be born, and to grow, and to fester? CUE organ music, CUT TO dancing SNL Church Lady: “Could it be … SATAN???”
Article author Meg Langford is the author of Liberty’s Tyranny: Falwell’s Folly and Wigger: The Little Book of Bigots. She is also co-founder of Pickford Studios at moviesforyourmind.net