A Father's Faith

Dr. Phil greets Michael and invites him to have a seat.

"You've been on quite a journey," says Dr. Phil. "Tell me what you understand about this conversation that you and I are going to have."

Michael says, "Well, basically, I've been willing to come and talk to you, but our church doesn't believe in television. As far as the videotaping goes, my preference would be for the camera to be turned off. "

"All right," says Dr. Phil, "and I appreciate that, and you fully understand that it is my responsibility, and that I am choosing to videotape this ... And that I intend to use that videotape to try and help educate people in this country about family dynamics." Michael nods. "Why did you run to begin with?" asks Dr. Phil.

"I had custody of the children as the result of a custody fight after my wife left our home in 2000," Michael explains. "So, the children came to live with me, and they were a good part of our German Baptist community. In the fall of 2004, we decided to home school both children. They told their mother on one of their weekend visitations, and she got very upset about it."

"Let me understand," says Dr. Phil. "You did not want the girls to go to school beyond the 8th grade?"

Mike says, "That's right, yes." Dr. Phil asks why. "Well, traditionally, our church doesn't believe in higher education," Mike explains. "We don't want to see people growing up and being exposed to the bad influences in the school."

Dr. Phil says, "I guess the thing that I'm trying to square up in my mind, you talk about being very respectful of beliefs and positions of your church. Did it concern you at all that you were virtually kidnapping your children?"

"Well, no, I wasn't kidnapping them," Michael refutes. "I had custody of the children when I left the country."

"There's a federal warrant for your arrest that was issued when you left," Dr. Phil counters.

Mike confirms that there was, but explains, "I went to my attorney. He said, 'If you don't obey the judge, he will eventually take custody away from you,' and so rather than run that risk of having my children placed in a home, where they were uncomfortable ... "

Dr. Phil finishes his sentence. "You feared for their safety as well as their influence " their spiritual safety, their physical safety."

"Yes. And you have to understand that I lived with Michelle for 10 years. I saw the outcome of her mental illness. You know, I've had pistols pointed at me, and knives, and what she does in her relationships would just be terribly destructive to them."

"Was there something you were afraid was going to come out in that hearing?" Dr. Phil probes.

"No," Mike says, "but I certainly was going to have to tell the judge that I was going to disobey him and when I told him that he would have locked me in jail."

Dr. Phil attempts to retrace Michael's steps after the abduction. He asks Michael where he went first.

"We went and visited my family in Texas," says Michael. "We crossed into Mexico."

"You made contact with Ed whom Peter had connected you with," Dr. Phil ventures.

"I won't say anything about anyone who helped me as far as identifying them."

"Well, that's really odd because you talk about being so much about truth, you will lie by omission?" Dr. Phil presses.

"No, I'm telling you I'm not going to tell you," says Mike.

"Yeah," Dr. Phil says skeptically. "OK. I hear you. That just seems kind of inconsistent."

But Michael holds firm. "Absolutely not," he says.

"Did you have to forge documents to get across the border into Mexico?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"No," says Michael. "We didn't forge any documents. I just went to the library, and I typed up a notarized statement of citizenship. That's what Mexico requires if you have basically nothing else."

Dr. Phil asks how he and the girls got into Belize. Michael explains that they had to cross the border illegally. "That seems like breaking another international law," Dr. Phil muses.

"Yes, that's true. It is breaking the law," Michael concedes. Dr. Phil asks how he feels about that.

Mike says, "We were refugees. We were fleeing persecution, and we go where we can find shelter. Jesus told us, 'If you are persecuted in one city, flee to another.'"

Dr. Phil asks Michael what he told the girls. Michael says he told them they would stay for three or four months and then see what happened. Dr. Phil asks how they felt about that.

"They weren't happy that they were leaving their home behind," Michael responds, "but they were uncomfortable with the situation back home anyway."

"What were they upset with about their mother?"

"Well, when Mollie was baptized, her mother told Mollie that she could no longer be seen in public with her, that if she was, she would be fired from her job, and that was devastating to Mollie."

Dr. Phil asks why Mike decided to come back. "I was very skeptical of it," Mike says. "My wife, I didn't really believe that she could be interested in resolving something this way, but I came back because this is a good opportunity for us to work this thing out with someone who's impartial."

Dr. Phil asks, "What will happen to your children if you go to jail?"

"Well, the children have said that they would like to stay within Elmendorf community there, or they would like to go to Indiana and stay with a German Baptist there."

"And how do they feel about staying with their mother?" Dr. Phil probes.

"Absolutely not."

"They just have no interest in doing that," says Dr. Phil.

"No," says Michael. "They want to spend time with her very much, but they don't want to have long visits anymore. They can have a meal out. They can go to some wholesome entertainment together. But if they spend a day or two or three there, that's when the trouble starts. That's when she can't hold it together."

"Of course, your hope is that you won't be separated from the girls and that you won't have to be incarcerated in that way."

"Well certainly," Michael says. "I'm going to go to a hearing, and they're going to set bond, and hopefully I'll be able to meet the bond, and I'll be back out again right away. I have returned, you know, 3,500 miles, so I can hardly see that they would view me as being some kind of flight risk now."

"Well, best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," Dr. Phil shoots back. "If they look at it and say, 'He's already demonstrated the ability to run.'"

Mike says, "Yeah, but you see I didn't run because I thought I was going to be put in jail. I ran for the good of my children."

"As you see it," says Dr. Phil.

"Well, that's all anyone has is the way they see it," Mike says.

"And the court may disagree."

"It might be the way they see it."

Dr. Phil says, "And you fully understand that there are those in this country who think you have absolutely disrespected your children's mother, violated her rights and taken it upon yourself to abduct these children."

"Oh, absolutely," says Mike. "I'm sure there are people who feel that way."

"And it certainly seems to lack compassion for Michelle."

"Well, but as a parent, we're not responsible for the well-being of our spouse in that way," Mike says. "We have to put the children first. If she's doing something that's damaging to the children, the only way that I can intervene there is to remove the children from her, then it's not me who's responsible for what happened."

"Well, actually, you are responsible for abducting the children and taking them out of the country," says Dr. Phil. "You're responsible for that decision, correct?"

"Yes. It is. That is my decision," Mike concludes.