OSLO, Norway, April 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – More than 50 Christian and family rights groups around the world rallied this week to support a Pentecostal family whose five children were seized after school authorities discovered the Romanian-Norwegian parents used corporal punishment and made their children learn Bible verses.
The five children, the eldest aged nine, were taken from Marius and Ruth Bodnariu in November and placed in three different foster homes in three different cities, but after a hearing in March their newborn was returned to them.
“It was very arbitrary,” said Houston lawyer Peter Costea, who is helping rally support for the couple among Romanian Americans. “In Norway there is no court hearing. So far all the pleading has been done behind closed doors at the Barnevernet”—Norwegian family services.
Eventually there could be an appeal that would be heard in open court, said Costea, but only after internal Barnevernet processes have been exhausted. The problem with that is, “Once a child has been in the care of the State for two years, there is a presumption that it would be too emotionally troubling for the children for them to be uprooted from their foster families. Which is a joke, because these children are living in foster families with four or five other children who are strangers, and at risk of abuse.”
Costea told LifeSiteNews, “The children all want to be reunited with their parents and each other. The parents are under big stress. Their children have been taken and they themselves are being interrogated by police and Barnevernet.”
Costea said the seizure was provoked by a squabble on the school bus between the Bodnariu daughters and other children, which led to an interrogation at the school. The daughters complained about being spanked and having to memorize Bible passages.
Corporal punishment is illegal in Norway. But minutes of a Barnevernet meeting indicate the strong, conservative Christian faith of the parents also has played a factor.
The minutes, according to Costea, say Barnevernet was “worried that this is a way of upbringing which is justified by the Bible” and that “Bible-based parenting style caused stress for the children.” They expressed concern that the daughters could have “an inner conflict [about] not being good enough when it comes to their parent’s values.”
Commented Peter Costea, “Is it child abuse to teach children the Bible? The Norwegian government seems to think that if children believe and act according to their faith taught to them by their parents, then they are too ‘rigid’ or ‘strong-willed.’”
The parents met in 1999 when the mother was in Romania taking care of abandoned children. They married in 2003 and moved back to her native Norway in 2005 where she has worked since as a nurse and he, as an information technologist.
Because their village is too small to support a Pentecostal church they started holding Sunday services in their home, which also apparently weighs against them with child protection workers, according to Costea.
Romanian expatriate communities have rallied to the Bodnariu cause, as have advocacy groups such as the U.S. Home School Legal Defence Association. Its global outreach director, Michael Donnelly, said in a statement, “It's hard to understand this kind of ruthless act against a family. All who know the parents report that they are caring and responsible.
“Even if there were legitimate concerns about the parenting of Ruth and Marius — which doesn't appear to be the case — this kind of treatment would still be completely disproportionate. The actions of this agency violate basic human rights norms that Norway has committed to uphold,” Donnelly said.
Agreed Costea: “Their own experts say the children are not afraid of their parents. They want to be together.” He said another internal hearing will take place at the end of May, which he thinks is likely to turn into a battle of “the government’s experts versus the families’ experts.”
In the meantime the family’s supporters are being urged to let Norway know the world thinks of them.