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50 rallies take place for Christian parents in Norway who had children removed

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Over 50 rallies took place on Saturday in support of a Romanian family in Norway whose children were forcibly removed by social services, because they did not agree with the children's Christian upbringing.

Marius and Ruth Bodnarius have five children aged from 3 months to 9 years, all of whom were seized last November by the national child welfare agency Barnevernet and placed in three different foster homes.

For several months they were forbidden from seeing and even communicating with their children.

The incident has prompted a huge response from Christian communities worldwide, particularly the Romanian community, as Marius is a Romanian-born citizen. 

Removed from parents

The children were taken away from Marius and Ruth because the authorities were concerned about the children's biblical upbringing.

Minutes from a meeting by the Barnevernet agency state:

"[We are] worried that this is a way of upbringing which is justified by the Bible. [Marius and Ruth's] Bible-based parenting style caused stress for the children, [and we are concerned that the girls might have] an inner conflict [about] not being good enough when it comes to their parents' values."

Houston-based attorney Peter Costea, who is supporting the Bodnarius family, asked:

"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.'"

Part of the reason for the children's removal was because the parents occasionally used physical punishment, such as spanking, as a disciplinary method.

However, the Bodnarius family say that they were unaware that the law in Norway is that strict.

The children had expressed no fear of their parents, and when examined, doctors found no signs of physical abuse.

Yet for months the parents were unable to see the five children, and letters from them were withheld by social services.

A judge has now ordered the youngest child Ezekiel, who is seven months old, to be returned to his parents. 

Worldwide support

The Bodnarius' case has garnered worldwide support, with a US petition for the children's removal exceeding 60,000 signatures.

On Saturday over 50 rallies took place in Norway and in the Unites States.

Michael Donnelly, Director of Global Outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said:

"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."

Addressing the crowd of supporters in Stryn, Norway, he stated:

"I will stand with these parents and call on Norwegian authorities to right this injustice. HSLDA is asking our members and friends to take action to support this family by calling on the Norwegian government to reunify this family.

"By standing up for the rights of Ruth and Marius and their children, we are standing for the rights of all families to be free to teach their children in accordance with their own convictions — without fear of government interference."

The 'Brown' family

The Bodnarius's story strongly echoes that of Christian Legal Centre clients the 'Brown' family (name changed for legal reasons).

'John' and 'Mary' Brown had their two adoptive sons taken away by social services after the boys, who were acknowledged to have had some behavioural difficulties, claimed to have been mistreated following a singular incident.

The boys, 'Dan' and 'Tom', who were legally adopted in 2013 but were received into the loving Christian home in 2010, had come from a very traumatic background.

Tom in particular struggled with not wanting to go to school.

When his SATs started he was in a "fairly heightened" mood.

When Mrs Brown drove him to school one morning for an exam, he tried to reach for the steering wheel. Mrs Brown, in that moment, pushed him back.

Tom, possibly supported by his brother, linked this with fabrications.

The school, which had not known the two boys for very long, did not consult the parents but instead called the police and social services.

The children were taken away instantly and have not seen their parents since. 

Won right to appeal 

The Browns have been devastated by the ordeal and have fought for 20 months for their return.

With the help of the Christian Legal Centre, they have won the right to appeal the court's original refusal to return their children.

In granting the appeal, Lady Justice Black ruled that there should be a review as to whether the judge at the family court had taken the right factors into account when deciding the boys' future and whether he had failed to give proper weight to the good parenting that had been given to the children for three years prior to their forced removal.

Mr Brown said: "We believe that God is in this with us... We do believe that our boys will come back when people realise the injustice that's happened to us - but not only to us. It's happening to many people up and down this country."

Please pray for the Brown family and the Christian Legal Centre as they appeal.  

Related News: 
Court of Appeal: Boys' removal from Christian parents to be scrutinised  
Watch Christian parents reveal the story behind their sons' removal