More than 100 attorneys from the United States and abroad and members of the European Parliament wrote a letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister, saying the government's act of seizing five children of a Christian family to "prevent" them from being "indoctrinated" with Christianity violates domestic and international law, and urging their immediate release.
The five children were "unlawfully" seized by the Norwegian Child Protective Services on Nov. 16 and 17 last year due to the "sincerely held Christian beliefs" of the parents, Marius and Ruth Bodnariu, states the letter sent Friday by Houston-based lawyer Peter Costea and signed by more than 100 concerned lawyers and parliamentarians.
The Norwegian government's action was based on a teacher's concerns about how the kids were being raised by "radical" Christians who were "indoctrinating" their children. The family's appeal of the agency's decision to remove the children from the home was rejected on Nov. 27 last year.
"We have familiarized ourselves with the facts of the matter and are deeply disturbed that the children's seizure was motivated by the family's Christian faith," the letter tells Prime Minister Erna Solberg. "Barnevernet's (Child Protective Services') own documents attest to the fact that the family's faith and religious values were at the core of the officials' discussions when debating the children's seizure."
The letter adds, "Barnevernet disapproved of the parenting style of the parents because, it concluded, it was 'based on the Bible.'"
Norway's Child Welfare Act imposes an obligation on Norway's authorities to preserve the religious identity of the children it removes from their biological families, but "that has not been done," the letter says, pointing out that the children "no longer go to church, are raised by individuals who do not share the Christian faith or the belief in God of the children or of their biological parents, and have no interest in or appreciation for Christian values."
The parents' meetings with the children are sporadic, based solely on the discretion of the authorities.
"We find the facts of this international incident unacceptable not only on legal grounds but also on humanitarian and moral grounds. We view these transgressions as grievous breaches of domestic and international law… Therefore, it is important that Norway immediately release the children back to their biological parents," the authors of the letter demand.
The letter acknowledges that in early April, the youngest of the five children was returned to the parents, but the remaining children have not.
Officials went to the family's home on Nov. 16 last year, allegedly without documentation, and seized two of the sons and arrested Ruth, who took her baby son, Ezekiel, with her to the police station, according to the British-based Christian Institute. Officials also went to Marius' work and arrested him.
After being interrogated for several hours, the parents and baby Ezekiel were freed and allowed to go home, but without the other children. The next day, officials went back to the Bodnariu's home and took Ezekiel into custody on the grounds that Ruth was "dangerous."