Norway Targeted Family for Christian Faith Before Seizing 5 Children, Lawyer Says

The Bodnariu family
The Bodnariu family. |

Court documents and meeting minutes indicate that the Norwegian government expressed concern with the faith of a Romanian Pentecostal family before their five children were removed from parental custody in November, an attorney close to the situation claimed Monday.

After the five children of Ruth and Marius Bodnariu were removed from their home in Naustdal by the Barnevernet (child services) on Nov. 16 due to spanking allegations, Peter Costea, the the president of the Alliance for Romania's Families, has been in frequent communication with the family and their lawyers, and has access to the family's court records.

Costea, who is based in Houston, Texas, posted his fourth written analysis on the Bodnariu family's situation on Monday.

Although Costea previously told The Christian Post that he did not believe the claim that the family was targeted by the Barnevernet because of their Christian faith, he wrote on Monday that newly obtained government records indicate that even before the children were taken from their parents, the authorities were concerned that the family had "their own faith and way of upbringing when it comes to religion."

"Documents and minutes of meetings have emerged since the abduction showing that as early as Oct. 13, 2015, more than a month before the children were taken into custody, the officials at Naustdal municipality disapproved of the parenting style of the Bodnariu parents; believing it, after questioning the children, to be based on the Bible," Costea wrote.

"They plainly state that Barnevernet 'is worried that this is a way of upbringing which is justified by the Bible.' The authorities pivoted their contemplated removal of the children on the 'attitude' the parents 'have to their own faith and way of upbringing when it comes to religion.'"

"The documents also mention that the children were 'brought up to respect God and their parents' values.' Barnevernet interpreted this as a possible conflict between the children's assumed inability to live up to their parents' value expectations and faith and that the parents' religion could create an 'inner conflict' in the children and a stressful family environment," Costea continued. "Religion is bad for children, Barnevernet's minutes seem to say, and too much religion is lawful justification for snatching children away from their parents."

Costea previously told CP that other court documents explained that the children were taken from their parents after the children told investigators that their parents gave them spankings, a disciplinary tactic that is outlawed in Norway.

"In our opinion, the reaction of the Norwegian authorities has been extremely subjective, an incredible display of totalitarian extremism. The Bodnariu family has been accused of spanking its children. Yet, the authorities translated this accusation into child abuse, which is farthest from the truth," Costea wrote in a letter sent to the Norwegian Ambassador to Romania in December. "Biological parents have the inherent right to reasonably discipline their children. The fact that Norway has banned corporal punishment of children does not mean that Norway is right in this matter and the rest of the world wrong."

In his posting on Monday, Costea argued that it was the family's commitment to "Christian values" that "drew the attention of Barnevernet officials and featured prominently in their discussions and strategy prior to the children's removal."

"So, the statement that Barnevernet was motivated by a religious animus when abducting the Bodnariu children is accurate and supported by the evidence," Costea asserted. "The Bible is mentioned four (4) times in the minutes, God once, and religion once. Religion, in fact, appears as a separate subject of discussion in relation to what to do with the children."

Although Costea and other Bodnariu family supporters have claimed that that the Barnevernet targets religious immigrant families, Andreas Nordli, Norway's national director for Youth With a Mission, told CP earlier this month that such a claim is not true and that many migrant families get in trouble with the Barnevernet because they aren't aware of Norway's stricting parenting laws.

Andreas Hegertun, the spokesman for the Norwegian Pentecostal Movement, assured CP that Norway does not target families because of their faith.

"Every ethnic religious group may worship and raise their children according to their beliefs, as long as they don't violate Norwegian law," Hegertun told CP. "In practice this means as long as they don't use violence. I have never heard of anyone getting in trouble with the government for any other reason than violence, serious neglect or addictions. In this matter we, as churches, strongly agree with our government that violence toward children is not accepted."

In his analysis, Costea claims that the Barnevernet embodies "Norway's secular parental ideology." He added that roughly one-quarter of children taken into custody in Norway are children of immigrants and religious refugees "who are known for their traditional values."

"Why would the family's religion irritate Barnevernet?" Costea asked. "The answer is straightforward: Barnevernet embodies Norway's secular parental ideology. When it conflicts with the parenting style of traditional parents or parents whose parenting style is influenced by religion, in this case Christianity, Barnevernet wins out. Always. Simply because, as an arm of the Norwegian state, it holds the sword and wields it over traditional families."

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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