Fathima Rifqa Bary at age 17 (Facebook photo)
A bar association complaint filed by a Muslim attorney against a Florida lawyer after he defended a teen girl who fled her Muslim family fearing for her life because she adopted Christianity has been dismissed, according to a report.
The statement from John Stemberger, a leading conservative Christian advocate based in Orlando, Fla., said the Florida Bar has signed a dismissal of the grievance brought against him.
The final report of the referee in the case said, “I recommend the matter be dismissed.” But the case still is subject to approval by the Florida Supreme Court.
The case had been scheduled to be tried by the chief judge of the Polk County Court June 22. But the dismissal followed by one week the deposition provided by the teenager, Rifqa Bary, who testified by telephone from an undisclosed location because of security concerns.
The complaint had come to the Florida Bar from Muslim attorney Omar Tarazi of Columbus, Ohio, who represented Rifqa’s parents in the dispute.
After the grievance complaint, Tarazi also filed a $10 million lawsuit in an Ohio federal court claiming he was “defamed” by part of a 30-second interview on Fox and Friends in which his name was not even mentioned.
That case is pending.
Bary is the teenage Muslim-to-Christian convert who made international headlines in 2009 after fleeing her parents and their Islamic community in Columbus, Ohio.
She claimed she was threatened with death for converting.
Stemberger represented Bary before jurisdiction of the Orlando dependency case was transferred to Ohio. Rifqa’s legal team ultimately won her case Aug. 10, 2010, securing independence from her parents. She eventually became a permanent U.S. resident on a track to become a citizen in about four years.
Tarazi alleged he was damaged by statements Stemberger made during the course of Bary’s case, such as that he was her attorney after the case had been moved from Florida to Ohio.
Bary released a statement on behalf of Stemberger during the dispute.
“I believe the bringing of this case was a great injustice because I would not be here without the aid of this man’s counsel in my court hearing. With a wife and four children, he still spent countless hours each day, without pay, fighting for my freedom and safety … even to the point of it costing his health,” she said.
Stemberger said, “Integrated bar associations around the country are slowly losing their identities as merely professional associations created to educate and regulate lawyers. Instead, many are becoming increasingly ideological and political. Additionally, many institutions of society, including bar associations, are bending over backwards to accommodate members of Islam as a new protected class. Instead of championing constitutional free speech rights, bar organizations are opting for enforcing political correctness.”
After she fled to the shelter of a Christian family in Florida Bary met online, the courts there eventually ordered her return to Ohio. But they did not order her back into her parents’ custody, instead keeping her in protective foster care until she reached her 18th birthday and became a legal adult.
Bary and her parents, natives of Sri Lanka, had been in the country illegally, having overstayed their immigration visa in Columbus.
In 2010, Bary was diagnosed with uterine cancer, but after three operations and a limited treatment with chemotherapy is considered cancer-free.