Thousands of activists plan to hold more than 50 rallies worldwide Saturday to draw attention to the Norwegian government’s seizure of five children from their loving parents because of their Christian faith.
WND reported in December the social media campaign in defense of Marius and Ruth Bodnariu, whose two daughters, two sons and subsequently their baby, Ezekiel, were taken by Norway’s child welfare services, the Barnevernet.
Social services agents and police removed the two oldest children from their school without their parents’ knowledge and hid them in an undisclosed location. Then, according to the British advocacy group Christian Institute, the agents and officers went to the family’s home, “where, apparently without any documentation, they seized their two sons and arrested Ruth – who they took to the police station along with baby Ezekiel. Marius was arrested while he was at work and also taken into custody.”
The parents were interrogated but later allowed to return home with their baby but no other children. The next day the baby also was seized, the report said.
World Magazine reported the governmental investigation of the family began when the principal of the daughters school notified the government she “had concerns about how the girls were disciplined at home because the parents were ‘very Christian.'”
“She said the family had ‘a strong faith that God punishes sin’ that ‘creates disability in children.’ The principal noted although the girls were creative, intelligent, and showed no signs of physical abuse, she believed the parents needed ‘help and guidance’ in raising their children,” the Christian Institute said.
The Home School Legal Defense Association on Tuesday announced more than 50 rallies around the globe will take place Saturday in support of the family.
“HSLDA is asking our members and friends to contact the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to express their concern about this situation. Norway has a great desire to maintain a good image, especially with the United States. Your efforts can help Norway realize that this kind of behavior can cause that image to be tarnished,” the announcement said. “You can email Norway’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Rallies, in many instances near Norwegian consulates or embassies, will take place in Chicago, Atlanta, Boise, Detroit, Hollywood, Honolulu, Houston, New York, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Romania, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and other places.
HSLDA said the saga began Nov. 16, 2015, when the Bodnarius experienced “every caring parent’s worst nightmare: having their children taken by state authorities. … This happened because of the parents’ Christian beliefs.”
The children, ages 3 months to 9 years, were taken by the government and put in several different foster homes.
“For two months Marius, an information technician, and Ruth, a pediatric nurse, were not permitted to have any contact with their children – including their youngest, Ezekiel, whom Ruth was still nursing when he was taken away. (Not until a week ago did a judge order Ezekiel, now 7 months old, to be returned to his parents), ” HSDLA reported.
Extended family members immediately mobilized Romanian activists to get the rally plans started.
“It’s hard to understand this kind of ruthless act against a family,” said Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of global outreach. “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.”
HSLDA said American and Norwegian lawyers also are working on the case.
Attorney Peter Costea of Houston said he read the case files, and the government is claiming the “Bible-based parenting style caused stress for the children.”
“There is no doubt in my mind,” Costea told HSLDA, “that this action was motivated in large part by the family’s religious faith. The Bodnarius are God-fearing, church-going folk – but this is not as common in Norway today.”
He continued: “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.'”
Costea said doctors found no signs of physical abuse, and those who worked with the children said they had no concern about their well-being.
Donnelly said he will be in Norway for one of the rallies.
“I will stand with these parents and call on Norwegian authorities to right this injustice,” Donnelly said. “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 conflict arises on the heels of a decision by the Supreme Court in neighboring Sweden not to allow parents Christer and Annie Johansson even to see their son, now 14.
He was “state-napped” from the family when he was 7 because he was being homeschooled.
He was taken by force from a jetliner on which he and his parents were planning to move from Sweden to his mother’s native India. The initial charge were homeschooling, which was legal in Sweden at the time, although officials later added claims that his vaccinations were not up to date and he needed fillings in his teeth.
The Johannsons haven’t had custody of their son since he was taken by police and social workers, and they haven’t even been allowed to see him since 2010.