The European Court of Human Rights has agreed to take up the case of five children who were seized from their parents by the Norwegian government when school officials secretly decided they were “radical Christians.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom International filed an intervention at the international court in the case Bodnariu v. Norway.
As WND reported, in 2015 the government agency Barnevernet seized, without notice, the children of Marius and Ruth Bodnariu.
Several of the children were in school but one was an infant.
Officials at first refused to explain their actions. But the couple’s representatives later discovered documentation showing that school officials had accused the couple, without discussing the issue with them, of being “radical Christians who were indoctrinating their children.”
Operatives of the state social services agency had grabbed the family’s two oldest children from school without telling their parents and hid them in an undisclosed location.
Then the agents and officers went to the family’s home, ADF said, “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.”
Weeks passed, and the authorities told the parents only that the children were “integrated well into their separate foster homes and didn’t miss their parents.”
Eventually, they were returned to their parents, but the lawsuit now been accepted by the human rights tribunal.
ADF International explained the issue is whether or not a government have the right to take children away from their families without sufficient reason.
There are seven other cases at the human rights court challenging the actions of the Norwegian child-welfare agency.
“Parents have the right to direct the upbringing of their children. Norway intervened in the family life of the Bodnariu family by taking the five children into state care without any compelling reason,” ADF International said.
Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International, said removing children from their families should always be a last resort.
“Recent years have seen an increasing number of cases of overreach by the Norwegian state into family life, with numerous cases coming before the European Court of Human Rights,” he said. “The Bodnariu case resulted in an international outcry and the Bodnariu family fleeing Norway. No family should be put through such an ordeal, especially not at the hands of the state. We are encouraged by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights to hear this case.”
When the children were seized, Barnevernet claimed they were taken into state care due to allegations of corporal punishment, which is illegal in Norway.
“However, upon further investigation, the real reason behind the removal of the Bodnariu children was revealed – officials in the community felt that the children were being ‘indoctrinated’ by their parents’ Christian beliefs,” ADF said.
“When the reason for their children’s removal came to light, intense pressure from the international community, including protests outside Norwegian embassies around the world, forced Barnevernet to return the children to their mother and father who then, together with the children, fled Norway,” the organization said.
Their subsequent case with the European Court of Human Rights was filed in 2016.
“A 2018 report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) into the practices of the Norwegian child protection agency, Barnevernet, revealed a number of troubling discoveries. The report was prompted by the case of the Bodnariu family. For example, it showed a high frequency of ’emergency’ interventions by the agency. The reasoning behind these interventions were of particular concern as well as the exceptionally short visitation times which usually followed,” ADF International said.
Clarke said that even when it’s necessary to remove children from their parents, family reunification should remain a central aim.
“The investigation into Norway showed that without effective safeguards, child protection agencies can cause long-term damage to families and undermine the prior right that parents have to raise their children,” he said.
“It is time for Norway to act on the recommendations made by the Council of Europe and respect the right of parents to raise their children unless there is evidence of a serious breach of the parents’ duties,” said Clarke.