Adoption process begins for five Christian children seized from their parents
Barnevernet (Norway’s child services agency) has started an adoption process for five children who were seized from their Romanian Pentecostal parents last November. All five children, including a tiny baby, were placed in three separate foster homes and their parents given extremely limited visitation rights. Although both parents can see the baby boy twice a week, only the mother is allowed to visit the two oldest sons once a week; neither parent is allowed to see their daughters.
This is the first case in which alleged “Christian radicalisation” has been made a criterion by the Norwegian Government in a decision to remove children from their family home and could set a worrying precedent.
Norwegian child services intervened when the head of the school the oldest daughters attended expressed concern about the children’s religious upbringing and how the parents were teaching their children that God punishes sin. Even though the headteacher had only requested counselling for the parents, Barnevernet removed all five children from their parents’ home, claiming that they were being physically abused.
Ruth and Marius Bodnariu say they have never mistreated or abused their children and there is no medical or physical evidence of abuse. They claim that the reason their children were taken away was because of their Christian beliefs.
“They said it was the belief of the parents, the Christian belief, and they said this creates a handicap in children because they are telling children that God punishes sin, and this is wrong in their point of view” said the children’s uncle. He added that the children were removed from their parents’ custody before Barnevernet had performed background checks on the parents or interviewed friends and neighbours. Moreover, Barnevernet is relying only on testimony from the children and their uncle questions whether unethical means were used to obtain statements from the children.
After the family’s appeal against the removal of their children was denied in late November, a Barnevernet official informed the family on 15 Dec that the agency would evaluate Ruth and Marius to determine what kind of people they are.
Yet the parents have now been told that Barnevernet has already begun the process to have their children adopted by other families even though the evaluation is not due to take place until February. The family’s legal advisor stated that it is unlawful for Barnevernet to begin the process for adoption until a final decision on the case has been made by a court of law.
There are many worrying aspects about this case which is a form of religious persecution. When non-abusive parents teach and bring up their according to their Christian beliefs, it is wrong for the state to interfere and over-rule the parents’ rights.
Officially the Child Welfare Services’ first duty is “to provide help and support to the parents so that they can be good carers for their children.” However, in this case the “first duty “was summarily and unjustly dispensed with. Instead, Welfare Services appear to have focussed on the Bodnariu children’s religious upbringing which they considered to be a major problem.
The idea that the state could be allowed to act against Christian parents in such a disproportionate manner, because of reasons relating at least in part to the religious upbringing of their children, is frightening. It is also an infringement of human rights – namely, the right to freedom of religion and the inalienable right and duty of parents to be the primary and principal educators of their children, particularly where knowledge and love of God and neighbour are concerned.
The Bodnariu family has many relatives in Romania and America who have organised campaigns to have the children returned to their parents. Hundreds have already protested outside Norwegian embassies in Romania and Spain. More protests are planned for January at embassies in London, Washington, Canada, Germany, India, Poland, Belgium and the Czech Republic. Thousands more have signed petitions for the children’s release.