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Christian Family Whose Children Were Seized By Norwegian Government Will Be Heard At European Court

Last week, ADF International filed an intervention with the European Court of Human Rights regarding the Bodnariu family, whose five children were seized by Barnevernet, the Norwegian child-welfare agency, after the parents were accused of spanking their children, which is illegal in Norway.

As Jayme Metzgar explained in The Federalist in 2016:

After privately interviewing the family’s two oldest daughters at school, Barnevernet abruptly took all five children into emergency custody: first the girls, then the younger boys, and finally the three-month-old baby. Charges focused on the family’s occasional use of physical discipline (which is banned in Norway), but lawyers pointed to troubling CPS statements about the Bodnarius’ Christian faith, suggesting religious discrimination had also played a role. Despite medical exams and interviews with family members, doctors, and neighbors, Barnevernet was unable to find any evidence of abuse. Still, the children were split up among three foster homes, where they stayed for months with minimal parental contact.

ADF International reported that Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International, stated:

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. 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. 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.

The Christian Post noted, “After the children were removed by the Barnevernet, Norway’s child services agency, several protests were held at Norwegian embassies worldwide to call for the children to be returned to parents Ruth and Marius Bodnariu. The children were ultimately returned to the parents’ home in June 2016 after over six months of outcry.”

The family had lived in Norway for roughly ten years, but after the children were returned, the family fled Norway. ADF International claims that “officials in the community felt that the children were being ‘indoctrinated’ by their parents’ Christian beliefs.”

The Christian Post also noted, “An American mother, Amy Jakobsen Bjørnevåg, who moved to Norway as a child, is on the verge of losing her legal battle with the Barnevernet after her infant son was removed from her care in 2013 over arbitrary health concerns. She told The Christian Post last year that her son is on the verge of being forcibly adopted.”

A 2018 report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) found that Barnevernet had implemented a great number of “emergency” interventions. Clarke stated, “Removing children should always be the very last resort. Even when this is truly necessary, 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. 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.”

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