Bodnariu family's Christian faith led to removal of children, says lawyer

Norwegian Christian couple Marius and Ruth Bodnariu pose with four of their five children in a Facebook post.(Facebook/Norway Return the children to Bodnariu Family)

Norway's Barnevernet child welfare services did remove the children of the Bodnariu family over concerns about their religion, according to the Romanian lawyer monitoring the case.

The family, whose father Marius is Romanian and mother Ruth Norwegian, live in Naustdal in Norway. Their children were removed from them last November, it is believed because they were thought to have spanked them, and their case has drawn world-wide attention.

Houston-based Peter Costea, president of the Alliance for Romania's Families, has previously said he did not believe the family's Pentecostal faith was a factor in the removal.

However, in his most recent analysis he refers to newly obtained records he says show the authorities were concerned the family had "their own faith and way of upbringing when it comes to religion". "They plainly state that Barnevernet 'is worried that this is a way of upbringing which is justified by the Bible'," he said.

Costea continues: "The documents also mention that the children were 'brought up to respect God and their parents' values.' Barnevernet interpreted this as a possible conflict between the children's assumed inability to live up to their parents' value expectations and faith and that the parents' religion could create an 'inner conflict' in the children and a stressful family environment. Religion is bad for children, Barnevernet's minutes seem to say, and too much religion is lawful justification for snatching children away from their parents."

He blames Norway's "advanced degree of secularization" for the situation, saying that "secular parenting ideologies" have replaced "traditional and faith-based parenting approaches".

Barnevernet has declined to comment on the furore around the Bodnariu case, citing privacy issues.

However, protests in support of the family have gathered momentum during the last two months. A statement issued today by their spokesman Pastor Cristian Ionescu claims protests have taken place in 63 cities and supporters have numbered in excess of 70,000 individuals. A "worldwide day of Pro-Bodnariu Anti-Barnevernet protests" is planned for April 16 and supporters are asked to participate in 40 days of fasting for the period March 7 – April 15.