Marius and Ruth Bodnariu

Are you a parent? Even if you are not, can you imagine your government’s child-welfare agency taking your children away from you? Not because they have been abused…not because they have been neglected…but because you are raising them in accordance with your religious beliefs.

For Marius and Ruth Bodnariu, this was reality in 2015. All five of their young children were taken out of their care, without any warning or notice.

Representatives from Barnevernet, the powerful and well-funded Norwegian child-welfare agency, came to the Bodnariu’s home and let them know that their two oldest daughters had been taken straight from school into their custody. They then took the two oldest sons into their custody. The Bodnariu’s three-month old son stayed in their home until the next day, when Barnevernet returned to take him away as well.

Initially, Barnevernet claimed that the children were taken due to allegations of corporal punishment, which is illegal in Norway. But upon further investigation, the real reason behind the removal of the Bodnariu children was revealed—authorities in the Bodnariu family’s community felt that the children were being ‘indoctrinated’ by their parents’ religious beliefs.

During their ordeal, the Bodnariu family received help from many human rights organizations.

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 fled Norway.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, states that:

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Parents have this right before grandparents, aunts and uncles, the local community, and, most importantly, the state. Barnevernet is, apparently, blind to this. The Bodnairu case is not the only instance of Barnevernet overstepping its bounds and taking children from their parents’ care.

After the Bodnariu case was resolved, many Norwegian parents approached organizations like ADF International, claiming that Barnevernet had also taken their children away from them without proper cause.

Between 2016 and 2017, Barnevernet was being investigated by the European Court of Human Rights in eight different cases. All of the cases had been dismissed by Norwegian courts. And all of the cases pertained to decisions concerning child care.

Barnevernet has been under fire many times in the past, including in 2011, when the organization removed a Czech mother’s children from her care after allegations of child abuse were made against the father. The police never charged the father, and the parents separated.

Yet, her children remain in the foster care system, and she rarely has contact with them. This case brought outrage from all levels of society, including the Czech president.

What Barnevernet has done has not promoted justice. It’s incited fear within Norwegian parents.

Parents like Marius and Ruth Bodnariu should not have to live in fear. Neither should any parents who are simply raising their children in accordance with their sincerely-held religious beliefs. It is their fundamental human right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.

If parents are denied this, then their humanity is denied along with it. Aren’t they human, too? Their rights must be upheld, for their sake and for the sake of their children.

Will you join us?

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ADF International reaffirms the fundamental understanding that human rights are based on the inherent dignity of each person. They’re based on the dignity of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.

Perhaps you are not a mother, perhaps you are not a father. But if dignity is denied to one, it is denied to us all.

Join us in the promotion and protection of your fundamental freedoms.

Add your voice by signing The Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org

 

ADF International builds alliances and engages in legal advocacy to protect and promote religious freedom throughout Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. We operate at institutions of strategic international importance.

We also work alongside Member States at these organizations to protect the fundamental values they were founded to uphold. ADF International’s influence at these key institutions means we are instrumental in shaping policy around the world.

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