Roger Kiska: Marius and Ruth Bodnariu's story
Marius and Ruth Bodnariu are going to Strasbourg to challenge the removal of their children by Norwegian authorities. The five children were taken into care in November 2015 after a state agency challenged the Christian couple's approach to discipline.
The family is now reunited but Marius and Ruth are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights to protect other families. They are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.
In November 2015, Marius and Ruth Bodnariu faced every parent's worst nightmare. They had their five young children snatched from their care and scattered across three different households, three hours away from their family home.
Marius and Ruth are loving, educated and responsible parents to Eliana (9), Naomi (7), Matei (4), Ioan (2) and Ezekiel (3 months). Marius has an engineering degree in Applied Informatics with a Master's in Computer Networks, and Ruth is a paediatric nurse specialising in psychology for children and youth. They were living an idyllic life in Norway until events unfolded which turned their world upside down.
After a minor complaint was made by the school headmaster that one of the daughters mentioned she had been smacked, Norwegian child and family services began an investigation that was mired in prejudice from its very beginning.
The children were snatched from their parents after a short investigation which only questioned children. The principal investigator recognised that their testimony was likely to be untruthful. After being removed, the children were systematically interrogated for hours without access to legal counsel or any other safeguarding supervision to ensure they weren't being manipulated. The questioning was coercive. One of the girls, Naomi, even said "I don't know what else to make up" during her testimony.
It took nearly a year for the family to be reunited, even though all the medical and psychological assessments showed that the children were not abused or subjected to violence. Desperate to provide solace to his traumatised children during this period, Marius was forced to sign an agreement stating that he would not speak his native language whilst communicating with the children. If he did, any conversations would be terminated.
The discriminatory and prejudiced views of the investigators towards Marius and Ruth's Christian faith was central to the story of this tragic case. It was predetermined that the family must be guilty of physical violence because of their cultural and religious background. A secret note, sent accidentally by the CPS to the parents, supports this view by stating that "The CPS is worried that this is a way of upbringing which is justified by the Bible as the children are talking about forgiveness". During the CPS pleadings, it was also argued that the children should not be returned because the violence (which has never been substantiated) should be considered as "Christian upbringing violence".
The prejudicial nature of the CPS' views towards religion were also blatant in documented observations made of the children during supervised visitation. One report went as far as to describe how Mr. Bodnariu prayed at the meeting, and made the exclamation: "After a while he (the father) puts himself on his knees and his body (upper part) over the sofa, he might pray!"
The children were seriously harmed by the coercive investigations and the time taken to reunite the family. Iona suffered extensive emotional, psychological and physical harm from being separated from her parents for a prolonged period, and baby Ezekiel was subjected to multiple x-rays, despite there never having been any evidence of abuse. Following the trauma, Marius and Ruth moved to Romania, having left their comfortable and prestigious jobs and their family home, to dedicate time to the healing of their family.
News of the Norwegian government's treatment of the Bodnarius brought condemnation from Congressmen in the United States, politicians throughout Europe, has sparked the initiation of a report against Norwegian social services supported by parliamentarians from 14 countries at the Council of Europe, and even led to organized protests in Europe and the United States to show support for the family.
The Christian Legal Centre is providing close support to the Bodnariu family, and has filed a claim to the European Court of Human Rights.