OSLO, Norway — Following a seven month battle, the Norwegian government has agreed to return the four remaining children who were seized from their parents last November after a school principal expressed concern over the children’s “religious upbringing.”
“Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! The Bodnariu family will be reunited!” reads a statement released by spokesman Pastor Cristian Ionescu. “The Naustdal Municipality of Norway has come to terms with Marius and Ruth Bodnariu for the return home of all of their five children.”
As previously reported, in November, the Barnevernet seized Marius and Ruth Bodnariu’s two daughters, two sons and baby Ezekiel. The two eldest children were reportedly removed from school without their parents knowledge, and then Barnevarnet representatives arrived with police at the Bodnariu home, where welfare services seized the remaining children, minus the baby.
The organization returned the following day and removed the infant as well after the family tried to resolve the matter after being arrested.
Marius Bodnariu’s brother, Daniel, who is a pastor, explained in an online statement that the matter began when the children’s principal contacted welfare services after expressing concerns over how they were being raised, including in regard to the family’s Christian beliefs.
“The process of confiscating the Bodnariu children started when the Vevring School principal, the middle school attended by Eliana and Naomi, called the Barnevernet and expressed her concerns regarding the girls’ religious upbringing, her understanding that the girls are being disciplined at home, and that she considers the parents and grandmother to be radical Christians; an overriding concern that the principal’s perception of the parents’ and grandmother’s religious beliefs inhibit and handicap the girls’ development,” he outlined.
Peter Costea, the president of the Alliance for Romania’s Families, an attorney who has had access to court records surrounding the case, also concluded that the family’s faith was a factor in the children’s seizure.
“Documents and minutes of meetings have emerged since the abduction showing that as early as … more than a month before the children were taken into custody, the officials at Naustdal municipality disapproved of the parenting style of the Bodnariu parents, believing it, after questioning the children, to be based on the Bible,” he explained in February. “They plainly state that Barnevernet ‘is worried that this is a way of upbringing which is justified by the Bible.’”
Costea outlined that “[t]he 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,” he continued. “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.”
During the course of the case, the discussion turned to abuse allegations as Barnevernet expressed concern that the children might have been spanked, which is illegal in Norway. The grandparents of the children, who have lived with the family at times, rejected the allegations completely.
“We can assure that we have never seen that violence has been used against the children,” the grandfather said in a recent blog post. “Not even that they have raised their voices to them. The children themselves have never told us that the parents have been nasty to them.”
The Bodnariu’s were reunited with their infant son in April, but continued to press for the return of their remaining four children.
On June 2, Romanian MP Ben Oni Ardelean outlined on social media that the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) had approved a report on the Bodnariu case.
“Today, the members of the Committee for Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have decided to elaborate a draft report on ‘Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and need to keep the families together,'” he wrote.
“The report will consider to which extent the abusive measures taken by the Childcare Social Services (Barnevernet) from Norway are compatible with the Council of Europe’s standards in this specific field, and the resolution, which will draw the main conclusions from the report, will make concrete legislative recommendations to the Norwegian competent authorities,” Aredelean explained.
On Friday, it was announced that an agreement had been reached with the Naustdal Municipality of Norway to allow for the return of the Bodnariu children.
“[W]e are pleased that we have arrived at this result and for the cooperation that is created,” Councilman Øyvind Bang-Olsen told the publication Dagen.
“We thank you all for your love, support, prayers, and active participation in the reunification of this family,” Ianescu also said in a statement. “May God richly bless you and repay you for all you have done to bring this family back together.”
The family is now requesting privacy as their family reintegrates. Protests in support of the Bodnariu’s had been underway for the past several months in cities around the globe.