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Thousands demand Norway return children to their Christian family

(Reuters)Some 200 people gather in central Oslo on April 16, 2016 to protest the state seizure of the five children of Christian couple Marius and Ruth Bodnariu by the Norwegian child welfare service Barnevernet.

Thousands of people around the world are demanding the Norwegian government to return the children they seized from a Christian couple.

Christian Today reported that thousands of people marched on Saturday to show their disapproval of the way the Norwegian government acted toward the Bodnariu family. In Arizona alone, hundreds of people, including a group who call themselves the "Romanian-Americans for Reunification of Bodnariu Family Coalition" and other civic, religious, and business leaders, came in droves to the Superior Court building in Phoenix. The march was led by Arizona representative Trent Franks, an advocate of child welfare in the congress. 

In November last year, the Barnevernet, Norway's child welfare services, took all five of Marius and Ruth Bodnariu's kids. The husband and wife were suspected of child abuse as well as indoctrinating the children of Christianity. Prior to the seizure of the three boys and two girls, one of the daughters reportedly told her school's headteachear that her parents spanked them for discipline. As corporal punishment is illegal in Norway, schools are required to report such incidents to the government. The school principal informed the authorities because she reportedly "had concerns about how the girls were disciplined at home because the parents were 'very Christian'."

According to the Home School Legal Defence Association, a non-profit organization in Canada, the kids were aged between 3 months and 9 years old when they were taken from their parents, with the youngest still being nursed at the time. They were placed in three foster homes about two to four hours from their own home, and it was only recently that the youngest, now 7 months, was returned to his parents.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this action was motivated in large part by the family's religious faith. The Bodnarius are God-fearing, church-going folk—but this is not as common in Norway today," said Houston-based lawyer Peter Costea who visited the family. "Is it child abuse to teach children the Bible? The Norwegian government seems to think that if children believe and act according to their faith taught to them by their parents, then they are too 'rigid' or 'strong-willed.'"

The organization said in their report that more than 50 rallies were organized for the April 16 worldwide event. A petition is also online, with the signatures currently at more than 62,000, well above the target of 50,000 signatures.

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