I first wrote about this case six months ago, wherein a Romanian family living in Norway had their children taken from them by the local equivalent of Child Protective Services.
The case certainly got a LOT of attention in Romania, with 99.99% of the comments expressing rather hyperbolic sentiments along the lines of “A family’s love for their children is always perfect” and that the Norwegian government’s actions were completely wrong.
I see now that the saga is over. Not mentioned in the English version but stated in the Romanian state media report is that a judge in Norway released the kids back into the custody of their parents following a hearing. So the whole thing is over, at least for now, following the rules in place in Norway.
But why did the government take the kids in the first place? If you ask the Bodnariu family, they’ll say it’s because they are evangelical Christians and that this offended the Norwegian government so much that they seized five young children from their parents.
From their official supporter website:
Because of their profound way of living as Christian evangelicals in a predominantly atheist society, [the Bodnariu family] have been labeled “radical Christians” and were accused of “indoctrinating” their children.
Except that the majority of Norwegians are evangelical Lutherans (a form of Christianity). And while it’s true that very few Norwegians are “fervently” religious (what’s called “irreligious”), that’s a big difference from being atheist (actively opposed to religious dogma).
The Bodnariu family belongs to a sect that’s (approximately) Baptist, and the Baptist church is one of the fastest growing churches in Norway. Obviously, I don’t know any insider details about the Bodnariu case but it seems a little extreme that child services would take kids away from their parents solely based on the fact that the parents were the “wrong” kind of Christian.
The Norwegian government hasn’t really said much about why it separated the Bodnariu kids from their family, but there is this:
Norwegian law is very strict and states that parents are forbidden to physically discipline their children.
And this oblique statement from Kai-Morten Terning, an undersecretary for Norway’s Ministry for Children and Equality:
When asked if mild corporal punishment would be sufficient reason for children to be taken into care, he says: “We have programs for parents to avoid using corporal punishment… but parents have to know the law and live by it in Norway, regardless of background.”
Whether it was really about the Bodnariu family beating their children or being “too” Christian, or something else entirely, we’ll never know. Scandinavians have some weird laws and cultural mores but if you really feel it’s necessary to hit your kids, there are plenty of other countries you can choose to live in (like Romania).
Ultimately, what is quite interesting is just which religious sect that the Bodnariu family belongs to: an evangelical church called Elim. Indeed, the way the world found out that the Bodnariu family had gotten their kids back was via a press release by Elim’s leader, Cristian Ionescu, who runs the Elim mega church in Chicago.
You might remember this church from the strange role it played in choosing Victor Ponta for Prime Minister at a secret conclave of high-ranking American officials and multinational corporations in the United States a few months before anyone else knew that a new prime minister was even needed. At the time that Ponta met with this cabal, Romania had a brand-new prime minister (Mihai Razvan Ungureanu) and government and there was no sense that it was about to be replaced.
So the Elim leader who guided Ponta’s secret mission to America is the same guy who coordinated all the publicity over the Bodnariu case. And here’s what the Norwegian government had to say about that publicity:
Norwegian officials said the protests and the media coverage in this particular case were part of a well-coordinated campaign against the country’s child protection services.
And that well-coordinated campaign made it all the way to the BBC.
Connecting the dots, we have:
- The Bodnariu family belong to the Elim church.
- The Elim church is extremely experienced at organizing campaigns and launched a hyperbolic smear campaign against Norwegian child services.
- The Elim church has high-level contacts throughout the Romanian government.
- The Bodnariu case makes headlines around the world and Romania, which lead to a few protests in the street and in front of the Norwegian embassy.
Yeah, not creepy or weird at all.
A Few Words For Enraged Romanian Readers Who Are Now Frothing At the Mouth
Let me repeat this: I do not know why the Norwegian government took the Bodnariu children. It could well be that this was a huge abuse on the part of the government. I’ve seen cases in America where child protective services committed egregious abuses. And yes, of course it would be a nightmare if some government agency took my kids unfairly.
That being said, we only have one side of the story: that of the scarily influential Elim church and the Bodnariu propaganda machine. The Norwegian government has never commented on the matter. So we’ll never know what really happened.
Furthermore, it is beyond ridiculous to say that every parent or family provides a good environment for children. Plenty of my Romanian friends have been beaten and abused in other ways by their parents and probably would have been better served if there were a child protective services agency to intervene (which goes far beyond just “taking the kids away” and also includes classes, etc).
Except that in Romania and Moldova, there is no such thing as a child protective services agency. Here in Moldova, one of our neighbors has been abusing her kid in a way far worse than “mild corporal punishment” and so I’ve dealt with the agency that does exist (called something like “the agency for protecting children’s rights”). Their only method of intervening is to contact the parents and kind of shame them into doing the right thing, but they’ll never take the kids away no matter how bad the situation gets.
And here’s what UNICEF has to say about Romania:
Many parents in Romania employ corporal punishment. Violence in schools, by both teachers and other children, is high by world standards.
It is complete bullshit to say that “the family is always best” and that the government should never intervene. And I don’t need some creepy church lecturing me on the matter either. Every month I read stories about teachers beating kids in schools in Romania and parental violence is not just tolerated but often celebrated. I certainly see it on a weekly basis on the streets of Chisinau, usually combined with a lot of shouting and emotional/verbal abuse as well. Screaming at your kid, “You’re a stupid idiot,” hurts just as bad as a slap and is just as wrong.
I don’t know what happened with the Bodnariu kids but there are damn sure some children in Romania and the Republic of Moldova who wish they lived in Norway where they could actually get some respect, protection and help.