- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2016

After international protests were held demanding the return of children who were taken away from their “radical” Christian parents, the Norwegian government last week agreed to let the children go home.

“The Naustdal Municipality of Norway has come to terms with Marius & Ruth Bodnariu for the return home of all of their five (5) children,” the family said in a June 3 press release.

“We thank you all for your love, support, prayers, and active participation in the reunification of this family,” the statement said. “May God richly bless you and repay you for all you have done to bring this family back together.”

The government agreed to return the children after a four-day hearing before a five-person county board, The Federalist reported. The board recommended both sides come to a settlement, which they were initially unable to do.

But after the board hinted that it would likely rule against the government, a settlement to return the children to the family was reached.

The government eventually dropped its case against the Bodnariu family, as well as its plan to keep the children in foster homes until adulthood.

All five Bodnariu children were seized by Norwegian child protective services, known as “Barnevernet,” in November 2015. Four of the five remained in state custody for more than six months.

The seizures came after teachers at the two eldest daughters’ school expressed concern to authorities about the family’s religious beliefs.

Government officials conducted interviews with the girls at the school and removed them without parental notification, and later came for the family’s two younger boys. The fifth child, a 3-month-old baby, was also briefly taken, but returned home shortly thereafter.

Barnevernet took issue with the parents’ occasional use of corporal punishment, such as spanking, which is banned in Norway. Authorities conducted rigorous physical exams of the children and found no signs of abuse.

Child protective services also documented the parents’ religious beliefs in the case, leading to speculation that the seizures were the result of religious discrimination.

The government placed the four seized children in three different foster homes spread out all over the nation and allowed minimal parental contact.

The actions sparked an international backlash, prompting protests in dozens of cities around the world. A group of more than 100 United States attorneys and European members of parliament wrote a joint letter to the Norwegian prime minister demanding the return of the children.

The children will finish the school year in foster care and return home by mid-June.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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