Careless Ease

May 24, 2020

Americans Are Excessively Eating, Drinking, Smoking Pot, Playing Video Games And Watching Porn While Quarantined (Link)

Looking 20 pages deep into a Google search on “Porn watching during the coronavirus” you will still find articles (like the link just above) about the increase in the viewing of pornographic materials during the times in which we are living. The video above was made by a Christian who once had a serious addiction to pornography. He is now the head of a 30+ year old ministry attempting to help those whose lives have been ruined by it. The ministry is called Pure life.

You can find the Pure Life story here (Link). You can find their statement of faith here (Link)(You have to scroll to the bottom).

Any addiction is debilitating, particularly spiritually. Addictions create bondage; they don’t create the freedom the person using such destructive behaviors is seeking.

So, where does someone who gets to the place that they know they are out of control go to start a healing process? The same internet that took you to the places that put you in bondage has many sites that can be very helpful. Here is one that lists several resources for sex addiction issues (link).
There are similar sites for any type of addiction.

“Addiction is when the body or mind badly wants or needs something in order to work right.”

The reason why I think sexual addictions are particularly destructive is that God created sexual relations to be a beautiful thing when the relationship has its foundation on an institution that God created: marriage.

You can find many places on the internet that describe the signs of porn addiction.

If you have the signs, I think you should seek help. The best place, in my opinion, to find help would be from someone who has been there and from someone who is a Christian.

There are many instances in the Bible like this:

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” -Psalms 107:19-20

Like all addictions, until a person is willing to admit there is a problem there will not be a solution. I am saddened that many Americans, and many throughout the world for that matter, are turning increasingly to destructive things during this time of uncertainty.

Chris Reimers


Landmark Report Exposes the Realities of Norwegian Child Protection

May 10, 2020

Samnanger Fjord
By Aqwis
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samnanger#/media/File:Samnanger.jpg
(Click on Photo to see the beautiful Samnanger area)

A report detailing Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) abuses has been published in Norway. Final Report-Investigation of Three Child Protection Cases-Samnanger Municipality, was published by local authorities on the Samnanger Municipality website. Investigators discovered incidents of maltreatment occurring there over several years. An official apology has been issued along with compensation, though the current mayor regrets that it is a very modest amount compared to the devastation to the lives of the families involved. The report is also critical of the County Governor (the state’s head representative in a Norwegian county) for not stopping Barnevernet’s actions. In 2013, he produced a report that identified no problems.

Initially the published report was freely readable and available for downloading. The municipality removed it from its site after a recommendation of confidentiality was made by the County Governor. After a meeting was held by municipality officials, those supporting the investigation results allowed for a few changes in the report and republished it back onto the municipal website. The Governor has written to the mayor of Samnanger, demanding that the report be taken off of the internet again. Apparently, he wants to launch his own investigation into the legality of the investigation and publication done by the Samnanger Municipality.

It seems that the municipality intends to try to litigate the negligent actions of certain employees. More than 20 million crowns (more than 2 million dollars by the current rate) has been paid out for “child protection” of the victim children: to psychologists, foster homes, and home visits. “Advice” was given to the parents before the children were taken and afterwards, in order to “help” the parents improve their “parental skills.”

The 71 page report is only available in the Norwegian language with the exception of the initial thirteen key points listed below:

Main conclusions

“The investigation has revealed that the child welfare service in Samnanger in the investigated cases on a number of points have been in violation of both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Welfare Act and good administrative practice. This includes:

1) “Lack of writing and documentation. There is a pervasive feature in all three cases that the child welfare services’ assessments are to a scant extent documented. This is a violation of good administrative practice and represents a legal security problem for the affected children and parents.

2) “Lack of hearing of children’s views. The child welfare service is obliged to collect and consider taking into account the views of the children when when the children are old or mature enough to have an opinion. It is not likely that the children have taken part or had their views referred to and considered

3) “Lack of options reviews. The child welfare service is obliged to consider gentle alternatives when performing emergency placements. This does not appear to have been done.

4) “Lack of assistance. The Child Welfare Service is obliged to implement adequate relief measures where this is possible, rather than choosing more invasive intervention. This was not done sufficiently.

5) “Lack of reassessments when the situation has changed. The child welfare service is obliged to consider the case again if changes in the family situation have taken place which may be important. It is nowhere stated that this has been done.

6) “Failure to assess foster homes after taking children into care. The obligation first to consider foster homes in the child’s family or close network has not been complied with.

7) “Lack of justification for separating siblings. Siblings’ need and right to grow up together is not considered, and the placement of them in different foster homes is not explained or justified. None of the children in the three cases have been allowed to grow up with one or more siblings.

8) “Lack of culture-sensitive understanding and competence. There is no consideration for children’s right to know their ethnic, cultural and linguistic background.

9) “Inadequate supervision of foster homes. The obligation to follow up children in foster homes has not been complied with in accordance with the requirements of the Child Welfare Act.

10) “Lack of role understanding – confusion of roles. In Samnanger Municipality the roles as social leader and child welfare leader were combined in one position during the period the cases were being handled. These are two different functions with different tasks. In the present cases, it seems that the roles have been confused with each other, with unfortunate results for private parties.

11) “Lack of information to parents. The child welfare service has waited unnecessarily long to inform parents about child detention and emergency placement.

12) “One child has been completely deprived of her childhood through unwise public taking into care.
The child appears significantly injured after the placement.

13) “Extensive use of coercion and medication. Several of the children have been subjected to coercion, medication and disproportionate use of force.”

Final Report-Investigation of Three Child Protection Cases-Samnanger Municipality. (Link)

——————————————————-

EDITORIAL

Dear defenders of the family in Samnanger,

To this point the infamous Barnevernet has received a good amount of its criticism from outside sources. There were the worldwide protests in 2016 that brought thousands of people into streets on six continents. Just two months ago there were unanimous convictions at the European Convention on Human Rights where Norway was found in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (My article about it is here). As Samnanger residents probably know, there are close to two dozen cases still pending at the ECtHR. I am also aware of many other Norwegian citizens who have been justly critical of your “Child Protection Services.”

I applaud the courageous leadership in Samnanger!!! Your determination encourages similar actions by Norwegians to bring justice and hope to others.

The Barnevernet has weaseled its way into your small population. I can imagine living in a town that has had the same population for the past 50 years (around 2,400). My guess is that a community of that size for that long is a place where people know one another pretty well. Something of this magnitude, in a place your size, must be having a very divisive effect. The County Governor is too late in his attempt to stifle this report. If he can remove it, it will not go away. A quote by Olav Terje Bergo is appropriate here:
“Efforts to make it disappear will be like trying to put the toothpaste back again into a hundred thousand toothpaste tubes.”
I am aware that the report has been sent to at least six different countries. As an official document of the Samnanger Municipality, it is perfectly legal to be copied and quoted.

I hear from your country that the coronavirus shutdown has created a constant drumming of pundits on TV, newspaper, and radio communicating that they are concerned about the “vulnerable” state of children today. The comments are meant to help Norwegians see that home environments are now more unsafe than ever because children are not around their protectors: school teachers, kindergarten teachers, health nurses (in the schools), psychologists, and coaches. I wonder if those responsible for removing children from loving parents have children themselves in Norway? If so, who is watching their efforts as parents?

I am also hearing that several CPS offices complain that they are receiving very few messages of “concern” now. Imagine that. They surmise that children are being treated badly and that nobody can really see what is going on inside the home. Children only have Barnevernet personnel to protect them now and the coronavirus is keeping them at a distance. At least there is one good thing about the virus!

God gifted parents with the abilities, delights, and responsibilities to raise children. Any government that thinks otherwise is foolish and sometimes evil. There are always exceptions but we all know the Barnevernet has gone beyond inhumanity in thousands of cases. There is a spiritual, natural, and moral law that states: “You reap what you have sown.” I pray for the victims and the perpetrators of crimes like the ones in Samnanger. I pray that those who have ears to hear will listen and wake up before it is too late.

Chris Reimers
Edited by Professor Marianne H. Skanland

Recommended:

The importance of freedom of expression, illustrated from “child protection” in Samnanger municipality in Norway (Link)

This post on Professor Skanland’s homepage gives additional details about the Samnanger report and states:

“Those in Samnanger who have fought for truthful publicizing can find support in judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerning freedom of expression.”

The article gives examples of ECtHR cases in Norway, Iceland, and Belgium. The ECtHR “makes it clear that not only do people have the right to impart information about important and controversial things, the public has an equal right to receive such information…it is necessary in order to have the kind of society we want to live in.”

America’s founding Fathers would have appreciated this perspective.


Why the Coronavirus and Why Now?

April 30, 2020

Photo by Yuri Samoilov
yuri.samoilov.online/.

In education, “why” is generally the highest level question that one can ask. Teachers are encouraged to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create high-level questions. For example, instead of asking, “Which U.S. President, authorized by the U.S. Congress, sent the American military into the Iraqi conflict in 2003?” a teacher could ask, “Was President Bush justified in sending U.S. soldiers to Iraq and why do you think that?”

Here are several articles that I have read that relates to the title above and a few of my thoughts on each:

Is This A Judgment? (link)

Whenever someone comes up with 10 reasons to think the coronavirus is a judgment of God, like Peter Leithart does here, I’m curious to see what he thinks. I am not only curious about his thoughts, I always try to find out a bit about him. I have done both.

Mr. Leithart asks the question “Why?” and his 10 reasons represent his thoughts about his home country, the U.S.
Each one of his reasons is a possible answer for “Why?” and “Why now?”

Ask Dr. Land: Did God cause the coronavirus pandemic? If not, why did He allow it? (link)

In answering the first of the two questions in his article, Dr. Land states:

So, when people ask, “Did God cause this to happen?” the answer has to be, “No, He did not.” Why? The Bible tells us that “no one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). The Psalmist tells us that “the works of his hands are faithful and just” (Psalm 111:7) and “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

I particularly like Dr. Land’s reliance on scripture. I also liked it that he started the article with:

Whenever we seek to answer such questions, we must first express our humility, remembering the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Rom. 8:23-24 CSB).

Dr. Land has impressive educational achievements and yet he says we need to remember our position in relation to God.

Did God allow the coronavirus? Dr. Land gives an interesting illustration using the Rose Bowl of 2006 (U.S.C. vs. Texas) to explain how God views human history. (It is an article worth your time.)

Dr. Land’s opinion:

“Did God cause the Coronavirus pandemic?” No. “Did God allow the pandemic to happen?” Yes.

Also, he states this:

Can God ultimately redeem the pandemic for good? That depends entirely on how we as Christians and as a nation respond to this terrible tragedy.

Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To (link)

This is the title of N.T. Wright’s article that appeared in Time magazine.

No doubt the usual silly suspects will tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign? These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation. But supposing it doesn’t? Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, “So that’s all right then?” What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing?

Since Mr. Wright calls certain reactions to the virus silly and “would-be Christian,” what is his view?

Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer.

Is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow what happens when people don’t get an answer? I would agree that the answer is sometimes “yes.” But Christians I know don’t get answers and still call faith “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I’ve never heard one quote the T.S. Elliot version of hope Mr. Wright uses:

What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing?

Christians know the hope that they have. It is a blessed hope.

They are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus…”

I’m always concerned when someone thinks they have all of the answers, which is the tone of Mr. Wright here. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. He did use the term “perhaps.”

The article ends with:

As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope. New wisdom for our leaders? Now there’s a thought.

We become small shrines? What is that supposed to mean? I’m all for new acts of kindness and I’m all for new scientific understanding, but Mr. Wright seems to clash with himself when he criticizes “Rationalism” at least twice in this endeavor.

I understand lamenting and I verily understand groaning. I don’t understand Mr. Wright.

Where is God in a Coronavirus World? (click on the video link below)

John Lennox has written a book named “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” Mr. Lennox is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford University. I have not read his book, but I have watched this video:

I have always appreciated the views of Mr. Lennox and had no different experience here. John is asked, “Why have viruses at all?” I’d recommend you watch the video.

I could continue to share opinions and make my own speculations but the truth is, I do not know why the Corona virus has hit our world now and I do not know why. I do think three of the four gentlemen above have given good possibilities for these questions. The fourth view (that of N.T. Wright) is also a possibility.

I do know one thing. If I understand the tribulation as Christ describes it in Matthew 24 (along with other passages in the Bible), COVID-19, at least to this point, is like a mosquito bite compared to what is eventually coming. Many people I talk to think that we are living in the days of “birth pangs” described in Matthew 24:8. I think this is very possible. Whether we are closing in on or are in the last days or not, here is a passage that we all should keep in mind:

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, 4 but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. 11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ 12 But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

This parable is stated directly after the chapter about the Tribulation. It is found in Matthew 25.

If I see any other interesting views on “Why?” and “Why now?” I may add them as time allows.

Chris Reimers

Related:

Alistair Begg’s Easter Sermon 2020


Thou art my hope in the day of evil

April 29, 2020

Photo by pol sifter

“Thou art my hope in the day of evil.”
Jeremiah 17:17

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters,” but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Charles H. Spurgeon

When I read this today, the verse seemed to fit our day in other ways as well. The deity of Christ is under attack perhaps more today than ever. Just this week, I’ve stumbled across several different religious leaders who do not give Jesus his full position as God as the Bible teaches. (30 “I and the Father are one.” – John 10)
Add to that the many false prophets, prosperity teachers, New Apostolic Reformation leaders, New Age thought, Unitarian positions, cults, etc. (I’m not even including other religions here) and we have a time where Bible verses are twisted to make Jesus someone to fit personal wishes instead of the true Jesus found in scripture (Tota Scriptura).
We need to be familiar with the entire Word of God so that we are not fooled by these impostors. I think it’s time for all of us to go back to the basics and study why we believe the things we do believe. I think this because basic Christian Orthodoxy which has spanned the ages is in question (i.e. the diety of Christ).

cr


Radiant With Hope

April 6, 2020


“Amidst chaos and confusion, where can we find hope?”

Just like my church (and yours) Parkside Church is full of empty seats until further notice. Pastor Begg gives a sermon to his congregation through his church’s website. It is relevant to our times. The message starts at 16:45. May God bless you by His Holy Spirit through this recent lesson.

(CLICK HERE TO HEAR PASTOR BEGG’S RECENT TREATISE.)

CR


NORWAY VIOLATES PARENTAL RIGHTS…AGAIN!

March 24, 2020

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, France
Photo by Guilhem Vellut

On March 10th, two important child welfare case decisions were made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Unanimous convictions were made in both cases, clearly and strongly denouncing Norwegian authorities.

In each case, Norway was found in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 of the Convention describes the right to respect for private and family life. It states:

“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
(Guide on Article 8)

EHtCR judges found that Norwegian officials were guilty of unexcused and unbridled intrusion into normal family life in the March 10th decisions. These same officials/authorities were found guilty of being “responsible for a situation of family breakdown.”

In the case of HERNEHULT v. NORWAY, the Court noted a recent case where precedent had been clearly declared:

“61. The general principles applicable to cases involving child welfare measures, including measures such as those at issue in the present case, are well-established in the Court’s case-law, and were recently extensively set out in the case of Strand Lobben and Others v. Norway.”

Back in September (10 September 2019), in the case of STRAND LOBBEN AND OTHERS v. NORWAY, the ECtHR judges in Strasbourg found Norway in violation of Article 8 by a vote of thirteen to four.

In the second case decided on March 10th, PEDERSEN AND OTHERS v. NORWAY, the Court also referred to the Strand Lobben case:

“39. Other relevant material relating to domestic and international law is referred to in the Court’s recent judgment in the case of Strand Lobben and Others v. Norway.”

The citation of previous litigation in both HERNEHULT v. NORWAY and PEDERSEN AND OTHERS v. NORWAY explains how the Court came to its united condemnation.

The two cases have several similarities. One is that the wives in each case were not born in Norway. Hernehult’s wife is a Romanian national, and Pedersen’s wife comes from the Philippines.

Each case originated in an application against the Kingdom of Norway lodged with the ECtHR under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Hernehult applied in March of 2016 and the Pedersens applied in August of 2015. The Hernehult settlement was 26,893 U.S. dollars for non-pecuniary damage, and the Pedersen settlement was 37,637 U.S. dollars for non-pecuniary damage and 10,216 U.S. dollars for costs and expenses.

Over 20 similar cases are slated to be decided by the EHtCR in the coming months. No one knows how many more applications against the Kingdom of Norway are forthcoming.

Editorial

How many more decisions like this will have to be made before the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, otherwise known as the Barnevernet, will begin to see that the world is waking up to its crimes? I am pleased by these wise decisions of the ECtHR. It is obvious that they can now see through all of the miasma belched into our habitat by the Barnevernet and Norwegian officials. I’m not aware of anyone who is satisfied with the settlements made, but these recent decisions are steps in the right direction certainly. The ECtHR’s references to the Lobben case in the March 10 decisions reveal recent, positive movement. The court is clear…it is using “well-established” “case law” for its decisions. I am very thankful and yet…

How can any reparations repay someone for a child stolen?

In the Pedersen case, paragraph 68 of the ECtHR judgment speaks for itself:

68. The Court emphasizes that to the extent that these decisions implied that the authorities had given up reunification of the child and the natural parents as the ultimate goal, the conclusion that placement must be considered to be long-term should only have been drawn after careful consideration and also taking account of the authorities’ positive duty to take measures to facilitate family reunion. However, in this case the decision to impose a very strict visiting regime cemented the situation at the very outset, making it highly probably that the child would become attached to the foster parents and alienated from the natural parents, thus precluding any realistic possibility of eventual reunification. Indeed, this is precisely what happened in the present case. In this respect, the Court recalls that where the authorities are responsible for a situation of family breakdown because they have failed in their obligation to take measures to facilitate family reunification, they may not base a decision to authorize adoption on the grounds of the absence of bonds between the parents and the child (see Strand Lobben and Others, cited above, § 208).
You can read the details of the case and the court’s decision HERE.

In, 2013, Mr. Dan Mikael Hernehult moved to Norway with his wife and three boys and before the year was out (November 4th) the child welfare service issued emergency care orders for all three children in accordance with section 4-6 of the Child Welfare Act. (You can download a PDF copy of the Child Welfare act here.) They were placed in emergency foster homes the same day. The sad account does not stop there. You can read the details of the case and the court’s decision HERE.

Many in Norway have been hoping and praying for the type of decision made in the Hernehult case. In it, the Norwegian authorities were convicted of wrongfully taking two of the boys into care in the first place. This is an opening salvo of, hopefully, many more decisions like it.

Professor Marianne Haslev Skånland is the one who referred me to Paragraph 68 in the Pedersen case and she was particularly pleased with the decision in the Hernehult case. She writes:

“The judgments have made things increasingly clear, up to now, when they write so clearly that they (the ECtHR judges) both condemn the taking into care of two of the children, AND the failure to return them.”

She also states:

“I am really most of all glad of the judgments from February 2020 which I found against Russia and Romania. Not because I am glad to see that in those countries, too, they have social services which more or less frequently make enemies of parents and seem to delight in disrupting family bonds. But because I see a trend in what the ECtHR is doing: They now seem wide awake to the fact that they have a duty to carry out here: help combat a very destructive trend – the trend of believing that biological parents are of no importance to their children and that the social services can provide children with better conditions and satisfactory ’stimulation’! That is pure, speculative psychobabble – quackery, and all experience disproves it.”

Marianne’s description of Barnevernet philosophies as “speculative psychobabble” fits my understanding perfectly. She has broad knowledge of child welfare services inside and outside of her home country of Norway. HERE, on her homepage, you can see links to the Norwegian cases leading up to and including those mentioned in this post.

With all of the challenges families face in our time, the last concern should be about government entities separating loving families. Many countries are having similar problems. It is important that we become aware of the philosophies of child welfare in all countries.

I appreciate those who have worked so hard to create awareness about this important issue and I congratulate those who have spent years fighting to see that these cases made their way to court.

Chris Reimers


The Norwegian state’s interpretation of the ECtHR judgments about our child protection Barnevernet

March 12, 2020

By Marianne Haslev Skånland
professor emeritus

(This article was published just days before two new decisions condemning the same Norwegian authorities. The new decisions will be the subject of the next post on this blog. – cr)

• • • •
The Norwegian original of this article was published in the newspaper Norge IDAG on 5 March 2020.
This English version is very slightly longer, incorporating some details which are not equally well known or so easily obvious to foreign readers as to Norwegians in the middle of the present debate.
• • • •

It is hard to believe that Norway’s authorities, and Norwegian jurists otherwise prominent in society, can have read the judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg that they express opinions on. What we are served up especially by experts on human rights law in media interviews, articles and statements seems heavily infested with misinterpretation, trivializing, stubbornness, denial, blaming victims, and attempts to explain away unpleasantness. Actually there are more variants and on several counts. Obviously the judgments have not made official Norway open eyes and ears to any extent. Yet.

Probably the most important issues are: the question of reparation, the question of the child’s best interest and existing evidence in research of what this is, and the question of truth in the description of facts. I hope to return to these issues at another time; in this article I want to go into the question of what the content of the judgments actually says.

A sporty game of win and lose?

When asked a couple of years ago why Norway has met with strong protest against Barnevernet, our authorities were at first used to answer: “We have actually won two cases in the ECtHR.” Then another was added. Then there was one case in which Norway was found guilty of violation of human rights. Then an appeal of one of the first three was admitted to the Court’s Grand Chamber, leading to a conviction instead of acquittal (the Strand Lobben case, cf below). Then the state was convicted in three further cases. Every time the question of number of cases comes up now, defenders of official practice hurry to say “We have lost 5 but have won 2”.

Expressions like ‘win’ may not be the wisest when spokesmen of the authorities use it about serious issues of abuse carried out against individuals by the authorities. I seem to remember that it was commented on by Gro Hillestad Thune, former Norwegian judge in Strasbourg. She said that the authorities present it like a football game. “5 against 2” sounds as if the decisions could go either way. Perhaps in order to suggest that Norwegian child protection is foremost in the world, therefore the result was rather accidental – the ECtHR might in those five cases almost just as soon have exonerated Norway, which was anyway just convicted of trifling offenses of a formal nature?

Norway’s attorney general was the first man out with such an interpretation after the Lobben judgment: He expressed that what Norway had been found guilty of, was that our courts had not explained carefully enough how necessary and correct Barnevernet’s actions had been.

Is it possible, then, to read the judgments in this manner?

A chronology and a report which are circumvented

Something the authorities do not speak of is the existence of a chronology here, one which is highly relevant.

In the three cases in which the applicants to the Court in Strasbourg did not win through with their complaints, judgments were passed in 2017 and in April 2018.

For the last 6-7 years, and especially after the internationally well-known Bodnariu case, several nations have found that European child protection is problematic, especially in the Western countries, and especially visibly in Norwegian practice. The Council of Europe therefore ordered an investigation, which led to a very critical report about European child protection with examples particularly taken from Norway. It was presented and passed with a large majority on 28 June 2018.

In the debate in the Council of Europe, the speech of one of the Norwegian parliamentarians, Morten Wold, was honest and quite courageous, supporting the criticism of Norway. Two other Norwegian MPs tried to undermine the content of the report with many proposals for amendment. They did not succeed in Strasbourg, but back home afterwards one could read a curious article published by the Norwegian parliament Stortinget, claiming the opposite: that Norway’s delegation had turned ‘the balance in the resolution’ into a victory for Norwegian Barnevern.

The European Court of Human Rights is the court of the Council of Europe, passing judgments which are in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In September 2018 the Court published their unanimous judgment convicting Norway in the Jansen case. The Lobben case appeal came up before the Grand Chamber on 17 October the same autumn and led to conviction of Norway with 13 votes against 4. The judgment was ready in the spring of 2019, but was announced in September. Then followed judgments in three more cases in November and December 2019. In all three Norway was convicted unanimously.

(Blondina) Jansen v. Norway
European Court of Human Rights, 6 September 2018

Grand Chamber judgment (key case):
(Trude) Strand Lobben and others v. Norway
European Court of Human Rights, 10 September 2019

Grand Chamber hearing:
Strand Lobben and Others v. Norway (no. 37283/13)
European Court of Human Rights, 17 October 2018

KO and VM v. Norway (Ken Olsen and Vibeke Morrissey)
European Court of Human Rights, 19 November 2019

A.S. v. Norway
European Court of Human Rights, 17 December 2019

(Mariya) Abdi Ibrahim v. Norway
European Court of Human Rights, 17 December 2019

The 5 judgments coming after the report of the Council of Europe have, therefore, all gone against the Norwegian state. And notably, they are all about issues such as Norway having broken off children’s bonds to their parents, having cut off meaningful communication and the enjoyment of being together of parents and children, having prevented return of the children to their parents, having proceeded to forcibly adopting away the children. These are among actions which the ECHR’s Article 8 is meant to guard people against.

The report of the Council of Europe seems to have inaugurated increased understanding and concern in the ECtHR. The new Norwegian judge in the ECtHR, too, appears to have taken note of the alarm expressed in the report, and is said to have been active in the spring of 2019 in the ECtHR having taken up child protection cases from applicants against Norway – they ended up being over 30 – for so-called ‘communication’, i.e the Court asking Norway for an explanation. This is a step in the direction of a case being taken up for pleading and judgment in the Chamber, if Norway continues to defend the decisions made in the Norwegian judicial system.

More cases in the wake of the Council of Europe’s report

Some more recent cases seem to lend support to the supposition of alarm having been sounded in the Council of Europe and the ECtHR:

Pavlova v. Russia and Kungurov v. Russia 18 February 2020, Y.I. v. Russia 25 February 2020.

In the first two, Russia was convicted of violation of Article 8 because the authorities had, without going into the question of whether it was necessary, refused visit in prison by the jailed person’s wife, respectively the jailed person’s wife and children.

In the third case, the authorities had taken the mother’s three children into care and then deprived her of her parental authority, this also depriving her of e.g her right to visit the children. One child was placed with its father, the other two in a children’s home. The mother had been involved in drug abuse, but is living with her mother, who has also been willing to take care of the children while her daughter is in treatment. The children’s mother has taken active steps to get away from her drug abuse.

The judgment emphasizes that the state’s actions have hurt the children; they have strong feelings for their mother and grandmother. Russia has not tried to give positive help in order to keep the family unit together, such as letting the grandmother help, and has removed the mother’s parental authority from her despite the fact that she has all the time shown great interest in the lives of the children and has actively tried to contact them. The ECtHR also sees it as wrong towards the children to have split the three children up. In the ECtHR, a state has a wider latitude of assessment of the necessity, in particular situations, of taking children into care – a wider so-called ‘margin of appreciation’ – than it has in its further treatment of a case. But under the circumstances that prevailed in this case, Russia is convicted of a violation including that of taking into care the two who were placed in a children’s home – in other words, the state is found guilty not only of its subsequent actions but of the taking into care itself. The state’s action was not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.

In Cinta v. Romania, this judgment too from 18 February 2020, Romania is convicted of having, through court judgments, not assisted a separated father in maintaining and developing his relationship to his daughter. The father is schizophrenic but under dependable medication. Romania is also found guilty of discrimination, in this instance of a person suffering from a mental illness. The judgment refers, as one would expect, to the case K. and T. v. Finland from 2001, a case where the children’s mother was schizophrenic. That, too, was an important case, a Grand Chamber judgment, Finland being convicted even of the taking into care of the new-born baby in hospital. As far as I know, this was the first judgment from the ECtHR in which a state was convicted even of the taking into care itself.

In these four new cases, the ECtHR repeatedly emphasises that the right to family life is to be placed much higher than the states have done. The fact that helping the family is problematic, that visits are difficult or onerous to manage, that a parent has problems of drug abuse or illness – none of this is enough to relieve the state of its duty of actively helping to keep the family together, nor does it give the authorities the right to force the family apart. The judgments repeat that the authorities have a margin of appreciation in considering whether taking into care is necessary in concrete situations, but that a taking into care is always a temporary measure. In such cases, the state is obliged to work energetically to help in such a way that children and parents can be reunited as soon as possible.

A revealing past – and the future

In addition to the five cases for which Norway has now been convicted, a sixth case against Norway exists which is extremely revealing. In 1996 Norway was found guilty of a violation of Article 8 in the case of Adele Johansen’s daughter:

(Adele) Johansen v. Norway
European Court of Human Rights, 27 June 1996

There, too, Norway was convicted of having cut off visits so that reunion was at last claimed to be impossible. In the further development, it led to forced adoption away of the daughter, in spite of the judgment in the ECtHR. Since the judgmentdates from 1996, it becomes the most important of all, giving, as it does, a perspective to Norway’s child protection policies and the child protection legislation of today. Norway as not, in the 23 years since 1996, done anything at all to repair the offenses against mother and daughter Johansen and to change legislation and practice. On the contrary, even a superficial examination will show our authorities to have continued in the same manner, with increased energy. Very many families have experienced the same blindness from judicial authorities and legislators, the same resistance against acquiring proper knowledge and understanding of the basis of the reigning ideology, and therefore the same tragedies.

It remains to be seen whether the remaining more than 20 cases against Norway pending in the ECtHR will lead to more convictions of the state. It is of course possible that Barnevernet and our courts have in some of them made better motivated decisions than in the 6 cases for which Norway has been convicted, all of which show a total lack of ignorance of the depth of children’s emotional bonds to their biological parents.

In the meantime, the ECtHR in Strasbourg has notified Norway that it taken up yet another case for communication, and also that it does not accept the answer which Norway has given to their question, after the judgment in the Jansen case in 2019, of what Norway will do to put right the violations in the Jansen case. (Norway does not intend to do anything to give Blondina Jansen back any of her human rights.)

Our state’s preferred interpretation of the judgments against it is that we can continue carrying out child protection in the same manner, just as long as we explain more thoroughly how good it is. Our attorney general has probably fixed on some formulations of the following type:

from the Lobben judgment:
“the City Court’s judgment contained no information on how that vulnerability could have continued despite the fact that he had lived in foster care since the age of three weeks”;

from Y.I. against Russia:
“The domestic authorities failed to demonstrate convincingly that ….”;

or, from a press release about a case:
“the Government had not demonstrated that the use of lethal force had been absolutely necessary”.

My guess is, however, that this way of expressing itself is the ECtHR’s polite way of saying that they do not think the states have proven their allegations and that the ECtHR therefore concludes that such proofs do not exist. It seems doubtful to interpret e.g the last example to mean that the ECtHR grants that lethal violence on the part of the authorities had been necessary, and that Russia just had to be more thorough in explaining that it was. We furthermore know that while the Norwegian government, in the Grand Chamber hearing in Strasbourg in the Lobben case, claimed that Trude Lobben’s son had been in mortal danger in his mother’s care, this claim had been proven to be untrue, among other things on the basis of evidence from the hospital.

To return to the official Norwegian explanation of the judgments: Claiming that all will be well when Norwegian courts write longer judgments based on Barnevernet’s allegations, is hot air. It is the content of what Barnevernet does that is criticised by the Strasbourg judges. One can just read the judgments for oneself. Their contents are no so difficult to understand.

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See also

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The Council of Europe with a critical report on European child protection systems
MHS’s home page, 4 July 2018

– : Human rights in Norway – as low as they can go
MHS’s home page, July 2004

Lennart Sjöberg:
Adele Johansen vs. Norway: A mother fighting for her childnkmr, 30 November 2001

Erik Rolfsen:
Child protection and the emperor’s new clothes
MHS’s hjemmeside, 15 September 2015

Johannes Idsø:
Child welfare and the abuse of power
MHS’s home page, 19 March 2019

Jan Simonsen:
A little more humility, please!
MHS’s home page, 20 March 2016

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The child protection case in Norway about the Czech children of Eva MIchaláková
MHS’s home page, 19 October 2015

– : Professional support for the Bodnariu family and other victims of Barnevernet
MHS’s home page, 29 February 2016

– : Separating children from their parents – is Norway better than the USA?
MHS’s home page, 16 July 2018

– : Dr Mengele & Co in action in Norwegian homes?
MHS’s home page, August 2011

Arne Jarl Hatlem:
Barnevernet – the CPS – equals merciless Norwegians
MHS’s home page, 29 July 2018

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