Judge Limits Christian Convert's Internet, Phone Usage
COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio judge on Tuesday ordered the state to supervise the telephone and Internet use of a teenage girl who says she ran away to Florida because she feared her father would harm or kill her for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Franklin County Juvenile Magistrate Mary Goodrich put the restrictions on Rifqa Bary, 17, at the request of the county children's services agency.
The girl, of suburban New Albany, is in the Ohio agency's custody since her safe return to her home state on Tuesday.
Bary disappeared July 19 and police used phone and computer records to track her to the Rev. Blake Lorenz, pastor of Orlando, Fla.-based Global Revolution Church.
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Authorities said the teen had met him online, through a prayer group on Facebook.
Bary's father has denied the girl's claims and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation found no credible threats to the girl.
The Florida Department of Children and Families confirmed that Bary's transfer to protective custody with Franklin County Children's Services in Ohio occurred safely just before noon on Tuesday.
Bary's use of Facebook was one issue that led to the situation, said Jim Zorn, a children's services attorney, who asked Goodrich to restrict Bary from using the Internet and her cell phone.
"What we want to restrict is the other people, the other organizations, the other forces, that have interjected themselves into this case inappropriately, and has caused the additional problems that we've seen," Zorn said.
The girl's parents supported the restrictions, saying through their attorney they were concerned about her interacting with adults over the Internet.
"As you know, there's a lot of danger and concern about that with children," said their attorney, Omar Tarazi.
Kort Gatterdam, an attorney representing the girl, opposed the request, saying problems were caused by a conflict between the girl and her parents, not the Internet.
"We're making some assumptions, without evidence in the record, that she has done something improper talking to people on Facebook. There's no evidence of that," Gatterdam told the judge.
"If the goal here is normalcy and reunification or whatever, this is not the way to go."