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Time to dial back the heat and noise around Rifqa Bary [Addenda]

Rifqa Bary is the seventeen-year-old who fled from Ohio to Florida, saying she feared her Muslim father would put her to death for converting to Christianity, and who is at the center of what Time calls the Florida Culture War Circus.

Her status as a minor, whose interests the courts in two states are obligated to treat as paramount, and inevitable limitations in knowledge about her circumstances, should have been enough to move concerned people of good faith to behave with restraint.

Sunday her mother’s former court-appointed attorney, Craig McCarthy, came forward in a St. Petersburg Times column to say gently that the culture warriors have gotten their rhetoric ahead of the facts.

A conservative, evangelical Christian, he says:

And I also believe that many Christian conservatives have allowed themselves to adopt a narrative and thus reach conclusions about the Rifqa Bary case prematurely, just as we accuse the mainstream media of sticking to their preferred narratives instead of squaring their passions with reality.

He goes on to bluntly illustrate the case:

By Aug. 12, I already had solid documentation that at least one thing circulating in the media and on blogs was flat wrong: that the parents had not reported the child missing for 10 days. Not long after, I was able to nail down another misreported “fact,” that the child’s note left to her parents had not been given to police. Neither of those things are true.

Why are those relatively mundane facts important? They are important because the person reporting them couldn’t possibly know those things, yet so-called adults surrounding Rifqa eagerly passed those things on to media without analysis, one imagines, because they served to paint the child’s parents in a bad light.
. . .
I was annoyed as a Christian, as an officer of the court and as a litigator (in that order) that many with whom I agree on many issues were so willing to disregard the notion that a parent has the right in this country to raise and influence a child without governmental interference, unless there is evidence of abuse or neglect that is credible and not based on stereotypes or based on the beliefs or actions of what people who are not the parents might think, feel or do … Suffice it to say that a growing list of otherwise uninterested people would have to be lying in order for what you think is true about this case to be true.

McCarthy is, in short, suggesting that right wing activist writers who have poured forth a stream of shrill allegations, have misled all who believed them. Attacks on mainstream media who would not report as fact that which McCarthy now indicates is untrue, were unjustified.

His column deserves a careful reading here.

We feel McCarthy offers good reasons for thoughtful people of good faith to agree that it is time to dial back the heat and volume and proceed with watchful restraint.

Addendum: Law Enforcement Report

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement in its official report last week found, according to CNN, “no evidence whatsoever of alleged abuse or threats of death made by the girl’s parents.”

Her personal writings say she wants to be a prophet.

The matter returns to court this afternoon.

Updated: 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 21: Rifqa Bary remains in Florida foster care for the time being, reports the Miami Herald.

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September 21, 2009 - Posted by | Churches, Religion

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