School started today and I have to find a news story for a current events assignment. I don’t think I am using this TIME story, but I do find it weird and interesting.
Rifqa Bary, 17, reads a Bible during her court proceedings in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 21, 2009Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel / LandovFlorida has a knack for turning family dysfunction into national spectacle. Ten years ago it gave us the Elian Gonzalez mess; five years later came the Terri Schiavo debacle. Now we have a new domestic dispute that threatens to become another culture-war circus, complete with a clash-of-religions angle to boot: the battle for Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old girl from Columbus, Ohio, who ran away to an Evangelical church in Orlando, Fla., because, she claims, her Sri Lankan Muslim family has threatened to kill her for recently converting to Christianity.
The Orlando lawyer who claims to represent Rifqa, conservative activist John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council (which fought in 2005 to keep Terri Schiavo on life support), last week wrote in a petition to keep the girl in Florida that she “is in imminent threat of harm from the extreme radical Muslim community in her hometown of Columbus.” He warned that one of the world’s largest “cells of al-Qaeda operatives” once worked from a Columbus mosque the Barys have attended.
The saga began in mid-July when Rifqa, after a dispute with her parents, bolted from her home and rode a bus to Orlando. There she took refuge with the Rev. Blake Lorenz, the pastor of a conservative Christian congregation, the Global Revolution Church, and his wife Beverly, whom the cheerleader and honor student had met on Facebook. Almost three weeks later, on Aug. 6, the Lorenzes finally let authorities and Rifqa’s frantic parents know the girl was with them. Then, a few days later, Rifqa dropped a bombshell to an Orlando television station: she had run away, she claimed, because her family, angry about her conversion to Christianity, had “threatened to kill me.”
After its probe of the situation this month, Florida’s Department of Children and Family Services took Rifqa from the Lorenzes and placed her in foster care. At a hearing in Orlando on Aug. 21, a judge ruled that she could remain in Florida until he decides, probably at a later hearing slated for Sept. 3, where she should ultimately go.
Personally, I think they are exploiting it. This girl’s story may be good for a newspaper for judges and social workers, but it shouldn’t be on Fox News or in Time Magazine.