Rifqa Bary's pastor denies he broke law to aid teen

Orlando Sentinel/December 29, 2009

The Orlando pastor who helped a Muslim-turned-Christian girl when she fled her home in Ohio is denying allegations by a colleague that he knew he was breaking the law by aiding the teen.

A former church administrator, in a sworn statement filed with an Ohio court, said attorneys told Blake Lorenz he was violating the law by sheltering Fathima Rifqa Bary, then 16.

The administrator, Brian Smith, also said Lorenz would not call the Florida Department of Children and Families, even though law officers and others told him to report that Rifqa was living with Lorenz and his wife, Beverly.

Lorenz's denials came in a sworn statement filed Tuesday with the juvenile court in Franklin County, Ohio, where Rifqa's family lives.

A judge ruled in October that the girl should be returned to Ohio, where she is living with a foster family. Her family is attempting to reconcile with her.

In his statement, Lorenz said he asked Smith in late July to call DCF about Rifqa, who ran away from her home near Columbus during the summer.

Her case became international news after Rifqa said she feared she would be killed for changing her religion. The family has denied the allegation and said they love her.

Lorenz also asserts that he called DCF more than once July 29 and called the state children's-services hot line and police in Ohio in early August. He says a police officer told him he knew Rifqa's life was in danger.

In his sworn statement, Smith said he spoke to his attorney, who told him the Lorenzes were violating several laws and directed him to tell Blake Lorenz to call DCF right away. Smith said Lorenz refused "because they would just return her to her parents."But Lorenz says Smith's affidavit "contains many other false statements" made to intentionally harm Lorenz and that no one told Rifqa to lie to authorities as stated.

"Brian Smith's account of Rifqa Bary's story sounds almost verbatim from the account given by Rifqa's father, not Rifqa," court papers state.

Mat Staver, the Lorenzes' attorney and founder of the Central Florida-based Liberty Counsel, has described Smith as a disgruntled former employee. Blake Lorenz's court filing also refers to "concern" Lorenz "had over his [Smith's] job" when he worked for the Lorenzes' Global Revolution Church.

Rifqa met the Lorenzes through a Facebook prayer group.

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