Parents object to Rifqa contacting Fla. couple

Barys ask court to void days-old counseling deal, schedule trial on custody

The Columbus Dispatch/January 30, 2010

The legal drama between Columbus runaway Fathima Rifqa Bary and her parents seemed to have ended last week.

But the agreement to deal with the family conflict through counseling and not in court was short-lived.

Parents Mohamed and Aysha Bary say Franklin County Children Services is endangering the family's chance at reconciliation by allowing Rifqa to have contact with the people who helped her run away. They are withdrawing their consent to resolve the case and want a trial in Franklin County Juvenile Court to determine where Rifqa should live.

Rifqa and her parents agreed on Jan. 19 that she would stay in foster care and they would all get counseling. Rifqa turns 18 on Aug. 10; Children Services then will give up custody.

According to a motion filed Thursday by the Barys' attorney, Rifqa is being allowed to have contact with Blake Lorenz and his wife, Beverly, the Florida pastors with whom she stayed for more than two weeks after running away from her Northeast Side home in July.

"The parents now believe the entire deal should be thrown out because of misrepresentation and fraudulent inducement," wrote the attorney, Omar Tarazi.

Everyone had agreed in late December that Rifqa would not have contact with the Lorenzes until her counselor determined it was in her best interest. The court filing does not specify what contact Rifqa had, and a court order stipulates that no one who is part of the case may talk about it.

Rifqa has said her father once threatened to kill her for converting from Islam to Christianity, but authorities in Florida and Ohio could find no evidence of that.

In the court filing, Tarazi blames the attorneys representing Rifqa for allowing the current contact.

His filing included a birthday card that he said Angela Lloyd, Rifqa's attorney, sent to Blake Lorenz on Rifqa's behalf. Tarazi said the card was intercepted by Children Services when Rifqa tried to send it herself, and then Lloyd sent it anyway.

In the card is a handwritten message: "Happy Birthday daddy," as well as a note that includes: "I miss you. You are the bestest. haha. I pray you will have a wonderful birthday. I love you. See you soon." After that are the words Jesus Power with a heart and "Love, Rifqa."

Blake Lorenz's birthday is Dec. 5, according to public records, and it appears the card was sent around Dec. 7, before the parties agreed that Rifqa would not correspond with him.

In Tarazi's filing, he said Lloyd claimed not to know what was in the card and later said she found the contents disturbing. He said Lloyd knew or should have known the contents because they were consistent with other writings of Rifqa's that she had seen.

Tarazi said Mohamed Bary found the card "devastating." Rifqa has refused to speak to her parents.

The card never reached Blake Lorenz; it was intercepted by Brian Smith, a board member at Global Revolution Church, with which the Lorenzes had been associated, said Mat Staver, the Lorenzes' attorney.

The Lorenzes have filed a complaint with the Postal Service because Smith forwarded the card to Tarazi, Staver said. Smith did not return a call seeking comment.

In two separate motions, Tarazi asked that Lloyd and Bonnie Vangeloff, Rifqa's guardian ad litem, be removed from the case. Tarazi also filed an emergency motion asking the court to prohibit contact between Rifqa and "those who assisted in her unruly behavior."

Lloyd and her co-counsel, Kort Gatterdam, have not yet filed a response. Neither has Children Services.

The Lorenzes also have filed a complaint with the Orlando Police Department regarding a meeting they held in August to discuss Rifqa's situation with leaders of Global Revolution Church. The complaint says the discussion was recorded without their permission and the recording was given to reporters and used in court.

They want prosecution, and they listed the church's board members, including Smith, as suspects.

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