Judge Rules Teen Convert Can Stay in Florida

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A judge ruled Monday that teenage Christian convert Rifqa Bary can stay in Florida until it's made clear whether her case should be decided in Florida or in her homestate of Ohio.

Bary, 17, fled to Florida after her parents discovered her conversion from Islam to Christianity. She told police her father threatened her and claimed she could be killed over the conversion.

Both parties were expecting a big decision Monday, but Judge Daniel P. Dawson said he wanted be sure of jurisdiction laws in Ohio.

"The only question is how long should my emergency jurisdiction stay open," Dawson said. "If this is a legitimate custody action in Ohio."

"I just need to talk to the judge up there," he added.

Dr. Lynne Kohm, a professor of family law at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., appeared on CBN Newschannel's Morning program to discuss Bary's case and why her lawyers haven't asked the court for her emancipation.

Click play to watch the CBN News report and Kohm's interview.

Monday's decision allows Bary to stay in Florida, but she cannot have contact with Pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz, the Christian couple who first took her in when she ran away.

Local news affiliate WFTV-Orlando said the Lorenz family is also part of an open criminal investigation by the Orlando Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 

The Orlando Sentinel reported Bary's parents filed a complaint against the pastors, but it's unclear if the investigation is connected to that complaint.

The 'Battle of Faith and Family'

Bary boarded a bus in downtown Columbus and ran away from home in late July. Her friends said it was a journey the former Muslim feared since the day she became a Christian at a Columbus church back in 2005.

"She was scared her dad would find out," said Adrianna Mancillas, a close friend of Bary. "That her parents would find out, and sometimes she would talk about being afraid of going back to Sri Lanka, and being sent back."

Mancillas is a student at Ohio State University and also led Bary to Christ.
  
"I wanted to protect her. I didn't want anything to happen to her," Mancillas continued. "So for me, hearing anything like that her book was found or hearing that she was threatened, things like that broke my heart."
    
Christians on the OSU campus were impressed with the strength of the high school girl who had to hide her faith from her family.
   
It is a testimony they quietly spread over the years, even off campus.

Rifqa had a relationship with some of the Young Life leaders in the New Albany area," said Mike Chilcoat of the Young Life outreach organization in Columbus. "I heard her name prior to this coming up. I know they had a relationship with her."

Her friends pray Bary gets what she wants as the battle of faith and family plays out in court.

"What she wants is not to be separated from her family," Mancillas said. "That is not what she wants. This whole things is about her being able to to worship Jesus. She loves God. She loves her family, but above all she just wants to do His will."

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Wendy Griffith is a Co-host for the The 700 Club and an Anchor and Senior Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to The 700 Club, she co-anchors Christian World News, a weekly show that focuses on the triumphs and challenges of the global church. Follow Wendy on Twitter @WendygCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/WendyGriffithCBN.