Taking a break from Values Voter Summit blogging for a moment, I wanted to highlight this important op-ed in the St. Petersburg Times from Craig McCarthy, who served as the court-appointed attorney for Rifqa Bary’s mother.
McCarthy writes that it may “astonish many fellow conservatives … to learn that I, an evangelical Christian” who “almost lost my job way back for trying to save Terri Schiavo while I was a Department of Children and Families attorney.” And it is as a conseravtive Christian with inside and detailed knowlege of the case revolving around Rifqa Bary that he is speaking out on behalf of her parents against right-wing activists who have been exploiting this case to further their own religious and/or political agendas:
I know more about what is really going on in this case than you do — and those of us who are Christians and conservatives ought to be interested in the facts behind controversial stories.
When the attorney who had at first entered an appearance on behalf of Pastor Blake Lorenz later changed her position and declared that she in fact represented the child Rifqa, however, I was given the task of representing one of the parents in the case. It’s inside baseball for most readers, but I was immediately struck by the strangeness of Lorenz’s attorney spontaneously declaring an attorney-client relationship with the child in open court that hadn’t existed the moment before.
That sense of strangeness remains relevant given a recent motion to clarify the roles of Rifaq’s four attorneys filed by DCF. In any event, I took the case on behalf of Rifqa’s mom and started digging, knowing from the beginning that the case had implications for people of my Christian faith and being determined to get it right.
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.
To my Christian readers I say that most of you likely had a heartfelt desire to protect a new convert to our faith. I can’t fault you there. Quite frankly I am happy that the child knows Jesus, but that is a personal feeling and not relevant to my previous job of defending these parents from the power of the state to take their family apart.
Please recognize that the Lord is not so powerless as to need people to hide information, to embellish facts, or to give false witness in order to advance Christ’s kingdom. You homeschoolers in particular ought to pause and weigh the power of the state to take your child into foster care against your feelings on this case and whether or not you would wish to be afforded a competent defense should religious biases be used against you some day.