Craig McCarthy, a devout Evangelical Christian, and also the former attorney for Rifqa Bary’s mother criticizes fellow Christians who have perpetuated false allegations against the Bary family. He also provides us with a factual look at the evidence, a rebuttal of the rumors, as well as an analysis of what this case means for our justice system.
Editor’s note: Craig McCarthy, a private attorney in Orlando specializing in juvenile courts, was the court-appointed attorney for Rifqa Bary’s mother from Aug. 10 until Sept. 3. Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old Christian convert who fled Ohio for Orlando, has claimed she’ll be killed if sent back to her Muslim parents. Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no credible reason to believe that. At a Monday hearing, her parents’ attorneys plan to argue that the case should be dismissed in Florida and sent back to Ohio.
The objective facts of the Rifqa Bary case, viewed with a minimum of passion and maximum wisdom and discernment, should matter, to Christians in particular.
I am writing now because a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been released addressing the claims of Rifqa Bary that her parents would allegedly kill her because she has converted from Islam to Christianity. The report provides additional documentation of things I have known for some weeks but have not until now been at liberty to say.
It will astonish many fellow conservatives as well as many on the left to learn that I, an evangelical Christian, have vigorously defended Rifqa Bary’s mother in court. And I believe that my former client’s cause is just.
From the beginning of this case until earlier this month, I was the attorney for Aysha Risana Bary, Rifqa’s mother. I hope it comes across as nothing but a simple fact when I say this to you: I know more about what is really going on in this case than you do â€” and those of us who are Christians and conservatives ought to be interested in the facts behind controversial stories.
I found the Lord and became born again at the age of 5 and was raised in an evangelical tradition and environment. With the exception of my live appearance on Fox News Channel’s Fox and Friends last month, I have made my faith as a Christian clear to every journalist who has interviewed me about this case.
I am an attorney who has been involved with probably close to a thousand cases involving child abuse and neglect, both on the side of the state and on the side of parents who have had the state dismantle their families. (A little aside: I almost lost my job way back for trying to save Terri Schiavo while I was a Department of Children and Families attorney â€” I was critical of Attorney General Charlie Crist in that case then and am critical of Gov. Charlie Crist in this case now.)
Bottom line, I am a Christian attorney who believes in working to advance the cause of Christ while I’m here in this fallen world.
And I also believe that many Christian conservatives have allowed themselves to adopt a narrative and thus reach conclusions about the Rifqa Bary case prematurely, just as we accuse the mainstream media of sticking to their preferred narratives instead of squaring their passions with reality.
Early on, I all but pleaded with Christians to hit the pause button and wait for more investigation and facts. The implications of getting this wrong have pained me greatly. Now to the facts.
On the morning of Aug. 10, I was working at the juvenile courthouse in Orange County. I observed people loudly making threats to bring in the media and the governor about some matter to be heard that day. Something immediately seemed “off” about some of the personalities in this case (and by that I do not mean the child herself).
Later that day, I was appointed to the case to defend Rifqa’s mom. This was not purely by chance. As the person in my county who is routinely appointed to serve as an attorney ad litem to speak for children in foster care, I had been asked to stick around. It was anticipated that I might very well become Rifqa’s attorney.
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 Rifqa’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.
Knowing that the key facts first presented in Orlando were just plain wrong, and almost inexplicably wrong given that neither claim could possibly be known to anyone in Florida, I continued with my sense that something was “off” here, and kept digging.
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.
Consider this: A minor goes missing; an Amber Alert is issued; law enforcement officials develop information; that information brings police to a lead; that lead actually has knowledge of where the child is; despite the fact that the lead initially denies his knowledge of where the child is, police are able to put that together with a call to the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children, and then they find the missing child. â€¦ Yet the response of certain people involved with this case is to be outraged that the police did their jobs. Something is “off.”
Then came the FDLE report executive summary. It’s out there now. It confirms things I already knew. When Mohamed Bary personally showed me photographs of his daughter in a cheerleader outfit when we met for the second time on Aug. 21 (he had driven from Ohio to Florida twice to attend court hearings), I knew that claims that he had no idea that his child was a Westernized and normal high school student were nonsense.
Reading the FDLE report, I now have confirmation of several things I’d developed information about. I am no longer involved with this case as an attorney. It would be improper by my writing to interfere with the Barys’ new attorneys and how they want to proceed. 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.
To any readers who may be of the People for the American Way variety who blog about the hypocrisy of Christians, I simply present myself, an evangelical Christian who believes in facts and law and has extended himself far out on a limb before his peers on behalf of Rifqa’s mother.
To any readers who may be Muslim, do not allow your reading of certain blogs to taint your feelings toward your Christian neighbors.
And to Rifqa, one year younger than my older child, I say that as a father and as a Christian, and as your mother’s former attorney, I care about you and have since Aug. 10. God bless you, and I believe that all things will work together for good.
Craig McCarthy, a graduate of West Point and Florida State Law School, was the court-appointed attorney for Rifqa Bary’s mother for the first several weeks of this case.