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Parents of Christian convert deny threat allegations

  • Story Highlights
  • Teenager claims father threatened to kill her because she converted to Christianity
  • Parents of teen denied all allegations against them Thursday
  • Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from Ohio home; took refuge in home of Rev. Blake Lorenz
  • Father calls allegations false, says Rifqa can practice any faith she wants
From John Couwels
CNN
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(CNN) -- The parents of an Ohio teenager who claims her father threatened to kill her because she converted from Islam to Christianity denied Thursday all allegations against them.

Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July. She claims her father threatened to kill her.

Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July. She claims her father threatened to kill her.

Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July and took refuge in the home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz with the Global Revolution Church in Orlando, Florida.

The teen heard of the pastor and his church through a prayer group on Facebook. The girl's parents reported her missing to Columbus police, who found her two weeks later in Florida through cell phone records.

The teenager, in a sworn affidavit, claims her father, Mohamed Bary, 47, was pressured by the mosque the family attends in Ohio to "deal with the situation." In the court filing, Rifqa Bary stated her father said, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!" The teenager claims her father added, "I will kill you!"

At a juvenile court hearing in Orlando Thursday, through their attorney the teenager's parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, denied all the allegations against them.

The parents could not attend the hearing in person but listened through a telephone conference as their lawyer spoke for them. They denied they ever threatened to kill their daughter because she converted to Christianity

Mohamed Bary told CNN he believes a lot of false information has been circulated about the case and he said, "We wouldn't do her harm." He said he knew his daughter was involved with Christian organizations.

"I have no problem with her practicing any faith," he said. But Bary conceded he would have preferred that his daughter practice the Muslim faith first.

Judge Daniel Dawson of the Orange County Juvenile Court ordered the girl and her parents seek mediation within 30 days. The judge previously ruled the girl will continue to stay in foster care until the allegations are resolved.

The judge also sealed a report on the girl from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and issued a gag order for attorneys in the case.

At one point during the hearing the girl's court-appointed guardian, Krista Bartholomew, told the court, "This is not a holy war but a case about a broken family."

Outside the courthouse following the hearing a Muslim activist and several Christian activists exchanged words over the case.

Another hearing is scheduled for September 29 if the family is not able to resolve the conflict through mediation.

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