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Fleeing Islam

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A Florida judge ruled Thursday that 17-year-old Rifqa Bary can stay in Orlando until further notice, but it appears the case is headed for trial.

In July, Bary fled to Florida to escape what she says would be certain death, after her Muslim parents found out she became a Christian.

She looked relaxed and confident as she entered the Orlando courtroom with her attorneys on Thursday. Her parents also joined the hearing by telephone.

Many things went her way. A motion to dismiss her lawyer was denied and she does not have to return to Ohio for now. But her father's attorney, Shayan Elahi, hopes that will change.

"The main issue today is, where should this happen?," Elahi asked. "Here or in Ohio? She's from Ohio. The allegations are from Ohio. The evidence is from Ohio."

Halfway through the hearing, Bary became emotional when Elahi told the court she should not be allowed to see Pastor Blake Lorenz and his wife Beverly of the Global Revolution Church in Orlando.

The Orlando couple took in Bary after she fled Ohio in fear for her life. Her parents claim the Lorenz's brainwashed their child. But friends of Bary said that is impossible, because she had already been a Christian for four years, but she in fact fled in fear for her life.

"As Mohammad the prophet of Islam said, 'If any one changes religion, kill him,'" said Robert Spencer, expert on Islamic terrorism.

The debate about Islam became heated outside the courtroom. But Elahi said this case is not about religion.

"Mr. John Stemberger wants it to be about religion, that is his position," Elahi said. "We don't agree with that. This is about parental control."

But Bary was not without supporters. A group of young people traveled 15 hours from Kentucky to attend the hearing - even though they do not know her.

"There's just a connection between our experiences. She had to leave her family for her faith, and I did the same thing," said supporter Greg Mielke. "I had to leave my family because I stood up for what God's Word says."

"I saw her YouTube video online and we just had a burden placed on our hearts to come out and support her and pray for her," said Jessica Wolff, another supporter.

Circuit Judge Dan Dawson sealed a police report for 10 days that looked into Bary's family and home life in Ohio.

He also issued a gag order prohibiting attorneys from talking to the media.

While the judge ordered the case back to mediation, it appears to be headed for trial. If no deal is reached, the judge will hear testimony and decide whether Bary should be returned to Ohio.

The judge set a pretrial hearing for Sept. 29.