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Oregon Supreme Court Protected 12-Year-Old Boy from Religious Circumcision

Photo:  AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by spilltojillOregon Supreme Court protected child's right not to be circumcised.

Oregon Supreme Court protected child's right not to be circumcised.

The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled on a case that is at the heart of religious freedom and circumcision.  Three weeks ago, we raised the issue in relation to the proposed Male Genital Mutilation (MGM) Bill in San Francisco.  We’ve had many passionate comments to that post.  Three years ago, the Oregon Supreme Court decided a healthy child’s rights usurp those of religion.  Such a ruling could be applicable to the MGM bill in San Francisco.

Saleonl reports:

We are pleased that the Oregon Supreme Court recognized this healthy child does not need this surgery and has a right to be heard, though we remain concerned he may have been manipulated,” said attorney John Geisheker, Director of D.O.C. “Nevertheless, this is a landmark step toward recognizing the separate rights of children. We applaud the Court for protecting this boy. There is no more important decision to make for a male child.”

The Court overturned opinions of both the trial court and the Oregon Court of Appeals which had allowed the ritual surgery regardless of the child’s preferences. The custodial father, an attorney, claims to have converted to a branch of Judaism which requires the procedure. The mother, an Orthodox Christian, opposed the father and was supported by the Seattle based organization, D.O.C., who submitted two ‘friend of the Court’ briefs…

“In our view, at age 12, the (boy’s) attitude regarding circumcision, though not conclusive of the custody issue presented here, is a fact necessary to the determination,” Chief Justice Paul De Muniz wrote. “Forcing (him) at age 12 to undergo circumcision against his will could seriously affect the relationship between (he) and his father, and could have a pronounced effect on father’s capability to properly care for (him).”

The father James Boldt tried to get the United States Supreme Court to hear the case on the grounds that it was the father’s decision not the child’s, but the high court rejected hearing the case.  Two years later, when Mischa was 14-years-old, his rights were honored.  Bnet reports:

On April 22, in the remand hearing in Jackson County, Oregon, the boy privately testified in the judge’s chambers with neither of his parents allowed to be present. Misha told the judge that he did NOT want to be circumcised and did NOT want to be Jewish. The Judge went on the record in the courtroom accepting that testimony. In early June she issued an order finding that significant cause existed to warrant testimony on whether custody should be given back to the mother…

Ironically, had Misha’s preferences been asked five years ago when he was nine, the court could more easily have ignored him and humored the father. So the delay, while unconscionable, may have saved him. During the intervening half decade, he had the time to develop some of the aplomb of an adult, as well as an evident sense of himself as in charge of his own destiny.

Misha was protected because he had reached a mature age.  It’s interesting that the court finds it appropriate to listen to a 14-year-old’s wishes but does not give the same rights to babies.  Shouldn’t male babies be allowed to mature intact and then make the decision themselves when they reach the age of 14?  I know this is contrary to religious doctrine; however, when do a child’s rights supersede ancient practices?


  1. It’s good that this boy’s wishes were respected, and that he had the courage to stand up to his father and express his preferences.

    • “AS AN INCREASING NUMBER OF AMERICANS – including a sizable number of American Jews – question the act of male circumcision, a group of San Francisco activists are advocating to ban circumcision, or what they call male genital mutilation… Many of the leading activists against circumcision around the country are Jewish.”
      – JERUSALEM POST, Challenging the Circumcision Myth, (Israel) 04/10/2011

      “BUT CHOOSING TO LEAVE A SON INTACT IS NOT JUST a choice being made by American Jews. Increasingly, Israeli Jews are making this choice. Kahal ( http://www.kahal.org ) was established in June 2000 by parents in the Tel Aviv area who decided not to circumcise their sons. The community is not a formal organization and includes only parents with intact sons.
      Raquel Lazar-Paley is a parent who chose not to circumcise her son and she says she has several friends in the Haifa area who made the same decision.”

      “In Israel, opposition to circumcision has happened in just two decades, and now these “rebels” number in the tens of thousands, according to Ronit Tamir, founder of Kahal, a support group for parents who choose not to circumcise their children.”
      – JEWISH WORLD, 3/11/10.

      “…as recently as the mid-nineteenth century, in Eastern Europe and Russia there was a widespread move to stop the practice… Led by women–what a surprise!–who thought the practice barbaric and patriarchal, the movement eventually even convinced Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, who refused to allow his own son to be circumcised.”
      – Michael S. Kimmel, Professor, SUNY Stony Brook
      TIKKUN, Volume 16, May/June, 2001.

      “Another American Jew who works against circumcision is Laurie Evans, the director of the New York Hudson Valley chapter of NOCIRC ( http://www.nocirc.org ). “I went to a brit and couldn’t believe I was standing in a room of people who usually question so much, but didn’t think of the baby. It was one of the worst days of my life. I feel our religion is in our heart and soul, not in our genitals.”
      When Evans’s children were born, she wanted to be more involved Jewishly, despite not being brought up to be practicing. She still maintains some of the Jewish customs, but her difficulty with circumcision has created a fissure between her and Judaism. “It’s hard for me to accept that we don’t accept tattooing and we like questioning, but this can’t be talked about. I see it like foot-binding in China.”

      “Laurie Evans is the director of the New York Hudson Valley Chapter of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers ( http://www.nocirc.org ). She said that as a Jewish woman, it was difficult to stand up to her family.
      “Once I witnessed a bris (ritual Jewish circumcision), understood the function of the foreskin and the long, lasting harm of circumcision, I had to follow my conscience and leave my son intact,” Evans testified.
      “My son is now 20, is grateful, as he understands just what he was spared,” Evans said. “When I realized how many parents were uninformed about this surgery, I founded and became director of the New York Hudson Valley Chapter of NOCIRC.”
      – WND, March 05, 2010

      “Coming from a European background… where many Jews reject a brit milla as an archaic and barbaric ritual… This author grew up in France in a traditional Jewish family. Not a single male of her generation or her children’s generation within her large family (or in her circle of Jewish friends) was ever circumcised.”
      – Nelly Karsenty, Humanistic Judaism, 1988.

  2. “I know this is contrary to religious doctrine; however, when do a child’s rights supersede ancient practices?”

    There is no reason the parents’ religious beliefs, whatever they may be, should take precedence over basic human rights. One of these is undisturbed possession of all (healthy, non-renewable, normal) parts of one’s body. “My rights to practice my religion end where your body begins.” Consider, he may grow up to choose another religion. Why should he have his parents’ religion carved into his body?

  3. Removing the labia or other parts of a girl’s genitals is considered a felony in most states, yet when it comes to boys, too many people think it’s “the parents’ option” to cut off whatever they please. This is a barbaric practice that does not afford boys equal protection under the law.

  4. It is high time that all children had a right to intact genitalia, regardless of the Neolithic ideas of their parents or religious leaders. The whole point of genital mutilation is to reduce sexual pleasure in adulthood. Therefore ban it, except for the very very rare instances where it is necessary as a last resort.

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