Monday, February 14, 2011

State Supreme Court: Custodial dad can't force 12-year-old son to get religious circumcision (Portland, Oregon)

Seems custodial dad JAMES BOLDT decided one day he wanted to convert to Orthodox Judaism. Fine, whatever. But in his new-found fervor, he also wanted to force his son to get a circumcision. The boy didn't want one, and neither did his non-custodial mom. Finally after 5 years in court, the Oregon Supreme Court has decided that the boy doesn't have to.

The great unanswered question: How did this religious nutcase daddy get custody?

Oregon Supreme Court Protected 12-Year-Old Boy from Religious Circumcision
by Jennifer Lance on February 14, 2011

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.

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?