An interesting case below. Once a boy reaches 13 – his father has no more obligations over his religious observance. If a boy is 13 and wants a bris, then he can get one – without his father’s consent according to Judaism. The mother, again, according to halacha, has no more say once the boy hits 13. If a child can get an abortion without parental consent in some states, can a child get a bris without parental consent?

UPDATE – My good friend Rabbi Zalman Berkowitz at miyan this morning reminded me that a conversion is in almost all cases not complete without the bris. In other words, the Supreme Court is preventing the kid from his religious aspirations by not ruling in favor of the father. It is not going too far out on a limb to come to the conclusion that this case prevents freedom of religion, and is an invasion of privacy. The case now goes back to an Oregon judge to determine whether the boy wants to undergo the procedure.

Supreme Court rejects Oregon circumcision case

By The Associated Press PORTLAND — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an Oregon dispute between a father who wants to circumcise his 13-year-old son against the wishes of the boy’s mother.

PORTLAND — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an Oregon dispute between a father who wants to circumcise his 13-year-old son against the wishes of the boy’s mother.

The case now goes back to an Oregon trial judge to determine whether the boy wants to undergo the procedure.

James Boldt converted to Judaism and says his son wants to be circumcised for religious reasons.

But his ex-wife, Lia Boldt, claims that her son is afraid to tell his father that he does not want to undergo the procedure.

The Boldts married in the early 1990s. Lia Boldt filed for divorce in 1998 and initially had custody of their son before James Boldt gained custody.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


  • While the custodial parent has a right to raise his or her child in the religion of their choice, it would be best if they wait til the kid is 13 and let him decide for himself. I guess this is tricky, whether a minor has the right to make medical decisions for themselves (abortion, stop cancer treatments, pursue a transfusion, get pierced, end dialysis). Can you imagine child services in Medford or Portland taking a child away so that he is not forced into a bris?

    What Would ck or King Solomon do?

    Let’s split the kid down the middle vertically (not horizontally) and just circumcise half of him

    This kid must feel awful in junior high school with the Oregon and now the U.S. Supreme Court pondering his penis.

    Watch for my new book to hit the shelves… titled “Pondering His Penis: Jewish Writers Discuss Their early and late circumcisions”

    Lia Boldt persuaded a Jackson County judge in 2004 to block the circumcision — at least initially. The judge later sided with the father, but ordered him not to circumcise the boy until the appeals were done.

  • I’m missing something here.

    Did the boy convert along with the father? Since he hasn’t had a bris, I assume the answer is no. If that’s the case, halacha has nothing to do with this, since the child isn’t Jewish. Therefore, the fact that he is now 13 is irrelevant.

    Or perhaps he is in the midst of the conversion procedure and the mother intervened to stop it? It’s not really clear from the article.

    If he was born a Jew and his father didn’t give him a bris, once he is 13 he has the obligation to give himself a bris since he is now a legal adult as far as the halacha is concerned.

    However, like I said, this isn’t relevant. Since the kid obviously isn’t Jewish at this point, he does not reach the age of majority until he is 21 (or is it 18? I get these mixed up). From that perspective, I think it’s quite reasonable for the judge to say “Wait a minute. Does he really want to do this or is his father forcing it on him?” It’s not clear.

    What this really sounds like is that the poor kid is being used as a weapon in a particularly nasty divorce. Either way, I feel sorry for him.

  • I fail to see why American law and halacha need to be on the same page. Why does this bother you? Do you really care if thirteen year olds can’t be forcibly converted by their fathers? Shouldn’t this be the teenager’s choice? Would you also back a Muslim who wanted to forcibly convert his son if the mother was Jewish? I assume you would be consistent, that your answer would be yes. So then, Rabbi Yonah, why do you support the forcible conversions of Jewish children to Islam?

  • Kelsaleh… in this case the Father gained custody of the kid. Like Larry mentioned, the custodial parent generally decides matters related to religious upbringing and the Court’s generally are guided by the child’s best interest in making their decisions. But why are you throwing out that Muslim canard? You’re notoriously anti-circumcision. The only thing that matters to you is the maintenance of that kid’s penile integrity – regardless of his own wishes, and those of his custodial parent. If it were up to you, you’d make it illegal to perform a circumcision on anyone who was under 18. So don’t be disingenuous.

    • This child should be protected from this abuse. The USA Law states NO religious exemption from parents cutting up their daughters junk (The cant even pin prick the girl, so complete their child abusing religious ceremony which is less invasive than FGM Type 1) So why should any parent be allowed to cut up their sons junk, and then let the pedo mohel suck on it? and then because of the PARENTS religion, the boy now can die from blood loss, and even die from the herpes infection from the pedo mohel, what is the latest count 14? 15? Hell you all SCREAMED when the state of New York, wanted to make sure the alleged parents knew all the medical risks involved. As if, the alleged parents even cared to know what the possible risks were, they just wanted to see their son sexually abused/assaulted…..

      If you want a penis circumcised, a 18+ year old can choose to do it, no problem hell, I would be glad to drive him to the hospital etc. But if the human being is under the age of 18, it is NOT “circumcision” it is Male Genital Mutilation, period… No matter how much you child abusers scream religious freedom, or the old worn out, over used so much it has no meaning anymore “Anti-Semitic”….. That innocent baby boy, his crimes? A being born male, and to a child abusing family (jews or otherwise) his punishment, to be spread eagled, for pedos, to watch his penis being ripped apart, clamped, and sliced. and those pedo’s getting off while watching a mohel sexually assaulting the boy. Then when in shock, the baby boy goes in a haze as he escapes the horrific pain. and he can lay there and watch all the criminals, pedos, and satan himself (mohel) stuff their fat wide open traps…. and that is just the beginning, all the life long side effects of his abuse, and the constant reminder of knowing he was unlovable as he was born. Try skin literally ripping during an erection during puberty because the (probable) drunk pedo mohel cut to much skin, or hell there are boys that have no glans head, because of “Unfortunate Accident” during the child sexual abuse “celebration”… Wait, does the “jewish” religion have stock holdings on Viagra? Maybe that is why you really mutilate the boys, knowing full well they will need Viagra in their lifetime…. or a splint, but they wouldn’t profit from it

  • Just one cotton-fucking minute here. On top of everything else, gollus-boy is one of those anti-bris fucktards?

    Suddenly, I see all.


  • I’ve seen no evidence whether or not the boy wants to get circumcised. Forget all the Amicus briefs, I’ve read all of those, they’ll be biased toward the one side or the other. I’ve also read all the decisions. The OSC said to the father to simply go back to the trial court and instructed the trial court to take the wishes of the boy into consideration. If the boy said yes then it would be done. If the boy said no then there would have to have been a second trial to determine if the boy could refuse. That was back in January. If the father was so certain that the boy wanted to get circumcised, and/or convert, this would have been one more day in a trial court. Instead, the father tried to take it federal and the SCOTUS properly denied his appeal most likely because the father didn’t exhaust all his lower court options. So it is far from clear that the boy wanted to do this; in fact, based on the father’s actions, my money is on the boy not approving of a circumcision.

  • I called for making circumcision illegal? No, just in hospitals…and I have encourage liberal Judaism to abandon the whole mohelet phenomenon.

    Hi, Ephraim!

  • Seriously, DK.

    Explain your position on bris millah. ck has you pregged as an anti-circumcisionist. True or not?

    I don’t care about your feelings about whether or not gentiles should or should not get circumcised. Whether they do or not is irrelevant.

    Do you believe, as ck’s post seems to indicate, that the mitzvah of bris millah should be abolished among Jews? Yes or no?

  • It depends on the Jews, Ephraim. for Orthodox Jews, clearly not. Traditional Jews? No. But for Reform and secular Jews? It is hardly consistent, and over time, it will go. For nationalists like your average secular Israeli? No worries there, Ephraim. That part of the world is into genital cutting like it’s schwarma.

  • Weasel words, as usual. I didn’t ask you what you thought might happen depending on the level of the observance of the Jews in question, I asked you whether or not you thought the practice should be abolished, that is, whether or not you thought it would be better if Jews stopped doing it. It certainly appears that you are all for the practice being abandoned, since we know that you think Orthodox people are crazy.

    Let’s put it this way: if you had a son, would you give him a bris? My guess is that the answer is no.

  • Ephraim, first of all, I don’t think Orthodox Jews are crazy. I think the ultra-Orthodox and the haredim are crazy. I don’t usually address the right-wing religious Zionists specifically, because they don’t live here so much in the U.S.

    But in terms of circ, every culture that practices ritual and rite-of-passage genital mutilation on its youth cannot imagine continuing without it, as it becomes utterly ingrained in that culture. A lot of determining whether to continue something is dependent on whom one marries, as Hirsi Ali’s father found out after his daughter was brutalized through her maternal grandmother’s directive while he was away If I married a traditional girl, this would make leaving my son intact quite difficult. If I married out, it would be quite easy. So the only issue is whether I marry someone not so traditional that she believes it to be a mitzvah dictated by Hashem, but traditional enough to fear maybe it is. Many Jews are in that last category. They negotiate this in part by pretending that circumcision does no harm. But this is a rather indefensible position.

    Do I personally believe that all the genital cutting of the world is tribal and man-made but ours alone is per God? No, Ephraim, I don’t really believe that. And once I don’t believe that, that makes my own personal view of this ritual different than that of a believer.

  • The chances of you marrying a traditional girl are pretty slim, I would imagine, (from your answer i assume you would probably marry a girl, Jewish or otherwise, who would not insist on a circumcision, precisely so you would not have to do it) so I will assume that your son, should he ever be born will not be circumcised.

    Zei gezunt, I guess.

  • Ephraim: I’ve already warned DK that should he get married to Jewish woman and should they have a son, I will take that boy and get him circumcised. It’s not kidnapping if I warn him about it years in advance right? Right?

    • Dude, you would be lucky it wasn’t my kid, you wouldn’t have to worry about a criminal trial. You wouldn’t have to worry about a civil trial. Neither would help you. So before threatening someone’s child, remember you are playing with fire, you don’t know what that father would do. so call me all the names you like. Use every sad worn out line you can think of, it carries NO weight or the original meaning of the phrase. “Anti-Semitic” well if I and others protected EVERY boy, EXCEPT, boys born to child abusing jewish families, THAT would be “Anti-Semitic” in the true sense of the phrase.

  • I can’t conceive of DK getting married to a woman who would insist on circumcision, since he is so obviously against it himself. And I can’t conceive of any traditional woman marrying DK anyway.

    If he does wind up marying a traditional woman, and then he went along with having his son circumcised, all that would mean is that pussy is more important to him than his principles or his son’s dick.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • The kid is 13. 13 is for Bar Mitzvahs.

    Let’s put it this way – at his age, he’s being orderd to get his flesh cut off but not allowed to get it painted?

    And at 13 all I remember is worrying about whether or not I’d choke my Bar Mitzvah Torah reading.

    I know the answer is “he’s not being forced”… b.s. he’s living under someone’s roof… that person, than, has undue influence…

    It’s too late, the kid’s already messed up for life…

  • It depends on whether a parent has sole custody or joint custody with primary physical residence. If there is a joint custody situation, meaning neither parent’s legal rights toward the child have been terminated, they must agree on major medical decisions.

    I would argue a circumcision of a 13 year old is a major medical decision and not a religious one. It not like blocking a baptism where the holy water will dry off.

    It is absolutely going too far out on a limb to say the Court is “invading his privacy and preventing his freedom of religion”. The boy’s wishes should not be considered here. He can decide what to do with his foreskin when he is emancipated, which is when he no longer the beneficiary of child support payment.

    Parent’s who are married can agree to listen to a child’s wishes on whether to have a nose job or a sex-change operation. Once they are divorced, the kid’s body parts should remain unaltered until they can get escape their parent’s war.

    Ramon, no one escapes childhood without scars, whether on their penis or on their psyche. To say the child’s life is already messed up is really pessimistic.

  • Ephraim wrote,

    If he does wind up marrying a traditional woman, and then he went along with having his son circumcised, all that would mean is that pussy is more important to him than his principles or his son’s dick.

    In addition to being needlessly crude, I would note that there are many wonderful things about traditional Judaism, and part of my frequent attraction to certain traditional Jewish women is their very respectable moral code and their knowledge of their history, culture, and yes, their own religious commitment. There is plenty to admire about traditional Jewish women besides their good looks.

  • Ephraim: Without getting into DK’s personal life too much, let me just say that, well… don’t make too many assumptions about his dating life. And DK’s son by a Jewish woman is getting circumcised on the 8th day after his birth no matter what DK, or his wife for that matter, think about ritual circumcision. That’s my promise to the unborn DK junior. Don’t worry son. Uncle CK will make sure, one way or another, that you become part of God’s covenant with Abraham. Oh and also that you will have a life free of smegma. And you and your sex partners will not be grossed out by your fugly freskin. And the covenant thing. Yeah so no worries Ephraim. I will kidnap and circumcise that child if I have to. But given DK’s dating patterns, I probably won’t need to resort to that.

    But I will if I have to. Snip Snip!

    • you are a very sick pedo…. and if you have unprotected sex with a woman, you will have smegma on your penis, intact or mutilated. and the only reason dumb people get “grossed out” is due to social conditioning. Most women don’t know the difference, especially if they have only seen erect penises as they both look the same. And with all the snip snip comments, if it is YOUR penis, that is attached to YOUR body, chop off all the skin etc. you want. If the penis is not attached to you, put the knife down, and back off, YOUR religious freedom stops when it comes to another persons body

  • I am proud of my circumcision. I feel it is a mark of respect to womanhood. In always being conscious of being circumcised I have the feeling of always being Jewish.
    Don’t mock me. It meant much to my mother and now it means much to me.
    And most women I have met and know me as a circumcised man are very content with my status. I would like to hear more from women on this subject.

  • Hello Adam,

    I’m a non-jewish woman and it is circumcision=yes! Wouldn’t want it any other way.

    • Sure, as soon as you sit your ass on the surgical table and offer your extra flappy roast beef curtains to be circumcised…. Then we can talk about men having to alter their bodies for your sick fetish of mutilated penises… Hell would you even have sex with a man that had a major botched scarred up penis? Something that doesn’t even look like a penis at all ?

  • Hey Non Child Abuser! Go fuck yourself. Are you all, what… sad because you have a small wiener? Blaming your circumcision rather than your small-penis DNA? Sorry man!