Kansas City, Mo. A woman who lost custody of her young son to the boy's father wants the Missouri Supreme Court to keep him from having the boy circumcised.
Camille Azar, of suburban Lee's Summit, said her son, Ethan, who will be 3 in September, is too old to be circumcised involuntarily and too young to decide for himself whether he wants to undergo what she believes is an unnecessary procedure.
But the boy's father, Ray Jagoda, of Overland Park, Kan., said circumcision was a Jewish rite that he wanted his son to experience. Jagoda is Jewish, while Azar -- who had custody of Ethan for the first 29 months of his life -- is not.
In May a Jackson County judge awarded full custody of the boy to Jagoda, giving him sole responsibility for making decisions about medical treatment and health care issues. Azar was granted weekly visitation, but only under the supervision of a court-assigned guardian.
In her petition to the Missouri Supreme Court, Azar contends that "Mr. Jagoda has indicated that he is determined to circumcise the child immediately, with or without a doctor, with or without anesthesia."
Jagoda said Thursday that petition was "chock full of misinformation."
"I never threatened to circumcise him without anesthesia," he said. "That would be barbaric."
Jagoda said Azar was playing up the circumcision conflict because she wanted attention. Court documents indicate that Azar "joined an autism support group in anticipation of Ethan developing autism," even though the boy has never shown signs of the disorder.
The documents, signed by Jackson County Circuit Judge Christine Sill-Rogers, also say Azar has "researched sites out of the country for developing her own pagan community," is a danger to flee the country and "will continue to treat the child for medical problems which do not exist."
But Azar believes circumcising the boy would be just that: treating a problem that doesn't exist.
"When I was pregnant, I was shown a video of circumcision and it said there really was not a medical reason for doing it, and it was very painful," she said. "How, as a mother, can I put my son through something that has great pain?"
Too late, mother says
She said Ethan was aware of his body and if he were circumcised now, would not be able to understand why it was being done.
"Studies say that at this phallic stage of development, children see an operation on their genitals as mutilation and castration," Azar said. "If you do this now, you take away Ethan's choice forever."
She said Jagoda was using the religious angle to bolster his desire to have his son circumcised, even though she said he was not devout in his Jewish faith.
Dennis Owens, Azar's attorney, said Jagoda had said in the past he wanted Ethan to be circumcised for "health, social and personal reasons."
Besides, Owens said, Ethan is not Jewish because he was not born to a Jewish mother.
Nothing stopping him
While Owens said there was nothing keeping Jagoda from having the boy circumcised, he thinks it would be wise for the father to wait until the Supreme Court rules on Azar's petition.
"If I was his lawyer, I would say don't you dare," Owens said.
Jagoda said Azar had embarked on an effort aimed at persuading area health providers not to perform the procedure on the boy.
"I can't find anyone to do it," he said. "I can't go out of town to get it done, and she's launched a campaign to stop it from being done here. There's a lot of bogus information she's gotten about the evils of circumcision."
As for traveling to Costa Rica with Ethan in 2003 to find a place to start a pagan community, Azar said that was nonsense.
"I never, ever, ever wanted to start a pagan community," she said. "It's a trick to not actually say something, but create an impression in a judge's mind. It worked, apparently."