Lawsuit: It's Unconstitutional for Judge, Sheriff to Force Circumcision of 4-Year-Old

Around the country, protesters have been speaking out against the practice of circumcision, especially on infants and children who are too young to consent.EXPAND
Around the country, protesters have been speaking out against the practice of circumcision, especially on infants and children who are too young to consent.
Bloodstained Men via Flickr Creative Commons

In a now-famous circumcision case, a Boynton Beach mother named Heather Hironimus remains in hiding with her 4-year-old son to prevent him from being circumcised. Hironimus and the boy's father had agreed in writing years ago to have the boy circumcised, but she had read about the procedure and changed her mind in the intervening years. A circuit court judge sided with the father and ordered that Hironimus consent to the procedure or be arrested for contempt. Now, a lawyer representing the mother and the boy — Thomas Hunker of Weston — is trying a new legal avenue, as yesterday he filed a federal civil rights complaint on the boy's behalf, alleging that a forced circumcision violates his rights under the Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution and additional state laws.  

The suit was filed against his father, Dennis Nebus; Judge Jeffery Gillen; and the Palm Beach County Sheriff''s Office. 

The suit alleges that the boy does not want to be circumcised and is in constant fear of it. The procedure is irreversible, painful, and only an elective cosmetic surgery. 

The lawsuit continues with a litany of reasons for the procedure not to be performed:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Bioethics Committee has declared that a minor’s input into surgical decisions must be heard and considered.

  • In contrast to the rare disease of penile cancer that occurs mostly in the elderly, breast cancer is far more common, but the law does not permit forcible removal of a female child’s healthy breasts in order to prevent the possibility that the child may one day develop breast cancer.

  • Penile cancer occurs in circumcised and uncircumcised males alike.

  • Circumcision does not significantly reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Penile cancer and sexually transmitted diseases can be adequately prevented by less invasive methods such as personal hygiene and safe sex.

The complaint goes on to say that any right the father had to circumcise the boy as an infant is now outweighed by the child's own rights and that "forcing circumcision on C.R.N.H. constitutes assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, and/or child abuse under Florida law."

Defendants Honorable Jeffrey Gillen and the Palm Beach County Sheriff are material to this action, the lawsuit alleges. Their "application of Florida law to impose unnecessary, elective, cosmetic circumcision upon C.R.N.H. at the age of 4 ½ years old for no religious reason" — and the judge having denied him a guardian ad litem to advocate for his position in court — "violates C.R.N.H.’s fundamental right to privacy and bodily integrity secured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution" as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Establishment and Free Exercise of Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, the lawsuit says.

Hunker did not immediately return a call for comment.


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