The Supreme Court on Friday will hear arguments about whether freedom of religion includes the right to circumcise one’s son at home.
A British Columbia man, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, attempted to circumcise his four-year-old son on the kitchen floor of his home in April 2007. He used a carpet blade that he purchased at Home Depot earlier that day and sterilized. He didn’t give his son any anesthetic, just four ounces of homemade honey wine.
According to the Crown, the father lacked the medical skills to perform a circumcision. He tried to circumcise himself in 2005 using a Zhenxi ring, or circumcision ring. It wasn’t successful and the father had to be rushed to a hospital.
The circumcision he performed on his son two years later wasn’t successful either and there was significant bleeding, which the father stopped with the help of a veterinary blood-stopping agent and paper towels.
“The result,” according to court documents submitted by the Crown, was “the foreskin on D.J.’s penis stuck out like two arms. D.J. was not circumcised. He was disfigured.”
In 2009, the man was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. He was convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm but acquitted of the other two charges. The B.C. Court of Appeal found him guilty on all counts, and he appealed to the Supreme Court.
The father, who identifies himself as a Jehovah’s Witness - a church that neither condones nor forbids the practice - said he personally believes circumcision is necessary to “make things right with God.”
He also argues he didn’t intend to hurt his son and took many safety precautions including consulting doctors (who advised him against it) and reading about circumcision online.
The Crown argues the case is about child abuse, not about freedom of religion.