Friday, July 13, 2001

Wichitans fight over their son's circumcision

By Alex Branch
The Wichita Eagle

Allowing a doctor to circumcise his newborn son, in Rodney Grisham's mind, is the same as letting someone sexually assault him.

But to his wife, Sheila Grisham, not allowing the procedure is an assault on her religious beliefs.

The dispute over whether to circumcise their 9-day-old baby could take the two Wichita parents to court next week.

It has already contributed to their separation. And Rodney Grisham has gone so far as to file a protection-from-abuse order in his son's name in Sedgwick County District Court to prevent the procedure. A hearing is set for Thursday. "I believe every child has a right to have their genitals left alone," said Rodney Grisham, 25.

His son, Asher Nathanal Grisham, is staying with his 22-year-old wife, who says her reasons for the circumcision are strictly religious.

"I've talked it over with my pastor and decided that's what I want to do," she said.

Her pastor, Marrell Cornwell of First Pentecostal Church in Wichita, is baffled by the dispute, calling it the first he's heard of between parents in his congregation.

He has had several conversations about circumcision with Rodney Grisham, he said, but could not sway him.

Although Cornwell doesn't think circumcision is necessary for salvation, he said, it is still important. "It's a part of our Judaic-Christian heritage," Cornwell said. "And it's a very strong part."

In circumcision, an anesthetic usually is applied to the penis, and the foreskin is cut away.

A statement released two years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which had been neutral on the subject for years, declared that circumcision carries few medical benefits and is generally unnecessary.

However, the academy suggested families continue to follow their personal preferences, including religious traditions.

Rodney Grisham doesn't see how personal preference can outweigh the pain that such a procedure must cause an infant.

And he can't stand the idea of standing by and watching someone inflict that kind of pain on his son.

If, when his son is 12, 13 or 14 years old, he decides for himself that he wants to be circumcised, then that's fine, Rodney Grisham said.

He was circumcised as a child. But that's no reason for his son to go through the same thing, he said. "I think it could really traumatize a baby," he said. "And I can't go through with that."

Reach Alex Branch at 268-6544 or

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(File revised 10 December 2002)

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