A Southeast Asian boy shouldn't be forced to have surgery because his family's fear of arousing angry spirits would do him more harm than skipping operations to fix his clubfeet, a judge ruled.

Superior Court Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill ruled Thursday the potential psychological and physical harm to Kou Xiong, a 7-year-old Hmong refugee, outweighs efforts to correct the clubfoot condition that doctors say could leave him unable to walk.O'Neill, who had ordered the surgery 10 months ago, said he reversed himself because psychiatrist David A. Fox said the trauma of going against traditional Hmong religious beliefs could kill Kou and others in his family.

"The system clearly has done the best it can for this child and family," O'Neill said. "The child's family must now do what is best for themselves."

Kou's parents, Ger and Houa Vue Xiong, oppose surgery because they believe spirits gave their son clubfeet as punishment for a wrong committed by an ancestor.