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Jewish Response to Proposed Circumcision Ban

freedom of religion

Baby’s Bris

Today Jewish community leaders criticized the proposed San Francisco ballot measure which would ban male circumcision.

As a Jew who feels strongly about freedom of religion, I agree with their stance on the issue.

Sierra wrote earlier this week about the proposed ballot measure in San Francisco which would make circumcision before the age of 18 a misdemeanor offense carrying a $1000 fine. Sierra wondered “why are we so cavalier about surgically altering baby boys’ penises?” and suggested that “maybe circumcision should be banned, barring religious exemptions and the rare cases of medical necessity.”

In response to the proposed ban, The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and the American Jewish Committee issued a  press release, which is excerpted below:

Male circumcision is a religious decision that is squarely within the legal rights of parents to make for their infant sons. For thousands of years, Jews around the world have engaged in this important religious ritual, which is of fundamental importance in the Jewish tradition. The organized Jewish community is deeply troubled by this initiative, which would interfere with the rights of parents to make religious decisions for their own families… San Francisco has a tradition of embracing the diversity and respecting the religious customs of its citizens. We trust that the voters of San Francisco will see this proposed initiative as an affront to that tradition and to their freedom.

Lloyd Schofield, the man behind the proposed ban, argues that since female genital mutilation was banned under federal law in 1996, practicing male circumcision violates the equal protection clause, according to SF Gate. Schofield believes circumcision should be prohibited even for religious reasons.

Schofield has to collect 7,168 signatures in order to actually get it on the ballot. Even if the ballot measure passes, it is unlikely to stand up in court because it would violate the freedom of religion clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Besides, trying to criminalize circumcision infringes on the parents right to decide what is best for their children. I realize that so-called “intactivists” would argue that circumcision is akin to child abuse and we don’t allow parents to do that.

I’ve witnessed circumcision at a bris (for you non-Jews, it’s a at a religious ceremony) and it didn’t look like torture to me. The baby cried for a minute and then quickly recovered. That said, I recognize that circumcision is not a decision to be made lightly.

I certainly respect people’s decision not to circumcise their child. But I also feel strongly that the government shouldn’t criminalize those who opt to circumcise.

What do you think of the proposed circumcision ban?

flickr/dlisbona

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