For faith­ful, San Fran ban on cir­cum­ci­sion a cut too deep

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

A bal­lot mea­sure to ban cir­cum­ci­sion in San Fran­cisco has be­come a na­tional punch line, but it’s be­ing taken se­ri­ously by re­li­gious groups who see the pro­posal as an at­tack on their faith.

The mea­sure, which won a place on the Nov. 8 city bal­lot af­ter ad­vo­cates gath­ered the nec­es­sary 7,143 sig­na­tures, would out­law cir­cum­ci­sions on males younger than 18, ex­cept in cases of med­i­cal ne­ces­sity, within city lim­its. Any­one con­victed of per- form­ing cir­cum­ci­sions could be sen­tenced to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

What alarms faith groups is that no re­li­gious ex­emp­tions would be per­mit­ted, even though cir­cum­ci­sion is a tra­di­tional rite of the Jewish and Mus­lim faiths. Foes of cir­cum­ci­sion, who call them­selves “in­tac­tivists,” say the an­swer is for boys to wait un­til they’re 18.

“I can guar­an­tee you a per­son who re­ceives cut­ting on his gen­i­tals as an in­fant is not get­ting any re­li­gious up­lift­ing from the event,” said Lloyd Schofield, the mea­sure’s pro­po­nent in San Fran­cisco. “When you do it when you’re older, you’re mak­ing a choice and it’s mean­ing­ful to you. We want to stop this and put choice back in the hands of men.”

The Jewish cir­cum­ci­sion ri­tual is tra­di­tion­ally per­formed on the eighth day of a boy’s life. Rather than up­end thou­sands of years of tra­di­tion, Jewish groups have joined with legal pro­fes­sion­als, doc­tors and elected of­fi­cials in op­pos­ing the mea­sure through the re­cently formed Com­mit­tee for Parental Choice and Re­li­gious Free­dom.

“We’re op­pos­ing the ban on the grounds of re­li­gious free­dom,” said Nancy Ap­pel, An­tiDefama­tion League as­so­ciate re­gional di­rec­tor. “San Fran­cisco has a rep­u­ta­tion for crazy things hap­pen­ing here, but we are con­cerned that this may em­bolden oth­ers.”

If it does pass, the pro­posal could face a legal chal­lenge on First Amend­ment grounds, given that it de­nies Jews and Mus­lims their right to free ex­er­cise of their re­li­gious be­liefs, said Joel Paul, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Hast­ings Col­lege of the Law.

Even plac­ing the is­sue on the bal­lot vi­o­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion’s es­tab­lish­ment clause, re­gard­less of the elec­tion’s out­come, he said.

“No re­li­gious group should have to de­fend its con­vic­tions in a gen­eral elec­tion,” Mr. Paul wrote in an email. “Re­li­gious mi­nori­ties should not be forced to per­suade the ma­jor­ity that their re­li­gious prac­tices should be al­lowed.”

Lo­cal press cov­er­age and ed­i­to­ri­als have been largely nega-

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