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