ByÂ Valerie Richardson-The Washington Times
A ballot measure to ban circumcision in San Francisco has become a national punch line, but itâ€™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 performing 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 â€œintactivists,â€ say the answer is for boys to wait until theyâ€™re 18.
â€œI can guarantee you a person who receives cutting on his genitals as an infant is not getting any religious uplifting from the event,â€ saidÂ Lloyd Schofield, the measureâ€™s proponent in San Francisco. â€œWhen you do it when youâ€™re older, youâ€™re making a choice and itâ€™s meaningful to you. We want to stop this and put choice back in the hands of men.â€
The Jewish circumcision ritual is traditionally performed on the eighth day of a boyâ€™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 formedÂ Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom.
â€œWeâ€™re opposing the ban on the grounds of religious freedom,â€ saidNancy Appel,Â Anti-Defamation League associate regional director. â€œSan Francisco has a reputation for crazy things happening here, but we are concerned that this may embolden others.â€
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, saidÂ Joel Paul, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
Even placing the issue on the ballot violates the Constitutionâ€™s establishment clause, regardless of the electionâ€™s outcome, he said.
â€œNo religious group should have to defend its convictions in a general election,â€Â Mr. Paul wrote in an email. â€œReligious minorities should not be forced to persuade the majority that their religious practices should be allowed.â€
Local press coverage and editorials have been largely negative about the measure.
While decrying the tactics and tone of the anti-circumcision campaign, San Francisco Examiner columnistÂ Ken Garcia wrote recently, â€œThe biggest reason that this push against a commonly accepted practice should be rejected is that its a personal decision, not a political one. Parents can choose to have the procedure done or not, its that simple.â€
None of this has discouragedÂ Matthew Hess, author of the proposalâ€™s language, who thinks the circumcision ban has a decent shot at passage.
â€œI think the chances are pretty good,â€Â Mr. Hess said. â€œI feel like if a bill like this is going to pass, itâ€™s going to be in San Francisco. The heartbeat of the movement is in San Francisco. San Francisco has always been a beacon of progressive thought.â€
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