Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Circumcision Initiative Moves Closer to Ballot

San Francisco measure would ban the practice, though it may be unconstitutional

Print Email
At a bris.(pejrm/Flickr)

Activists announced that they have received the requisite 7,168 signatures—in fact, they said they gathered over 12,000—to qualify a ballot initiative that would ban circumcision for the November elections. The next step is for the city’s Department of Elections to verify the signatures over the following month. The measure would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise a boy younger than 18, with the maximum penalty being a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Last month, Michelle Goldberg covered San Francisco’s movement. “Circumcision contravenes some essential liberal values,” she noted. “It is evidence of a sexual double standard. It’s a painful and bloody rite whose purpose doesn’t lie in any immediate medical need. It marks a boy as a member of a group in a way that precedes his own decision-making, challenging the individualistic belief in a self-created identity.” She also observed, “there is something strange about the custom’s persistence, particularly among pork-eating, Sabbath-ignoring secular Jews.”

On the other hand, there are individual preferences and then there are legal obligations: “A complex debate about individual versus community rights hinges on that single primal cut,” Goldberg wrote. And indeed, Yediot Ahronot reports that even should voters approve the measure, its proponents would need to demonstrate that male circumcision causes medical harm—a high hurdle to leap—in order for it to pass constitutional muster.

SF May Vote on Circumcision Ban [Ynet]
Related: Foreplay [Tablet Magazine]

Print Email

“its proponents would need to demonstrate that male circumcision causes medical harm—a high hurdle to leap”

Not really. Not if the debate is focused on where it should be — on the function of the foreskin. As it is with ALL aspects of FGM, even a mere pinprick of blood.

The “high hurdle” will be derailing the success of Jews at avoiding discussing of the function of the foreskin in favor of discussion of supposed prophylactic benefits AFTER circ, a critical sleight of hand, and one that kept circumcision artificially high in the U.S. during the post-WWII period. And one that taken to its logical extreme could be used to justify amputating eyes in order to prevent Glaucoma.

The rite of circumcision is far greater than a medical procedure and a boy’s decision to discover a “self-created identity.” It’s a mitzvah of the Almighty for his Set Apart people, which brings with it the identity and birth-rights of an entire people. The challenge to ban circumcision is at its core, an act against the religious and constitutional rights of Jewish Americans.

All infants are at the mercy of their parents’ decisions for them–right or wrong–frnakly, they have no choice. This goes for Catholic children being baptized at an infant’s age, Mormons baptizing their children and the dead, and just about every religions rights to practice their faith, without the infringement of the government, under their constitutional rights.

As a Jewish male, I can attest that I have no memory of my circumsicion and neither do my friends nor my boys. Frankly, I wouldn’t choose to be uncircumcised if I had the choice. Now, whether or not non-practicing Jews–under their religious rights–choose to identify with the customs of their people religiously or traditionally, should be decided by them, not the government.

The real question is, how far will the government infringe into the practices of religion? Who’s to determine the limits to such bans? At what point becomes enough? Sadly, leave it up to San Franciscon’s and a Jewish woman, nonetheless, to infringe upon the rights of parents for their children.

This is a shameful ballot initiative to ban the religous rights of parents–practicing or non-practicing Jews. Maybe Sanfrancison’s should include within the initiative for circumcising-practicing-Jews to wear a yellow star-of-David armband, so that it will be easier to identify these criminals!

This is nothing more than an unbalanced, far-left liberal agenda to think that the government can solve the problems of the world instead of people working together. How ridiculous!

A. Bernal

“This is nothing more than an unbalanced, far-left liberal agenda”

Not far-Left at all. The far-Left does not stick up for men’s rights — ever. It is an inherently basic human right. Nothing radical in any way.

” Frankly, I wouldn’t choose to be uncircumcised if I had the choice.”

Exactly! And we want to give the future men themselves THAT SAME CHOICE. It’s about CHOICES, right?

“As a Jewish male, I can attest that I have no memory of my circumsicion and neither do my friends nor my boys.”

Awesome. So what other tortures and amputations is it okay for us to perform on baby boys since they won’t remember them anyway so why not?

What strange defense…

shavit says:

“… challenging the individualistic belief in a self-created identity.”

If ever there was such a thing that needs to be challenged it’s that nonsense … self-created identity? who lives in a vacuum?

In any case, it’s not about “choices” DK if you are taking away a choice from someone (to practice a religion that’s been around for a couple thousand years). Yeah, you may have a point … it may be torture, amputation, or some crazy barbaric ritual of the past that needs to be discarded … but all you are really arguing is that the way you see the world is the way I should have to live – That I should give up my faith, my religion, and my tradition because you think its wrong. Perhaps the question is obvious: who asked you?

how is this different from Pat Robertson or some other Right-wing Christian nut job arguing that all women should have to live their lives based on the Christian teachings and carry unwanted pregnancies to term? (it’s not. you want to say we’ve taken away a choice from the kid, but aborting a fetus sure takes away a choice or two from it, right? In any case, in both, you and Pat are arguing that the government should be intertwined with a person’s life when it comes to an intimate and personal decision that there is ample room to disagree.)

Oh, and just as a practical matter, how exactly do you plan for the enforcement of this kind of law? First off, do you think that people will actually stop doing it? Won’t they simply go to the next town over, or do it underground (perhaps if the abortion analogy carries over in less hygienic circumstances)? Regardless, is a government official going to come check and see if a newborn jewish kid’s penis has a foreskin? Are they going to stand guard inside the Orthodox Synagogues? How absurd …

“Congress (and this also applies to the states via the 14th amendment’s due process clause) shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]“. This proposed law specifically provides “no exception for … ritual” and would be unconstitutional. [Not that any great expertise is required for this conclusion, but I did write the winning brief in a 1st amendment case decided by the Supreme Court.]

“Oh, and just as a practical matter, how exactly do you plan for the enforcement of this kind of law?”

It isn’t about enforcement. It is about making the statement that this is wrong and should not be done. At least in the hospitals, it will cease and desist. That is a very good place to start.

““Congress (and this also applies to the states via the 14th amendment’s due process clause) shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]“. This proposed law specifically provides “no exception for … ritual” and would be unconstitutional. [Not that any great expertise is required for this conclusion, but I did write the winning brief in a 1st amendment case decided by the Supreme Court.]”

But they managed to ban FGM – -even a mere blood drop through pinprick. Even that.

Where oh where were all of you free-religion family people on that?

“. you want to say we’ve taken away a choice from the kid, but aborting a fetus sure takes away a choice or two from it, right?”

That is a complicated issue, because it involves two bodies. Circumcision of an infant is one body — Not yours.

Wendy says:

it’s the brit- either you’re in or out. since when are the mitzvot up to the government?

Jerome says:

My son just had his brit today and he took it like a little man! His member may now be abbreviated but through the ceremony and the permanent marking of his body, he became a member is long line of Jews stretching back thousands of years. I frankly don’t care what some may try to legislate in San Francisco. I don’t live there, but if this silly law passes and I did live there my family’s actions today would have been an act of civil disobidience.

Floyd says:

Who is Michelle Goldberg and why is it any of her business?
The Board of Supervisors have tried to pass a lot of stupid
laws that have nothing to do with governing SF.

shavit says:

“This proposed law specifically provides “no exception for … ritual” and would be unconstitutional. [Not that any great expertise is required for this conclusion, but I did write the winning brief in a 1st amendment case decided by the Supreme Court.]”

i guess it takes more expertise then you have. The current status of the Free Exercise Clause is a rather simple rule contained in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 US 872 (1990): “the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).” http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0494_0872_ZS.html)

i.e. the Free Exercise Clause only prevents the government from targeting individual groups or practices – laws of general applicability will be upheld. Ergo, it need not create exceptions to be constitutional. At least in some form, this rule has been around since 1878. Smith simply discarded the hollowed out remnants of the Sherbert/ Compelling interest test as applied to the Free Exercise Clause.

what about that winning brief? what case was it?

shavit says:

“That is a complicated issue, because it involves two bodies. Circumcision of an infant is one body — Not yours.”

you made this argument about choice, a choice you are willing to protect when it comes to an expectant mother killing her fetus, but not my choice in raising my son like millions of jews before him. Hardly complicated. You simply respect one choice where you agree with it, and deny the choice you don’t agree with. In any case, only YOU see the issue as one concerning “one body” … I see it as an issue that involves a couple thousand years worth of Jews, a brand new commandment (the 614th if you are counting), and a rejection of the idea that some half-brained notion of individualism and “choice” completely overrides the importance of Jewish law and community. I’m not willing to discard all that quite yet because you think its wrong …

which brings it back around to the part you ignored before: who asked you? why should i have live under your ethical and moral code when it comes to something, the validity of which can clearly debated (both ethically as well as medically [or so my M.D. friends tell me ...])

shavit says:

* “I see it as an issue that ALSO involves …”

“I see it as an issue that involves a couple thousand years worth of Jews, a brand new commandment (the 614th if you are counting)”

If people feel this way in the U.S., they should have a right to act on it. As adults. But the knowledge of the functions of the foreskin is too detailed at this time to ignore and pretend this is like ear piercing.

We said no to ALL forms of FGM for minors despite thousands of years of religious practice by communities. It is time to extend that equation to the boys.

Perhaps a compromise is necessary/possible. But things have to change. The nation must not continue to pretend the foreskin has no function or value because that is what Jews are comfortable with.

DK,

It’s amazing how reprobate your thinking is. You state, “But the knowledge of the functions of the foreskin is too detailed at this time to ignore and pretend this is like ear piercing.” What? It’s exactly like ear-piercing; especially, when the boys stop crying almost immediately! I’ve never seen a child go on, and on, whinning about his pain like you seem to be doing here. You cannot compare circumcision to torture or amputation–this is a weak argument! If my right arm is amputated, then I would have no usuage of that hand, ever! However, having my foreskin removed hasn’t taken away my ability to use my member. Thus, your argument is flawed.

It’s interesting that you really didn’t tackle the abortion issue. However, when it comes to abortion it isn’t about the argument which has distracted so many in the U.S.A.–a woman’s right to choose–but rather, personal responsibility. The majority of abortions performed in the U.S. are among women (children) under the ages of 25 and above 15 years of age. I’ve never met a Republican or Democrat that beleives women don’t have the right to do what they want with their bodies. The difference, however, is that conservatives are saying that she has already made her choice to partake in unprotected sex.

Is it any wonder that “Girls Gone Wild”, “Mardi Gras”, and the “college sexually revolution” are being practiced by so many today? It’s embarassing to see our country revealing that its young women and men are out of control! Yet, those that argue “Woman’s Rights” miss the greater picture: drunken young adults sleeping around without protection to only practice abortion as a means of birth-control. Abortion is not a “choice” it’s a lack of personal responsibility, which has become so rampant in our society.

Therefore, DK, go ahead . . . save those foreskins . . . while beleiving that it’s okay to abort (kill) innocents. I guess the trees, whales, and the planet are worth saving, but the loss of life isn’t. How sad!

” The difference, however, is that conservatives are saying ”

“Is it any wonder that “Girls Gone Wild”, “Mardi Gras”, and the “college sexually revolution”

“Yet, those that argue “Woman’s Rights”

You are inserting a culturally conservative religious agenda into the discussion. I am not interested in convincing people like you that cutting off part of child’s penis is wrong. I am interested in convincing moderates.

The real issue here is the human rights violation where men are not permitted to have a say in how their body looks, works, and feels. This is doubly important because it effects their sexuality, too. We protect girls from harm, and rightly so. That Federal female genital cutting law prohibits even a pinprick to extract one drop of blood; male genital cutting, aka circumcision, is certainly worse than that.

If the new law is challenged on a Constitutional basis, then it will be viewed under ALL of the Constitution and its Amendments, not just religious practice of parents. Regarding religion, a parent has the right to practice any religion they like, but then so does the boy. There are many laws and court rulings that limit what a parent can do. And, legislators can and have limited the practice of religion.

Another issue is the right to bodily protection of the 4th Amendment. And, equal protection awarded by the 14th Amendment. This last one is tricky, it could call into question the constitutional validity of the Federal Prohibition Against Female Genital Mutilation, which, by the way, also specifically prohibits religious female circumcision.

Mr. Bollinger,

Regardless, it’s more of an issue than your well-written argument. The issue is, among Jews, one of convenantal relationship with God, who supersedes and transcends such laws. Now, not that protecting the body of young males is unimportant, nor young females–for God does not require a Jewish woman to be circumcised–however, the rite of circumcision is what separates Jews from among the non-Jews. Sure, that may sound somewhat elite, but it’s been a practice among a living Judaism, which “Congress shall pass no law . . . ”

Human rights are indeed important, but so are human rights within their religeous observances–within limits of course! Circumcising 8 day-old boys is not a crime; however, circumcising little girls should be considered a crime, not to mention a perversion of what is right.

DK,

The majority of moderates, would never agree to your assessement of circumcision; unless, of course, they are “moderates” in San Fransico, which means they would be more-like, “Liberal-moderates,” but not moderates in general.

Shalom.

DK says:

“Now, not that protecting the body of young males is unimportant, nor young females–for God does not require a Jewish woman to be circumcised–however, the rite of circumcision is what separates Jews from among the non-Jews. Sure, that may sound somewhat elite, but it’s been a practice among a living Judaism, which “Congress shall pass no law . . . ”

You are clearly a Jewish supremacist and don’t really seem to be really concerned with anything except Orthodox Jewish law. Why don’t you move to Israel?

A. Bernal says:

DK,

Ha! you wrote, “You are clearly a Jewish supremacist . . .” Hmm, interesting!

To the contrary! I am concerned about the rite of circumcision and how you and others would deny such rites/rights. This has nothing to do with Orthodoxy halakha, per se, nor Jewish supremacy; but rather, Biblical obedience and the birthright of every Jew–including you if you are one? It was not the Jew who chose God; rather, it was God who chose us! Call it what you will, but this places me not in an arena of supremacy but of humility. It is through the Patriarchs that the words of God were to be revealed and given as a blessing to all the nations, which by the way, has been inherited by every citizen of this country because of the Judeo-Christian ethics this country was built on. Including your right to squash the rights of others.

Therefore, because you benefit from such rights, are you not a supremacist too? It’s intereting that the majority of those that stick up for the rights of others, so heartedly resort to intolerance and hurling insults because others disagree with them (you)?

“Why don’t you move to Israel?” Hmm, now it’s easy to see what you think about the israeli Jews! And, without a doubt, I’m sure you’re one of those that think Israel is a bully picking on those poor-little Palestians, right? Yet, over 80 million Arabs surround @ 6 million Jews and daily threaten to destroy and cast Israel into the sea. All of this continues while you sit comfortably in your Judeo-Christian country, burying your head in the sand thinking that a little boy’s foreskin is the matter-of-the-day.

Frankly, I don’t care what the Orthodoxy rabbis say; however, I do care about what YHWH says. Perhaps you should move to Israel . . . maybe your eyes will be opened when you have to run from rockets being hurled at you while your on a walk or shopping? Nah, that’s to harsh; you’d likely be sitting with the Palestinians giving them coordinants to hit that little, circumcised Jewish boy!

DK says:

you’d likely be sitting with the Palestinians giving them coordinants to hit that little, circumcised Jewish boy!

Everyone who doesn’t see things your way is clearly a far-Left collaborator or would be if only given the chance.

Clearly.

A few Jews are even on record for supporting or even endorsing the San Francisco circumcision referendum.

Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews? by Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, The Forward, 5/20/11
http://www.forward.com/articles/137577/

The Circumcision Referendum: A Liberal Jewish Perspective by Sandford Borins, Ph.D.
http://www.sandfordborins.com/2011/06/09/the-circumcision-referendum-a-liberal-jewish-perspective/

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Be a Mensch. Support Tablet.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Circumcision Initiative Moves Closer to Ballot

San Francisco measure would ban the practice, though it may be unconstitutional

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree