Feds, state may snip proposed circumcision ban

Amid an intensifying debate over a ballot measure to ban the circumcision of boys in San Francisco, state and federal laws are being proposed to ban such bans.

Opponents of the measure have accused the effort of being anti-Semitic. A group of religious leaders and politicians are denouncing the effort as an infringement on religious freedoms.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, said recently he would introduce the so-called Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011 to prevent San Francisco and other places to enact such circumcision bans. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, reportedly is planning to introduce a similar law in the Legislature.

“Male circumcision has been practiced for thousands of years and is a deeply important ceremony for two major religions,” Sherman said in a statement. “[The act] ensures that Jewish and Muslim families will continue to be able to enjoy the free exercise of their religious beliefs.”

The mounting opposition is not convincing Lloyd Schofield, who is spearheading the local ballot measure, to back down. He said if his measure is passed along with the state or federal laws meant to prohibit it, it would be up to the courts to decide.

“What I see for certain, when it gets to the judicial level, personal testimony of harm is paramount to any legal proceeding,” Schofield said when asked if he felt he would prevail in a lawsuit.

Schofield became a proponent of the local ballot measure after being asked to champion a bill during a July symposium on circumcision at UC Berkeley. Schofield said he was approached by people affiliated with the San Diego-based group MGM Bill (MGM stands for “male genital mutilation”), which is pushing to “end male genital mutilation in the U.S.” The group’s president, Matt Hess, has recently come under criticism for anti-circumcision comics that some have said are overtly anti-Semitic.

Schofield said the effort does not “target any person, group or religion,” and instead sees it as a human-rights issue.

The measure was placed on the ballot through a signature-gathering campaign, requiring at least 7,168 signatures. The measure would amend The City’s police code “to make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicles or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.” Violators would face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.


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