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San Francisco's proposed circumcision ban galvanizes religious opposition
Evidence has shown mixed risks and benefits of circumcision, a procedure that removes the foreskins of infant boys.
June 10th, 2011
02:33 PM ET

San Francisco's proposed circumcision ban galvanizes religious opposition

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The nation’s largest evangelical Christian umbrella group has come out against San Francisco’s proposed circumcision ban, evidence that the voter initiative is beginning to galvanize national religious opposition.

Thursday’s announcement from the National Association of Evangelicals was noteworthy because unlike Jews and Muslims, Christians are not religiously mandated to practice circumcision.

“Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circumcision begins with Abraham,” said National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. “No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake."

"The proposed ban violates the First Amendment’s guarantee to exercise one’s religious beliefs," Anderson said in a statement.

How much of a national issue the ban becomes is yet to be seen. An effort to put a circumcision ban on the ballot in Santa Monica, California was abandoned last week.

Many Jewish and Muslim groups have come out against San Francisco’s proposed ban on the procedure that removes the foreskins of infant boys.

Jewish groups have suggested anti-Semitic motives behind the ban. Here’s Nancy J. Appel, associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League:

This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible.

And here’s influential Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe:

Some involved are simply opposed to religion (there are after all some misguided Jews arguing for the ban as well), some wish to target both Muslims and Jews. But can anyone doubt that there are anti-circumcision advocates who seize on this as a chance to hurt Jews and the Jewish tradition?

Many Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, alleged that a comic book called “Foreskin Man,” created by the proposed San Francisco ban’s author, draws on centuries-old stereotypes about Jews.

Just as the National Association of Evangelicals did Thursday, some Muslim groups have called the ban an attack on religious freedom:

A ban that specifically targets a religious practice of Muslims and that has been proven to be medically beneficial is a violation of First Amendment rights that guarantees all Americans the right to religious freedom.

The proposed ban would make it "unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis" of anyone 17 or younger in San Francisco.

Violators could be jailed for a year or fined up to $1,000.

The group that drafted the ban's language says the procedure has adverse physical and psychological effects and likens it to female genital mutilation, a claim that doctors generally reject.

In November 2010, CNN reported that medical evidence had shown mixed risks and benefits of circumcision:

Apart from the San Francisco proposal, circumcisions are under scientific scrutiny.

While widespread in the United States, circumcision rates could be falling, according to recent surveys. About 65 percent of American male infants born in hospitals were circumcised in 1999, according to latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While nationally the circumcision rate has remained steady, the most dramatic decline occurred in the West, where it fell from 64 percent in 1974 to 37 percent in 1999.

Earlier this year, there were unconfirmed estimates that the circumcision rate had fallen to fewer than half for boys born in U.S. hospitals, The New York Times reported last summer, citing a federal report at the International AIDS Conference.

The American Academy of Pediatrics task force on circumcision has been reviewing recent research before it issues an official new position on the issue, probably next year, one panel member said.

"In the past, we've said newborn circumcision has benefits and risks," Dr. Douglas Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, told CNN last year. "Given the fact that neither the risks nor benefits are particularly compelling, this is a decision to be made by parents."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: California • Islam • Judaism

soundoff (297 Responses)
  1. LindaMeantToSay HaveDone

    😀

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms2ajqlNHeI&w=640&h=390]

    😉 🙂

    June 11, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  2. Linda

    Sorry, meant to say, have "done" that.

    June 11, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  3. Linda

    Maybe this is how we get men like Wiener.

    June 11, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  4. AtheistSteve TheDebatesOverDude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1e4FUhfHiU&w=640&h=390]

    June 11, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Hey...who hijacked my nickname???
      Flew is a moron...complexity argument has been refuted countless times.

      June 11, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  5. AtheistSteve TheDebatesOverDude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maoGItxwTTA&w=640&h=390]

    June 11, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Ah yes...Kalam cosmological argument.
      More bunk...flawed from the very first premise.

      Premise one: Everything that exists must have a cause....To which I ask "Does God exist?" If yes then what caused God? The usual reply is that God is eternal...the uncaused cause...the very infinite thing that Wlliam Lane Craig says cannot exist in reality other than as an idea... so the first premise has an exception making the entire argument invalid.

      June 11, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  6. AtheistSteve TheDebatesOverDude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpEyqRtJw_E&w=640&h=390]

    June 11, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • AtheistSteve TheDebatesOverDude

      ooOOOpsies!!! like uhhh, totally wrong video! my bad! i'm so sta sta stoooopuddd

      June 11, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • Kevin

      i love ravi

      great stuff

      June 11, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Well that was nine minutes I wish I'd used for better purposes. Ravi is a rambling fool...verbal diarrhea.
      I'm not God, I don't have a soul and time is relative.

      June 11, 2011 at 3:36 am |
  7. PraiseTheLard

    How do you circu mcise a great whale?

    With four skin divers...

    June 11, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  8. Calvin Hobbes

    This was a weird bill to be proposed in the first place. Who proposed it? Let's shine some light on the bills writer's and backers. Who exactly are these people and why now? What is their history? What are their ideologies and personal motivations for such a bill?

    June 11, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  9. Beefburger

    We need to place a boarder fence around California. Is it too late to surgically remove it and send it to China where they belong?

    June 11, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  10. YouListenToKoolKeith InTheSHower

    😉

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpEyqRtJw_E&w=640&h=390]

    😀

    June 11, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Was that Deepak "Woo Woo" Chopra?

      June 11, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  11. name required but not really

    That woman in the photo is violating anti-sepsis procedures by not wearing a mask, isn't she?
    Is this because she was getting her picture taken or is it because minor surgery is exempt from safety procedures?

    June 11, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • cadeck

      its CNN actors

      June 11, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • frank

      She's not a doctor, she just plays one on CNN.

      June 11, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  12. Linda

    You would think that this should be left up to the parents, don't you think? Sadly, I live in San Francisco, but I haven't read about the reasons behind this or the peole that's pushing this law.I guess I need to read the newsapers.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Len

      So, mutilating children should be up to the parent? Does that mean we should respect honor killings as well?

      June 11, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Wicked

      I'm up for some honor kilings if they are going to be legal. I have a looong list of wonderful people to kill. :wicked:

      June 11, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • \ :twisted: /

      Legal murder! Yay! When can we start?

      June 11, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Godlite

      "You would think that this should be left up to the parents, don't you think"

      No, I don't think. Parents don't get to mutilate their child, period. Why would you believe that the parents get to chop up a child's genitals?

      June 11, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Eagle Claw Kung fu

      Linda, you need to actually read the article. Duh.

      June 11, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Bootles

      Redrum! Redrum!

      June 11, 2011 at 2:37 am |
  13. Jo

    So if amputating legs and arms were classified as a religious act, would it be tolerated? Sure you can say that cutting a bit of skin off isn't as dramatic as amputating legs and arms but this isn't a case of severity. Mutilating a child should be against the law and I'm horrified that so many men have been assaulted as babies.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • SGT J

      I agree.

      June 11, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Len

      100% agree

      June 11, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Fôrn

      This may explain a few things about men, eh?

      June 11, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Jason

      If amputating arms and legs had a demonstrable health benefit with no significant negative effects, then ought to be legal, whether or not it has any religious significance at all.

      The fact that you find something distasteful does not make it wrong. I don't enjoy the taste of mustard, but I don't think mustard should be illegal because of it.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Greg

      Jason, are you comparing child mutilation to eating mustard? ...wow. If you don't see the problem with your logic, just stop posting until you do.

      Should we legalize murder too? After all, if you find it distasteful, you don't have to do it.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Sean

      @Jason
      100 or more boys die each year from this procedure. How many deaths have been caused because of not having it done?

      June 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  14. ryan

    it's a weird practice, you gotta admit.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Abba Natan

      Your weird is our HOLY!

      June 11, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • Bootles

      You so holy? What a crock.

      June 11, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  15. Newport Pagnell

    Had a buddy who got sand in his foreskin at the beach and a couple of months later ,out popped a pearl. True story.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  16. PR

    Typical California laws. Stupid, stupid, stupid. California is like a bowl of granola. Once you throw out all the fruits and nuts all you have left is flakes.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • VegasRage

      I like the idea, for crying out loud it's Jewish tradition and yet most people in this country do it to their sons. What for? The cleanliness argument is load BS.

      June 11, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Matt

      Good joke PR, I haven't heard that one before.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • frank

      @PR–Nascar fan much?

      June 11, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Sean

      @PR
      You've been waiting a long to time to post that, haven't you?

      June 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  17. Claudia

    Lindsay Bluth would be so proud of how far this has gone!

    June 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  18. Reality

    Circu-mcision is not an Abrahamic (god influenced) procedure so where did it start?

    We have this short summary from Wikipedia:

    "The oldest docu-mentary evidence for circ-umcision comes from ancient Egypt.[6] Circ-umcision was common, although not universal, among ancient Semitic peoples.[7] In the aftermath of the conquests of Alexander the Great, however, Greek dislike of circu-mcision (they regarded a man as truly "naked" only if his prepuce was retracted) led to a decline in its incidence among many peoples that had previously practiced it.[8]

    Circu-mcision has ancient roots among several ethnic groups in sub-equatorial Africa, and is still performed on adolescent boys to symbolize their transition to warrior status or adulthood.[9]"

    And maybe just maybe evolutionary forces will eliminate said foreskin? Do chimps/ apes et al have foreskins?

    June 10, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Ron Low

      ^^ Do apes have foreskins? ^^

      EVERY mammal on earth evolved a foreskin over millions of years of refinement.

      June 11, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • realitycheck

      all mammals means all male AND female mammals – yes women have foreskins too, but in the US, it's illegal to cut them, even a little bit, let alone completely remove them. Unfortunately, baby boys do not have the same rights.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Evolved

      Ron Low's post:

      ^^ Do apes have foreskins? ^^

      EVERY mammal on earth evolved a foreskin over millions of years of refinement.
      ***
      So if foreskins are so "refined" why do people want to cut them off?

      June 11, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • LEB

      The foreskin exists for evolutionary reasons, and has a number of purposes. The first is to protect the glans and urethra. The second is to ease penetration for comfort of the female. The third is to act as a natural lubricant. Oh, and it also significantly increases sensation for the male. Kind of a major feature there.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  19. Reality

    Reiteration is a fundamental learning tool.

    From the topic write-up:

    "Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circu-mcision begins with Abraham,” said National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. “No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake.”

    Hmmm, according to 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis including Rabbi Wolpe, Abraham (and Moses) probably never existed.
    =======================================================================================

    June 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • David

      you're an idiot. you and this rabbi can go somewhere.

      June 11, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Reality

      From the topic write-up:

      "Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circu-mcision begins with Abraham,” said National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. “No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake.”

      Hmmm, according to 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis including Rabbi Wolpe, Abraham (and Moses) probably did not exist.

      To wit:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

      "The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."

      So apparently circu-mcision is not an Abrahamic (god influenced) procedure so where did it start?

      We have this short summary from Wikipedia:

      "The oldest docu-mentary evidence for circ-umcision comes from ancient Egypt.[6] Circ-umcision was common, although not universal, among ancient Semitic peoples.[7] In the aftermath of the conquests of Alexander the Great, however, Greek dislike of circu-mcision (they regarded a man as truly "naked" only if his prepuce was retracted) led to a decline in its incidence among many peoples that had previously practiced it.[8]

      Circu-mcision has ancient roots among several ethnic groups in sub-equatorial Africa, and is still performed on adolescent boys to symbolize their transition to warrior status or adulthood.[9]"

      June 11, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  20. frank

    In Soviet Papua New Guinea, penis cuts YOU!

    June 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.