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. Outraged

    It's simple. Your right to practice your religion ends where someone else's body begins.

    June 11, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Hmm

      That's too complicated for them. They cannot understand with the noise of their god buzzing in their heads all day.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • The Many Loves of Edna Pimples

      The noise of their religion sounds like a dial tone. If you want to understand their thoughts, go lift your phone off the receiver and listen to their thinking.

      June 12, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  2. Marie Kidman


    June 11, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  3. 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 7:54 am |
    • Hmm

      reiteration can have the opposite effects from what you intend. Or are you just trying to drive everyone away from the truth?
      That would be a clever double-game, but I doubt you are doing that.
      You are still a deist, are you not? Hmm.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  4. FredR

    Infant sacrificial excisions violate the freedom of religion as the men don't have the freedom to choose. The right to excise the prepuce of an infant man against his will to prove others believe in a false god? My freedom of religion was violated and I was forced to become excised to prove my parents believed in witch doctor medicine, creation science. After I grew up and leared that I was created in my mother's womb and not a heavenly godfather' penis of creation theory, it was to late to save us boys from the dysfunctional traumatic sacrifice to a false god. We got even and my brothers and I gave my parents no grandchildren. The function of genital mutilation to infants is to deprive them of the freedom of religion. All the benefits claimed from forced infant prepuce excisions can be replaced with the benefits of education.

    June 11, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • Reality

      Hmmmmm ?????

      June 11, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • Hmm

      Yes? Oh, sorry. I thought you were talking to me.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  5. 46Boomer

    What's wrong with religions compromising on this? Just let the men decide once they turn 18 if they want the procedure. Oh, that's right, that would put an end to the practice! No man who has a choice is goining to let anyone with a knife close to down there except for medical reasons.

    June 11, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  6. Jack O'Fall

    There are a lot of things we legally restrict parents from doing to their kids, even if it is in the name of religion. Examples are all over the place, and every time it bumps up against a religious tradition, someone complains that we are denying them their right to freedom of religion.
    However, the real question is: In an effort to force your religion on your child, are you subjecting your child to harm serious enough for the State to step in and restrict that behavior?
    Any debate that is not centered on that question is irrelevant.

    June 11, 2011 at 6:11 am |
  7. Kyle

    The disgusting bible says lets mutilate this baby that was just born, by cutting away at their genitals. That is WRONG. It is pathetic it needs to come to this for delusional followers of a faith to realize that it is illogical and sick. Yet some still defend it.

    June 11, 2011 at 4:32 am |
    • The Phantom

      wonderfully well said

      June 11, 2011 at 6:09 am |
    • Keith

      Kyle, I will take the Word of God over your words of wisdom any day.

      June 11, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • DoTell

      >Kyle, I will take the Word of God over your words of wisdom any day.
      You can't make this stuff up, folks. You just can't.
      Keith hates wisdom, prefers lies. (this is not news to me)
      To openly scorn wisdom is the hallmark of a fool.
      How can anyone be this stupid? How?

      June 11, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • Keith

      DoTell, your wisdom is foolishness.

      June 11, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Keith

      Do Tell, the Bible addresses your kind: Romans 1:18-32. Read it. v.22 "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,"

      June 11, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Keith

      Better to be circu-mcised than to be sacrificed on the altar of abortion.

      June 11, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Sean

      Ah, a brilliant "at least it's better than abortion" attack! Since those are evidently the only two medical options, it's a shame your parents had you circ-umcised.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Hmm

      Keith is a strong argument for abortion. A very strong argument. Some people should not have children.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Keith

      I guess maybe this is 1930's Germany after all. Hmmm the Brownshirt and some of these other posts confirm it. This nation is screwed if your's is the prevailing school of thought.

      June 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Sean

      Keith, you are truant in any school of thought.

      June 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  8. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Religious hypocrisy is America's history. The puritans themselves 'fled persecution' in England by more moderate protestants because puritans believed all Catholicism in England must be persecuted and stomped out. Moderate protestants thought that was too extreme. So puritans 'fled' England in search of a land where they can control every small detail of a person's life based on their narrow interpretation of the Bible. Oh, and puritans also outlawed the celebration of Christmas! (true! You can look it up!) It wasn't in the Bible, therefore it's heresy.

    June 11, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • The Puritan Stain Still Mars the American Social Fabric

      And shortly after the "fled religious persecution", they seized power in England under Oliver Cromwell, who set up a dreary repressive theocratic dictatorship. Fortunately for the world, it failed shortly after Cromwell's death.

      June 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  9. Beefburger

    Why am I not surprised that people in San Francisco are more concerned with pen1ses than the murder of perfectly healthy babies that are just about to be brought into the world. Think about the number of little boys and girls just about to enter the world, but all of a sudden they are stopped from exiting the womb, intrusive fingers searching for the base of the skull, then a sharp jab of of a pole being shoved into the brain, the vacuum turned on. Think about that the next time you hear the laughter of someone else's baby.

    June 11, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • BellinghamRez

      think about how many children you have adopted, think about how much you and your friends have done to make adoption in the US easier than outside of the US.
      Until then you and your friends need to stop the same tired lines. Address the underlying problems and the main goal for both sides can be reached.

      June 11, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • Keith

      Just what is your "goal"?

      June 11, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  10. Peter E

    So? Some of the Bible-belt states recently passed laws outlawing Sharia law. But of course if it's only muslims that are affected, it's okay. If it's Jewish people, then it's anti-semitism and oppression. If it's Christians, then you're a traitor to the Forefathers and to Christianity and an anti-American terrorist.

    June 11, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • It's a tarp!

      It's funny how right you are, especially when you consider how much many of the forefathers absolutely hated organized religion.

      June 11, 2011 at 5:34 am |
    • Amber

      There is no room for an "additional" law of the land like sharia law. It SHOULD be opposed!!!! There is nothing more oppressive. For any American to think it's a good thing or we need to be respectful...I say B.S. I say those Americans need therapy and history classes right away. Intervention and education would set these people straight....or we can give them a one-way ticket to Afghanistan. Take your pick.

      June 11, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • FredR

      I agree, religious laws, like the Shari'a and the Covent law are against freedom of religion as they are forced.

      June 11, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Sean

      @Peter R
      Spot on. We don't freedom of religion is this country. We only want freedom of "our" religion.

      June 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Sean

      Correction: I meant "We don't want freedom of religion..."

      June 11, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  11. calico

    I don't know of any other elective, cosmetic surgery that Americans would tolerate on babies – so why so we still tolerate this outdated practice? The statements about hygiene make no sense. If you apply that logic to females, why aren't we cutting off baby girls' labia at birth?

    June 11, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  12. Beefburger

    ...yet these same people argue for the right to have a baby born half-way then stick a tube through the back of his or her skull to suck out their brain and call it an abortion rather than murder. But to "snip the tip" is an unbearable travesty, go figure.

    June 11, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • HotAirAce

      No, the people most in favor of abortion, that would be those having them, are mostly believers, many of whom think male child mutilation is acceptable.

      June 11, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • It's a tarp!

      You do realize that for the most part, late term abortions are not legal, right? Or are you just an inflammatory moron?

      June 11, 2011 at 5:35 am |
    • Amber

      SF liberals don't play with a full deck. Pure and simple. They don't have the capacity to think anything through for its merit or consequences. Look at the ban on Happy Meals. They're a bunch of freaks!!!

      June 11, 2011 at 5:57 am |
    • Sean

      Slice off part of your labia for no other reason than to appease your deity of choice. Then I'll care about your opinion here.

      June 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  13. Sheila

    it's a silly proposal for a law; I don't understand the point of it.

    June 11, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • HotAirAce

      The point is to stop parents from uncovering their son's pointer, via a medically unnecessary barbaric irreversible procedure, without his consent. Seems reasonable to me...

      June 11, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  14. Lonvani's gonna be all like "WHAT?!"


    June 11, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  15. I'm listening to the butterfly song right now. It's really quite soothing.

    Hey I'm really bored right now. Does anyone want to chat? Call me. 867-5309

    June 11, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  16. Wzrd1

    NO! The amendments are ALL NULL AND VOID. NO right to religion, save the state mandated Christianity. NO right to be free from random search and seizure without warrant, you have nothing to hide, not even balls. We KNOW you don't have them anyway.
    No right to be free from being required to self-incriminate, regardless of guilt. EVIL! DIE!!!!!
    MY rights override YOUR rights every day, no ninth amendment.
    I am FAR, FAR ,FAR FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR more equal than you. The fourteenth amendment is false.
    HAIL ME! I am the EMPEROR!
    Don't hail me and where the sword of execution will be shoved will convince everyone else to hail.

    June 11, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • Bootles

      What sort of drugs are you on? Booze? LSD?

      June 11, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  17. DoodleSheepSnipsGoats andSomeoneThinksItsSad


    June 11, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  18. DoodleSheep

    I snipped a goat and gave it to someone who had been snipped. He then felt full again.

    June 11, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Anonymous001

      There we go:

      June 11, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  19. LindaLovesSanFran ItTotallyRocksButGetsColdSometimes


    June 11, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • Anonymous001

      how do you insert the videos???

      June 11, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • NoOneKnows WhoIAmRespondingTo

      I use magic to insert videos.

      Watch this video, study it, and by doing so, you shall unlock the keys to magic. Then, if you use your magic for only good purposes, you will be doing much good for mankind. However if you use your magic for evil, BEWARE, as you will be turned in to a... a possum!


      June 11, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • Anonymous001


      June 11, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Anonymous001


      June 11, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Anonymous001


      June 11, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      @NoOneKnows WhoIAmRespondingTo

      How do you think Fluffy got turned into a Gerbil ?

      June 11, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  20. its sad

    its sad really that we are debating and slandering others beliefs over something as insignificant as a piece of skin. there is so many other issues in the world today that deserve attention aside from this. that being said banning such procedure would actually violate ones freedom of religion, and i noticed someone mentioned the babies religion....seriously? hahahahahaha infants have no right to religion they are babies....they are fully dependant on their parents to care for them. im not sure when people stopped being parents and children started being adults...you dont sit your two year old down and ask if they want to eat veggies or candy for dinner bc it would be irresponsible you take care of your child to the best of your ability, and according to your own personal beliefs. no one persons beliefs should be deamed right or wrong by another it is no ones position to pass such judgement. we spend so much time sticking our noses in others business we forget to help those in need today

    June 11, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • Eagle Claw Kung fu

      Your feeble attempts to divert the discussion are pathetic.

      June 11, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • Wzrd1

      You forget yourself! THIS is the land of MY belief. YOURS doesn't count.
      WE rule. WE enforce.
      YOU obey.
      We are louder.
      Or some other tripe.
      NO amendment counts these days, the states overrule the federal government on a daily basis.
      In short, we're a failed nation, since the federal government WAS supposed to be supreme.
      Welcome to the third world.

      June 11, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • Bootles

      Well that was more lucid than your other post, Wzrd1. Thanks for sharing. Do you have more or are you just dropping these things all over the sidewalk as you stumble home from the bar?

      June 11, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • FredR

      Why not give your children the benefits of a lifetime with an education on the functions, care, and use of the male and female prepuce. With education, the benefits of infant prepuce excisions arenot needed. You should learn how to take care of your body so you don't cause your children's bodies to dysfunction.

      June 11, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • auguron

      Teaching a child how to eat properly, and mulitating said child are two different things.

      Seriously, I know Christians are sadists, but why are you defending such a barbaric procedure?

      June 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
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About this blog

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.