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San Francisco Circumcision Vote Crosses Line from Wacky to Wicked

Although — or perhaps because — I’m a religion reporter who has specialized in Judaism (including all kinds of circumcision rituals) and spent a few years working in the Bay Area, I’ve been content to just briefly mention the anti-circumcision ballot measure in San Francisco.

Until now.

Some context: California, especially San Francisco, is infamous for wacky ballot measures, like one to name a sewage treatment plant after President George W. Bush. So, my initial reaction was that the anti-circumcision measure wasn’t worth an entire blog post, nor was it silly enough for the whimsy of a Fun Friday, especially the vote isn’t until November 2012. Also, given that hospital circumcision has been declining for years in the United States (and was never the norm in other parts of the world), and that there are even some Jews who oppose the practice, I figured it was a chance for some interesting dialogue about whether circumcision makes sense for infant boys who are neither Jewish nor Muslim.


But now, it seems the story has taken an anti-Semitic turn. Check out GetReligion’s post — Anti-Semitism and the ‘Intactivists’ — for a sample of the ugly campaign language and materials, including a comic book pitting a blond superhero vs. bearded rabbis… like something dug up from a Hitler Youth time capsule.

Really, I expect more from San Francisco — a diverse city that always struck me as almost painfully self-consciously tolerant. Am I missing something?

P.S. For what it’s worth, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t take a position on circumcision… though it does now recommend putting your kid in a rear-facing car-seat until he’s two years old. Sigh.


What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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posted June 6, 2011 at 10:04 am

Humans often believe that if they separate themselves into groups away for “the other”, they’ll transcend part of the human condition. Basically our problems are the cause of evil in “the other” and not within ourselves.

Twenty years ago I had a roommate (now a published Sci Fi author) who looked for sub-text in any plot. He was a big fan of zombie fiction because he loved the enemy within plot which illustrates my above point nicely. Basically every human is a potential zombie, so even after separating into a group of pure humans, you’ll carry the seed of “the other” with you.

Basically fiction can illustrate the folly of our thinking that the problem is “the other”. You’ll have murders in expensive gated communities and anti-Semitism in otherwise tolerant liberal cities.

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posted June 7, 2011 at 7:30 am

i think it’s incredibly cruel to put an infant in a rear-facing carseat until 2 yrs of age. it stifles creativity, due to the lack of visual stimulation in this position, could possibly conduce whiplash in case of a collision, due to the infants relatively high mass, at this point, and may be a source of driver attention attraction, due to the easy eye-line position.
also, were the cartoons not meant as parody? why so much attention to this topic?

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Mike Landis

posted June 7, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I am against forced circumcision. It’s an extremely barbaric practice on girls and violates the autonomy of the individual to make such decisions for a child of either sex. Religions that include the practice will be up in arms, but in fact no one is saying the practice will be outlawed when adopted by young man who has reached the age of majority, the proposed law simply requires that parents not usurp that decision while the child is a minor unless there’s a compelling medical reason to do so. In my view, it’s simple – if you respect the autonomy of the individual, you must support the ban.

The debate gets much more interesting when you consider whether to allow surgery that effectively inflicts a gender assignment on a minor hermaphrodite. I think a similar argument should hold there as well – the individual concerned should make the call. That’s going to make the adolescent years a bit difficult, but it allows individuals to know themselves before making such an important decision.

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Nicole Neroulias

posted June 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Interesting point, Mike Landis. But rather than the ritual age of 8 days old for Jewish boys, why does the ballot measure choose 18 years old as the appropriate age? They are both extremes, depending on whom you ask and whether you’re approaching this from a religious, medical or some other point of view.

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Faith Defender

posted June 8, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Good Point, Nicole,

Has anyone ever considered the possibility of the pain an eighteen year old would feel (both physical as well as psychological) in having a circumcision as an adult? I happen to know one person who had one as an adult as part of the conversion process. I cannot even fathom what he went through. Somehow, I doubt anyone can remember what happened to them as an eight-day old….

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Yakov Khanin

posted June 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Congratulations to San Francisco baby-carers. They are on a historically well known track after Romans and Nazis and whole bunch of similarly pleasant and humanity-loving creatures who were trying to prohibit circumcision.
Well, the practice outlived them all and will outlive these proponents too.
It is amusing that so many anti-Jewish laws and so on are attempted by Jews themselves.
And in this case the real cause of the irritation of these circumcision prohibition proponents is that the circumcision establishes connection to the G-d Almighty in the way which is beyond the reason, and they cannot stand G-dliness of this act.

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