Updated Nov. 19 at 4:11 p.m
Bay Area Jews are up in arms over a potential ballot initiative that would ban circumcision in San Francisco, David Pine reports in j., the Jewish weekly of Northern California.
The initiative, which is being circulated by San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield, needs at least 7,100 signatures to get on the November 2011 ballot.
It would amend the City's police code “to make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”
Violating the policy would result in a $1,000 fine.
According to j., four organizations — the Anti-Defamation League, the SF-based Jewish Community Relations Council, the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and the American Jewish Committee — issued a joint statement condemning the measure.
“For thousands of years, Jews around the world have engaged in this important religious ritual, which is of fundamental importance in the Jewish tradition. The organized Jewish community is deeply troubled by this initiative, which would interfere with the rights of parents to make religious decisions for their own families,” the statement said.
The Examiner reports Mayor Gavin Newsom is also opposed.
"Whoa," he said. “Not even Daly would do this.”
“Why do something that makes us look like we are completely out of touch?” the mayor asked.
Some opponents of ritual circumcision have cited concerns about the health of children and perceived pain to the baby who undergoes the procedure.
But writing in SF Weekly, columnist Matt Smith observes that Schofield’s campaign to rid the city of circumcision “seems more focused on penises than children.”
Smith notes Schofield recently manned a booth at the Folsom Street Fair explaining the practice of foreskin reconstruction.
He described the procedure to Smith in an interview.
"It involves stretching the skin to cover the glans of the penis," he said. "Once the skin is lengthened, the head of the penis becomes more sensitive. There's a process called keratinization, the thickening of the tissue on the head of the penis, to protect it. Once the foreskin is restored enough, the tissue becomes — it's actually mucous tissue — and it becomes more moist, more sensitive, and more natural, and more normal. Apparently, there's more sensitivity there."
And interestingly, Schofield refused to tell Smith whether he had been circumcised.
"I'm sure everybody thinks this is germane and their business, but I want the focus to be the issue, and not me. People say, 'Oh, he's uncircumcised and he wants everyone else that way,'" he said.
Legal experts say even if city voters pass the circumcision ban, it will likely be thrown out in court.
Peter Keane, a professor of constitutional law at Golden Gate University, told the Examiner banning circumcisions would violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and the 14th Amendment, which protects a parent’s right to make decisions regarding the care of their children, he said.