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Democracy Run Amuck: Anti-Semitism in SanFran

One of the major problems with California politics is the power of ballot box initiatives. With just 12,000 signatures, anyone can bring any issue before the voters on the ballot. No more is the lunacy of this more clear than with the travesty that is the proposed ban on circumcision that will now be on the ballot in San Francisco this November. The new law will make it illegal to circumcise any male under the age of 18, punishable by a fine of $1,000 or a year in jail. It will not pass, and in the very off-chance that it does, courts will readily and easily strike it down as unconstitutional. However, the very fact that it was allowed on the ballot in the first place is another sure sign that California's precarious experiment with direct democracy has gone horribly, horribly wrong; voters must now be subjected to paying for and actually voting on an initiative that is anti-Semitic at its core.

With no known ill-effects to circumcision, no objections by pediatricians to the practice, and some suggested medical benefits to it, the initiative holds no weight to proponents' claims that circumcision is akin to genital mutilation. This is a proposed law that is specifically targeted at a particular part of the community. Though those arguing for it speak in vague terms of mutilation, the actual text of the proposed law reads, "No account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that or any other person that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual." The law is designed to end a practice that has been a part of Jewish (and Muslim) culture for thousands of years-- something that is as key to their beliefs as baptism is to Catholics. Even more, it seeks to further take away the power of decision-making from parents and further solidify the power of government over childcare. It is an egregious assault on religious liberty and the power of parents, and the fact that it is now being treated as a legitimate political discussion is revolting. One can only hope that such ilk does not spread further than the Bay Area.
Categories > Politics

Discussions - 13 Comments

See here:

It is San Francisco. You can guess who the authors of this are. As for motives, you are not thinking low enough.

Wow, where to start....

How can a procedure which is performed on approx. 60% (at least) of newborn boys in the U.S. be described as "anti-Semitic at its core"? Maybe if you'd gone for the "anti-American" accusation, we'd be starting out from a reasonable point for further discussion...

As far as I know, the dreaded San Francisco - a long-time target of generalized loathing from the right-wing - is not comprised solely of Jews, and I'd also be willing to bet that Jews do not procure a majority of all the circumcisions performed in S.F. (if so, can we then use the same silly way of thinking to label the right's hatred of SanFran as necessarily "anti-semitic"?) Is a law now to be described as "anti-Semitic at its core" if it has any restrictive impact whatsoever on (some) Jews? As you even noted yourself, Muslims are known to treat the procedure as a religious ritual. What you failed to mention, though, is that a lot of Christians and non-theists also have their boys circumcised. For a large segment of the American population, it became a lazy, post-birth ritual of multiple and varied origins and was simply done because it was what was known - not for any clear and specific reasons. An honest assessment of the moms of boys of "flyover country" would bear this out, I am quite certain. A 1987 study found the biggest justification for the procedure given was "concerns about the attitudes of peers and their sons' self concept in the future." Quite vague - as in, "other moms have it done to their boys, my husband had it done, so I guess we'll do it, too..."

So I fail to see how circumcision is unique to Judaism, or how Jews in any serious way "own" it.

In any case, a growing minority of Jews are working to eliminate circumcision as a Jewish ritual, leaving it behind just as Jews have left behind the death penalty for adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality, and disrespecting one's parents, as well as animal and human sacrifice - other practices with origins that go way back in the time machine.

Is circumcision "as key to their [Jewish] beliefs as baptism is to Catholics." ??

I highly doubt it and, further, the comparison between a ceremony that involves cutting off part of the genitals and one that involves some water sprinkling or oil anointing is kind of absurd on its face - one which the grown child can later shrug off easily enough; baptism doesn't irrevocably alter one's body.

Since you want to (artificially) make this about Jews and since you brought up the term "lunacy" I recommend we read early (they're very, very old, so they must be true!) Jewish justifications for the practice (from Wiki):

"In Of the Special Laws, Book 1, the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC - AD 50) gives six reasons for the practice of circumcision.[38] He attributes four of the reasons to "men of divine spirit and wisdom". These include the idea that circumcision 1) protects against disease, 2) secures cleanliness "in a way that is suited to the people consecrated to God", 3) causes the circumcised portion of the penis to resemble a heart, thereby representing a physical connection between the "breath contained within the heart [that] is generative of thoughts, and the generative organ itself [that] is productive of living beings", and 4) promotes prolificness by removing impediments to the flow of semen. To these, Philo added two of his own reasons, including the idea that circumcision 5) "signified figuratively the excision of all superfluous and excessive pleasure" and 6) "that it is a symbol of a man's knowing himself"."

I also like this one, which seems to be supremely arrogant for a theist of any stripe:

"Rabbi Saadia Gaon considers something to be 'complete', if it lacks nothing, but also has nothing that is unneeded. He regards the foreskin an unneeded organ that God created in man, and so by amputating it, the man is completed."


"Talmud professor Daniel Boyarin offered two explanations for circumcision. One is that it is a literal inscription on the Jewish body of the name of God in the form of the letter "yud" (from "yesod"). The second is that the act of bleeding represents a feminization of Jewish men, significant in the sense that the covenant represents a marriage between Jews and (a symbolically male) God."

But, right, the real lunacy is coming from those - including some Jews - who think it's not right to be cutting off parts of baby boys' penises.

Your claim that there are "no known ill-effects to circumcision" is questionable, at best, but at the very least it clearly excludes the (very, very, very old - so traditional!!) practice of Metzitzah b'peh, which involves the mohel sucking blood from the circumcision wound. That practice, which involves direct oral contact, has been connected to cases of herpes transmission, and at least one death. Can you believe that some (no doubt self-hating) Rabbis have since determined that it might be an improvement upon the procedure to suck the blood from the wound with a glass tube, rather than allowing direct mouth contact with the wound?

The anti-semitism charge is completely bogus.

What happened to conservative love of small, local self-government - or do you only love it when it works to further a pre-approved list of conservative pet causes?

San Franciscans ought to be able to call out an unnecessary medical procedure that involves cutting off part of an infant's genitals and simply say that it's unacceptable. To call circumcision "childcare" is ludicrous.

Snake-handling - esp. that involving children - by the general public and in religious ceremonies is generally discouraged, and is legally banned in at least 3 states. Kentucky's law even mentions religion specifically. Is that wrong?

"One can only hope that such ilk does not spread further than the Bay Area."

Sorry, but I think a similar initiative is under way in Santa Monica.

Edit and correction: Meant to write:

"How can EFFORTS TO BAN/OUTLAW a procedure which is performed on approx. 60% (at least) of newborn boys in the U.S. be described as "anti-Semitic at its core"?

Also, looking at the link within the link from AD, it appears that the current rate is a good bit lower than what I claimed (it has dropped fast in just a few years - the anti-semitic forces are on the march!!), HOWEVER, the statistical map would seem to be entirely consistent with my claim that circumcision is very far from being just a Jewish thing (it's just a lazy, passed-along thing for many non-Jews). Unless of course Kansas and Kentucky (and Wyoming, Oklahoma, and SC, etc.) have a lot more Jews than I ever would have guessed. Also, notice the low rate in... New York state.

Right, because if one loves localized government, one has then to automatically love anything that can get on a ballot. If San Francisco/California want to have a discussion on legalizing civil unions or marijuana, that's fine with me. If they want to have a discussion on criminalizing circumcision or the burka, or recognizing sharia law, that is not. And before you jump on the sharia law comment, there is a difference between the circumcision issue and that.

I didn't say that it was unique to the Jewish community, but it is an assault on their culture. Yes, many non-Jews and non-Muslims (perhaps an even greater number of Christians and non-theists) practice circumcision, but that does not alter the fact that it is a religious practice for millions. The government does have the power to ban or overrule religious practices if they have ill effects on the community, pose a danger to people, or are in disagreement with a general law. For example, we can try to make any type of accommodation that we can for Quakers, but in the end if they need to be drafted, they will be drafted. As much as some ancient cultures loved human sacrifice as a crucial role of their religion, we cannot allow the life of another human being to be taken. As much as some radical Christians think that abortion clinics are the work of Satan, they can't go on a crusade blowing them up. As much as some fundamentalist Muslims think that Sharia law is the supreme law of the land, they cannot have a system of justice that trumps the civic law of the land-- they are not allowed to play judge, jury, and executioner in their own courts. Circumcision has no known adverse effects, meaning that this law is therefor an unnecessary restriction on religious liberty.

Opponents to circumcision like to draw the comparison of it to female genital mutilation that is shamefully rampant in other nations, but this is a false comparison. The only ill medical effects that opponents claim is that it adversely effects sexual performance and rarely has procedural problems like any surgical work. Meanwhile, the CDC and UN have said studies suggest it reduces the risk of HIV and seems to have some good benefit against prostate cancer, but the general position of virtually all health studies is that there are no known significant risks or benefits to the practice. Thus the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, supported by the American Medical Association, is rightly that "parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child" and In the pluralistic society of the United States in which parents are afforded wide authority for determining what constitutes appropriate child-rearing and child welfare, it is legitimate for the parents to take into account cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions, in addition to medical factors, when making this choice."

Tim Rutten (not really much of a right winger) wrote in an LA Times commentary last week a good point:
"Somehow, we never seem to learn: Privately practiced, temperance is a virtue; the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act were social insanity.
What's at work here is a kind of narcissism empowered by the particular moral authority our current outlook grants to those who count themselves aggrieved. In this instance, the group behind the San Francisco proposition is made up of people who call themselves "intactivists" — you really can't make this stuff up — and all seem to bear some sort of simmering resentment over a choice they believe their parents usurped from them.
That's the sort of issue you work out in therapy, not at a polling place."

"Circumcision has no known adverse effects, meaning that this law is therefor an unnecessary restriction on religious liberty."

I think you're playing a bit fast and loose with the facts there. And again, you're obviously avoiding the Metzitzah b'peh issue - a traditional, Orthodox practice involving the circumcision ritual.

When it comes to specific, after-the-fact health impacts, a reasonable person MIGHT fairly call it a coin-toss (when also considering the small number of possible health benefits), but debate of this sort leaves out the most salient aspect of circumcision - the removal of a significant, fleshy element of the male genitalia. I think that very much qualifies as a "known adverse effect."

(search within for a debunking of the HIV claim)
Rutten's point that the circumcision opponents "all seem to bear some sort of simmering resentment over a choice they believe their parents usurped from them" - but that's because it is absolutely true. The adult child baptized a Catholic who wishes he/she had been given a choice on the baptism matter may - in a worst case scenario - choose to "work out in therapy" any perceived problems, but will have no physical scars from their parents' decision. Not true for the circumcision recipient (regardless of religious and/or cultural motivation by the parents). Their parents DID, in fact, usurp the choice from them. Rutten's mocking tone doesn't make that fact any less true.

"The government does have the power to ban or overrule religious practices if they have ill effects on the community, pose a danger to people..."

Again, removing part of one's genitalia would seem to qualify for that 2nd thing...

"I didn't say that it was unique to the Jewish community, but it is an assault on their culture."

Well, your post title - calling it "anti-semitism" when, in fact, large numbers of Muslims and non-Jews of all kinds (at least in the USA) have engaged in the activity, would seem to suggest that it was a direct attack on Jews, or that Jews somehow own circumcision. Look at that map of circ. rates (in my last post, w/ my correction) - and tell me again how this is some targeting of the Jews. Also, I don't really get that idea; if one truly hates the Jews, why bother to care what they do to their babies? What a bunch of nonsense.

Here's an idea: Religions should aim to eliminate pointless and painful rituals, esp. those performed on babies who have no choice in the matter, and have no way to comprehend the ritual's alleged significance. So, Jews, Muslims, and whoever else - give it a rest with the circumcision already.

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that no religion is currently (that I'm aware of) removing kidneys, testicles, ribs, external ear parts, or any other body parts seen as expendable for whatever ridiculous reason.

I find it odd that this means there may actually be a place in America where removing a baby's foreskin is illegal while aborting it in the womb is not.

What in the h e double L toothpicks does anyone expect from the bluest state/city in the country? I live 35 miles from San Francisco and know it well. The city is going broke. They can't afford the pensions of its retired work force. Familes who want to raise children will not live there. The streets are full of "The Homeless" which in reality are nothing but drunks and drug addicts. If you don't believe me go to the city and give one of the "Homeless" people begging for money on the street $20 bucks. Then follow them and they will lead you to the nearest liquor store or drug supplier. San Fran is a dirty, crime-ridden, lost and crazy city. And now they are worried about circumciscion. The city of SF makes taxpayers pay for gender-changing operations and now they want to outlaw circumcision????? You just can't make this stuff up.

A couple of days ago The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a case "Making" California release 46,000 prisons due to health care problems in the prison system. And SF wants to outlaw circumcision???? You just can't make this stuff up.

California is the bright shining failure of liberalism/progressivsim and run by crazy Democrats for the past 40 years. Liberalism does not work and it is a mental illness - Just think - California - the Stupid State and San Francisco the Stupid City. Nothing normal or good comes from either.

"As much as some radical Christians think that abortion clinics are the work of Satan, they can't go on a crusade blowing them up."

What about pulling a Scott Roeder? Is that okay? It doesn't involve an explosion, but it's still very much a righteous crusade kind of behavior.

I await your blog post about recent legislative bills in Nebraska, Iowa, and S. Dakota aiming to make the murder of abortion doctors a form of justifiable homicide.

You know who wants us to not circumcize our boys and abort our children? The Arabs. And Craig Scanlon.

The funniest/scariest thing about commenters like Hal Holst is that it's now virtually impossible to distinguish between Hal and a satirical troll form of Hal.

Yes, Hal, the Arabs want to stop circumcision. But they also (since I'm sure you've long ago dispensed with any distinction between Ay-Rabs and Moz-lums) are dead set on bringing Sharia law to the USA, right?

Don't let facts stand between you and The All-American Truth!

Isn't it even more amusing that Supreme Court Justices like Elena Kagan and ex-presidential contenders like Hillary Clinton want a "living and breathing" Constitution but have no problem with aborting a living and breathing six month old fetus. Liberalism is ....

Eugene Volokh intelligently addresses this matter at I think he's right that this is less a matter of religious freedom than it is one or parental right.

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