FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Abby Michelson Porth
121 Steuart Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
COMMUNITY LEADERS CRITICIZE INITIATIVE TO BAN CIRCUMCISION
May 18, 2011 … San Francisco, CA. Today, medical professionals, legal scholars, and diverse faith community leaders expressed deep concern about and strong opposition to a San Francisco ballot measure, which would make circumcision a crime, punishable by up to a year in jail.
The United States Constitution protects the rights of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children, including the religious decision to circumcise their infant sons. Professor Joel Paul, Associate Dean of UC Hastings School of Law, explained "The proposed ordinance targets a well-established religious practice of Jews and Moslems and denies parents a right to make a fundamental decision about the religious upbringing of their children. The Constitution does not permit government to restrict the free exercise of religion under these circumstances without a showing of some overwhelming compelling governmental interest. In this case there is no such justification."
For thousands of years, Jews around the world have practiced this ritual, which is fundamental to the practice of Judaism. Muslims also consider circumcision central to their faith. Federal law protects parents' rights to direct the religious upbringing and education of their children in their early and formative years.
Maha El Genaidi, Executive Director of the Islamic Networks Group, stated "Circumcision is required for Muslim males in emulation of the Prophet Abraham. This procedure usually occurs after birth in the hospital and causes minimal pain to the infant, similar to other procedures that are routinely conducted such as immunizations for newborns. 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."
Reverend James DeLange, Chair of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, stated "We, representing diverse communities of faith throughout San Francisco, are deeply troubled by this proposed ballot initiative. It would turn back the clock on a right that is fundamental to the founding of this country – the right to the free exercise of religion. People of all religions, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds have sought a new life in San Francisco to pursue religious liberty."
Reverend Amos Brown, President of the NAACP, San Francisco stated "In America, under the Constitution, we are guaranteed freedom of religion. We should not waste citizens' time and money on a measure that violates the religious choice of persons who, out of their tradition practice circumcision, and who make this choice for their children for medical and health reasons."
Commitments to Oppose Proposed Ballot Measure Banning Circumcision
Local Jewish Organizations and Rabbis
1. Jewish Community Relations Council
2. Jewish Community Federation
3. Anti Defamation League
4. American Jewish Committee
5. Jewish Study Network
6. Meira Academy
7. Rabbi Mona Alfi, Congregation B'nai Israel, Sacramento
8. Rabbi Mark Bloom, Temple Beth Abraham, Oakland
9. Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, Congregation Beth Israel, Berkeley
10. Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley
11. Rabbi Dennis J. Eisner, Peninsula Temple Beth El
12. Rabbi Micah Hyman, Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco
13. Rabbi Mark Melamut, Congregation B'nai Emunah, San Francisco
14. Rabbi Sydney Mintz, Congregation Emanu El, San Francisco
15. Rabbi Stephen Pearce, Congregation Emanu El, San Francisco
16. Rabbi Larry Raphael, Congregation Sherith Israel, San Francisco
17. Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz, Congregation Adath Israel, San Francisco
18. Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Congregation Sherith Israel, San Francisco
19. Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi, Congregation Chevra Thilim, San Francisco
20. Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club
21. Temple Beth Abraham, Oakland
1. Archbishop George Niederauer, Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco
2. Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California
3. Bishop Mark Holmerud*, Lutheran Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
4. Council on American Islamic Relations – San Francisco Bay Area
5. David Lee, Grand Executive, Chinese American Citizens Alliance
6. His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco
7. Imam Abdurrahman Anwar, Yaseen Foundation
8. Imam Ilyas Anwar, South Valley Islamic Community
9. Imam Tahir Anwar, South Bay Islamic Association, San Jose
10. Imam Zaid Shakir*, Zaytuna College
11. Islamic Networks Group
12. Marin Interfaith Council
13. Monsignor John Talesfore, Pastor and Rector, Saint Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco
14. Muslim American Society - Bay Area
15. Reverend Amos Brown, NAACP Bay Area, Third Baptist Church
16. Reverend David Brown, Calvary Presbyterian Church of San Francisco
17. Reverend Canon Charles P. Gibbs*, Executive Director of United Religions Initiative
18. Reverend Carol Hovis, Marin Interfaith Council
19. Reverend Jim Kitchens, Calvary Presbyterian Church of San Francisco
20. Reverend James DeLange, San Francisco Interfaith Council
21. Right Reverend William Swing, Founder and President of United Religions Initiative
22. San Francisco Interfaith Council
23. Yaseen Foundation
1. Bevan Dufty, Former San Francisco Supervisor
2. California State Senator Mark Leno
3. California State Senator Leland Yee
4. San Francisco City Assessor Phil Ting
5. San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu
6. San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen
7. San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd
8. San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell
9. San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
10. San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener
Medical and Research Authorities*
1. Dr. Laurence Baskin, UCSF Children's Hospital, Professor and Chief of Urology and Pediatrics
2. Dr. Martin Brotman, President, Sutter Health West Bay
3. Dr. Sang-ick Chang, Chief Medical Officer, Alameda County Medical Center
4. Dr. Craig Cohen, Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, UC San Francisco
5. Dr. Gary Gershony, Interventional Cardiologist, John Muir Cardiovascular Institute
6. Dr. Carol Roberts Gerson, Physician and Mohelet
7. Dr. Mark Glasser, Obstetrician/Gynecologist
8. Dr. Daniel Halperin, Lecturer in Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health
9. Dr. Robert Kahn, Urologist, Pan Pacific Urology, San Francisco
10. Dr. Brian Kaye, Rheumatologist and Internist, Berkeley
11. Dr. Brian McBeth, Department of Emergency Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital and Clinical Assistant Professor, University of California, San Francisco
12. Dr. Jeffery J. Rabinovitz, Pediatrician
13. Dr. Michael Rokeach, Chief of Medical Staff, California Pacific Medical Center
14. Jeff Spieler, Office of Population and Reproductive Health, USAID
15. Dr. Kevin Tabb, Chief Medical Officer, Stanford Hospital and Clinics
16. Dr. Lory David Wiviott, Infectious Disease Specialist, California Pacific Medical Center
Higher Education Endorsements
1. Dr. Natalie Berg*, Trustee, San Francisco Community College Board
2. Jeffrey Fang*, Student Trustee, San Francisco Community College Board
3. Peter Goldstein*, Vice Chancellor, San Francisco Community College
4. Dr. Don Griffin*, Chancellor, San Francisco Community College
5. Professor Joel Paul, Associate Dean, UC Hastings College of Law
6. University of San Francisco
*Affiliation for identification purposes only
National Organizations and Individuals
1. American Jewish Committee
2. American Islamic Fellowship of Atlanta
3. American Muslim Voice Foundation
4. Anti Defamation League
5. Berit Mila Program of Reform Judaism and the National Organization of American Mohalim
6. B'nai B'rith International
7. Central Conference of American Rabbis
8. El-Tawhid Juma Circle: A Coalition of Gender-Equal/GLBTQ-Friendly Mosques in North America
9. Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
11. Jewish Council for Public Affairs
12. Jewish Federations of North America
13. Jewish Labor Committee
14. Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
15. Jewish War Veterans of the USA
16. International Rabbinic Fellowship
17. Islamic Society of North America
18. Light of Reformation Mosque of D.C
19. Muslim Nurses Association
20. National Council of Jewish Women
21. Rabbinical Assembly
22. Rabbinical Council of America
23. Rabbi Jason Herman, New York
24. Rabbi Irwin Kula, National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
25. Rabbi Judd E. Kruger Levingston, Philadelphia
26. Rabbi Jay Moses, New York
27. Temple Israel, Natick, Massachusetts
28. Union for Reform Judaism
29. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
30. United Muslims of America
31. United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
32. United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism
33. Unity Mosque of Toronto
Proposed Criminalization of – and Ban on – Circumcision in San Francisco
FAQs prepared by the Committee for Parental Choice & Religious Freedom
May 20, 2011
Q: What does this ballot initiative say?
A: The ballot initiative would make it unlawful and criminal to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.
Q: Is there an exception to this proposed law for the religious practice of circumcision in the Muslim and Jewish communities?
A: No. The initiative would make circumcision lawful only if there is a "clear, compelling, and immediate medical need with no less-destructive alternative treatment available."
Q: What is the proposed penalty of this initiative?
A: This initiative would criminalize performing circumcision, putting any physician or religious clergy person who performs the procedure in county jail for up to a year, and/or punished with a fine of $1,000. The measure denies parents the right to choose, with the guidance of their physician or tradition, circumcision for their sons.
Q: Isn't this proposed initiative against the law?
A: Probably. California law prevents localities from prohibiting medical professionals from performing procedures within the scope of their profession. In addition, there are significant Constitutional law issues with this proposed measure because it would infringe upon the right to free exercise of religion.
Q: Isn't circumcision known to have medical benefits?
A: Yes. The World Health Organization reports: "There is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%." There are also medical reports of lower rates of penile cancer and urinary tract infections in circumcised males, and reduced cervical cancer in women whose partners are circumcised.
Q: Why can't we ignore this as a frivolous ballot measure?
A: Proponents of this initiative refer to "genital cutting" and "mutilation," implying that male circumcision is analogous to female genital mutilation and hoping to conceal from voters their attempt to criminalize a widely accepted procedure.
Q: How is male circumcision different from female genital mutilation?
A: Male circumcision has known and documented health benefits, and there is no credible medical evidence that male circumcision is harmful or prevents male sexual satisfaction. Its purpose is religious and for health benefits. In contrast, the World Health Organization states that female genital mutilation "includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons," that it "has no health benefits" and is "internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women." Female genital mutilation is performed for the explicit purpose of preventing female sexual satisfaction.
Q: Who has joined in the coalition against this proposed criminalization of circumcision?
A: Organizations and influential community leaders from across the nation, representing the medical, civil liberties, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, HIV research/advocacy, and choice communities are joining in coalition against this attack on parental choice and religious freedom. Join us!
Q: How do I support the coalition?
A: Sign this Petition, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and circulate this entire email widely!