By Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
First they came for people who sit and lie on sidewalks and I didn’t speak up because I don’t sit or sleep on sidewalks. Then they came for the Happy Meals and I did not speak up because I don’t eat happy meals.
Then they came for those who circumcise their sons and fortunately, there are plenty to speak up.
San Francisco is a favorite city of mine. I think I may have to reconsider.
The Happy Meal ban is dumb, but it doesn’t discriminate against a particular group. The circumcision ban would present a big problem for a lot of people. San Francisco “intactivists” are gathering the requisite signatures to place a circumcision ban on the ballot. If it gets on the ballot and gets enough votes, circumcision would be banned in San Francisco.
Judaism and Islam require male circumcision.
The proposed law raises some very interesting constitutional issues. It is very hard to prove discrimination against a religion. So long as there is another purpose for the law, besides discrimination, the law is likely to be upheld and not in violation of the “Free Exercise” Clause. If the proponents of the ban can show that there is a legal interest that is being protected by the law then it will likely be upheld.
The 14th Amendment protects a parent’s rights to make decisions for their child without interference from the government. The court has found that there is a Fundamental Right to “direct a child’s upbringing.” The issue here would be if there is a compelling government interest in banning circumcision. I don’t think the proposed law could withstand this challenge. If the court would not find that circumcision is part of “the upbringing of a child”, then the law would have a chance.
I can completely understand why someone who is not religious would not want to circumcise their son. I can even understand why they think it is wrong or inappropriate. However, for a person who is religious, their religion is their law and their life. The “intactivists” claim that religion is a choice and the baby cannot choose their religion when they are getting circumcised. I think that most children raised in a mildly religious environment with a basic appreciation for their traditions and practicing some of those traditions will be happy to continue in their tradition and would appreciate their parents’ role in helping them be a faithful member of that religion, even if it means circumcision.
The health benefits and detriments are neglible as science has shown. Circumcision is about religion and not about ancient medicine.
As an aside, my father is a mohel.
Meanwhile, the only thing this law would accomplish, even if passed, is that it would force Jews and Muslims who are compelled to circumcise their sons to either move out of San Francisco, or simply have the circumcision performed outside the city limits. Seems pretty silly to me…