October 4, 2011
California Governor Signs Law to Protect Circumcision
Today's New York Times reported that California Governor, Jerry Brown, on Sunday signed a bill that prevents local governments from banning the practice of male circumcision. The measure was drafted in response to efforts in San Francisco and Santa Monica to outlaw circumcision for any males under 18 years old. Jews and Muslims had argued that the ban would have violated their free expression of religion.
The effort to ban male circumcision in Santa Monica and San Francisco began earlier this year. Proponents argued that the ban would protect children from an unnecessary medical procedure, something they termed "male genital mutilation." They wanted ballot initiatives that, if successful, would enable municipalities to criminalize the procedure. Jewish groups saw the ballot measures as a very real threat, likening them to bans on circumcision that existed in Soviet-era Russia and Eastern Europe and in ancient Roman and Greek times. Meanwhile, many medical groups take a neutral approach, saying that the practice is not harmful and that not enough scientific evidence exists to conclude that it is necessary. Accordingly, they maintain, the decision should be left with the child's parents and their doctor.
I agree. Whatever their reasons for wanting their sons circumcised, parents should be allowed to decide without governmental interference. I wonder, however, whether Governor Brown, by signing the bill into law, has involved the government in a religious debate. I have not yet made up my mind...
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