I previously reported that the San Francisco Board of Elections received a petition to ban male circumcision on minors. The Elections Committee was to decide at their May 18 meeting whether to accept the petition for a November peoples' vote.
At Thursday's meeting, the conclusion was reached to create a ballot item for a possible amendment to San Francisco city law, as reported by JTA news service. It will be put up for a public vote along with state and local issues.
The Wall Street Journal initiated a May 21 opinion poll asking "Should male circumcision under 18 years old be banned in San Francisco?"
As of this writing (poll still open Monday), 73.6 percent of random internet responders had answered a resounding "No." If this is any indication of how most San Franciscans feel, placement on the ballot doesn't guarantee the measure will gain the popular vote and be enacted into city law.
Why did the Elections Committee accept the petition for a ballot?
Various federal, state and local requirements for a number of petition signatures are usually based on a certain percentage of the total population who will be involved in voting on any given issue. The group wanting the ban on circumcision was required to turn in 7,168 signatures, but turned in more than 12,000. The Committee may have been bound to abide by their set rule to allow a ballot item.
However, whereas the group led by an activist named Lloyd Schofield originally intended to call the bill the "Male Genital Mutilation Bill," the city will be using the words "male circumcision," according to Arutz Sheva Israel National News.
Religious and parental rights endangered
Encouraged by the San Francisco decision, a group in Santa Monica is already circulating a similar "stop male circumcision" petition. This could mean a major shift in parental and religious rights in California, a state that sometimes leads the nation into new cultural territory.
As evidenced in the previous article, such a bill presents First Amendment issues for Jewish and Muslim families who believe in male circumcision during infancy or boyhood. In addition, while some Jewish denominations consider it a direct order from God in the Torah, Jews who are less religious often still do the circumcision as a vital part of their cultural tradition (per Rabbi Gil Leeds, SFGate, May 20).
It's also a parental rights issue for parents nationwide who circumcise their male babies for abundant health reasons. Liberal U.S. children's rights groups have already aligned with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, a bill that received a big push forward from Hillary Clinton when she was leading the U.N. Conference on the Rights of Women.
This U.N. bill seems pretty protective of children on the surface, highlighting a drive against domestic abuse, child slavery, sex trafficking of minors and physical abuse like tribal-ritual female genital mutilation (which can devastate a woman's health, contrary to male circumcision which normally protects the health, according to CDC statistics).
But within this U.N. language, as with any broadly worded legal document, are opportunities for special interest groups to universally strip parents of many reasonable rights and upbringing privileges over their children. These could include:
* The right to know if a daughter has an abortion.
* The right to share religious traditions.
* The right to bring a runaway child home, even where there is no proof of parental abuse.
No meeting notes on this issue from the San Francisco Elections Committee have yet been made public. The most recent full meeting notes posted are from January.
Sheryl Young has been freelance writing for newspapers, magazines, organizations and websites since 1997. Her specialty is American politics, education and society as they intersect with religion. Credits include Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune Newspaper, Interview Columnist with Light & Life Magazine, and a National First Place "Roaring Lambs" Writing Award from the Amy Foundation.