A San Francisco ballot measure to ban circumcision is spurring charges of anti-Semitism while galvanizing faith leaders and politicians who believe the initiative threatens religious freedom.
"It's almost unbelievable that this made the ballot," said Rabbi Reuven Taff of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento. "It's discriminatory. Not only against Jewish families but also against Muslims and anybody else who has a strong tradition of circumcising their male children."
The initiative, which qualified for the San Francisco ballot in May, has drawn national attention. The measure would make circumcision illegal for boys under 18. Violators could face a year in jail or a fine of $1,000, or both.
If approved, it would become the first of its kind in the country.
Circumcision, removing the male foreskin, has biblical roots, and many believe it is commanded by God explicitly in a covenant with Abraham.
Supporters of the bill call circumcision "male genital mutilation" and say the argument that it is traditional does not mean circumcision is right.
The initiative allows for a medical exclusion, but not a religious exception.
"What it boils down to is this: People are removing healthy body parts from an unconsenting child," said Lloyd Schofield, the main proponent of the measure called the "San Francisco MGM Bill."
"Just because something has been done repeatedly doesn't make it moral or ethical," he said.
Schofield, who declines to say if he is circumcised, denies allegations that the bill is anti-Semitic.
"That just takes the focus away from what they are doing," Schofield said of the anti-Semitism charges.
Few outside San Francisco, the city that banned the McDonald's Happy Meal, noticed the measure until organizers announced that they had gathered the necessary 7,100 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
"Everything goofy comes out of San Francisco. A lot of people didn't take it seriously," said Sacramento physician Jeffery Rabinovitz, who also is a mohel, or person qualified to perform the rite of circumcision. "But they do now."
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