BY STAFF REPORTER
ARCHBISHOP George Niederauer called a proposed ban on circumcision that qualified for the November 8 ballot in San Francisco “a misguided initiative” and “an unconscionable violation of the sanctuaries of faith and family” by the city.
The archbishop made his comments in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He expressed support for an opinion piece by Rabbi Gil Leeds published in the newspaper three days after the San Francisco Department of Elections validated the 7,743 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, a BayArea organisation, is spearheading opposition and has formed the Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom.
An interfaith coalition that includes the Rev Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, and Jesuit Fr Stephen Privett, president of the University of San Francisco, also opposes the proposal as an infringement of religious liberty and parental rights.
The initiative would ban circumcision for any male under 18 except in cases of medical necessity. It says that religious belief could not be used as an exception to the law and violators could be fined up to $1,000 (£680) and imprisoned for up to one year.
Circumcision is a religious rite in most forms of Judaism and in Islam as well as a choice of other parents for nonreligious reasons, including tradition and hygiene. In the United States it is most frequently performed by a doctor in a hospital shortly after birth.
Lloyd Schofield, the initiative’s primary sponsor and part of a core committee of five working on the campaign, said: “Parents don’t have a right to harm their child. They can only do what is in the best interest of their child. I can guarantee a child being held down and having their genitals mutilated is not a religiously uplifting experience for the child.” Mr Schofield said men who want to undergo the procedure removing the penis’ foreskin may do so after they turn 18. Neither parental rights nor religious freedom is more important than stopping the practice, said Mr Schofield. He said he was raised Lutheran but practises no religion and has no children.
“This is an unnecessary harmful surgery that is being forced on men when they are most vulnerable and defenceless,” Mr Schofield said. “Less than three per cent of intact adult men choose to undergo the operation.”