San Francisco’s Circumcision Ban: Nipping Freedom in the Bud

Two lines of long-standing Supreme Court precedents suggest that, if challenged as a violation of the federal Constitution, the San Francisco circumcision ban would be declared unconstitutional. The First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion clause, as applied to the States, bans any state action that would interfere with one's legitimate religious beliefs and customs. Banning circumcision without any religious exemption would destroy an essential ritual in the Jewish religion that does nothing less than link Jewish males to God.

The seminal case Employment Division v. Smith speaks to this issue. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an Oregon law that banned the possession/use of peyote despite the fact that the ban interfered with the petitioners' church's ceremonies that required peyote. The majority found that the Free Exercise Clause does not ban all laws that affect religion, but rather only those that directly ban a specific religious practice, like banning the Christian tradition of using your hand to designate a cross across your chest and head or banning the reading of Old Testament scrolls in Hebrew or in a tune. In contrast, Oregon's law was one of "neutral law of general applicability." It applied to everyone, not just those who wanted to use peyote for religious reasons. And, the only time religious observance can exempt you from neutral laws of general applicability is when your religious right is bound up with or accompanied by another right. For example, the government cannot force the Amish to send their children to school not only because Anabaptists forbid it, but also because parents have the right to raise and educate their children. It is as if by impacting two rights — the freedom to follow your religious beliefs and the right to raise your child as you see fit — the otherwise generally applicable law went too far.

Notably, Justice O'Connor's concurrence and the dissent disagreed with this analysis and while I sympathize with that position, it is not the law… yet. Still, Justice O'Connor and the dissent would have simply applied the traditional "compelling interest" test, asking if the state had a compelling interest to interfere with the petitioners' religious freedom and did so in a "narrowly tailored" way. Justice O'Connor said yes, noting that, as a Schedule I narcotic, peyote has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use, and lacks any safety standards for using the drug under medical supervision. Justice Blackmun's dissent said no, focusing instead on the fact that churchs' use of peyote is so minimal that the State's compelling interest in eradicating drug use could still be realized with a narrower law that accepted the religious needs of the few.

In any event, pursuant to Justice Scalia's majority opinion, the question is whether this ban implicates a second right?

This two-right analysis suggests that the San Francisco circumcision could fail under a Free Exercise challenge, even under the weaker Free Exercise clause post-Employment Division v. Smith. Not only does the ban interfere with a specific religious ritual, but it also impedes parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit. This long line of cases — including, Pierce v. Society of Sisters (ban on non public schools unconstitutional) and Meyer v. Nebraska (declaring a ban on foreign language education unconstitutional) — suggests that parents have the fundamental right to govern the development of their children.

But, does it? Most of the cases in this area of law deal with education — the parents' right to send their children to Catholic schools, teach their children German or shield them from certain school subjects. The fact that parents have a fundamental right to educate their children as they see fit does not necessarily mean that parents have a fundamental right to do whatever they want to their children. That will be the circumcision ban's defense in federal court. I would argue that Justice O'Connor's analytical structure in Employment Division makes more sense, but, in the alternative, the language of the parental rights decisions speaks volumes to the Court's view that even though educational issues were in front of them, the members of the Court were speaking to a broader parental right to raise children. And, besides, a circumcision could be seen as an educational tool, one essential for a Jewish person to understand his people's traditions, customs and liturgy.

These constitutional arguments have been hidden behind nonsensical rhetoric and conspiracy theories. The phrase "male genital mutilation" is outrageous, considering anyone can muster as many, if not more, scientific facts in support of the health benefits of circumcision as proponents' can offer on the other side. And, the ban's main proponent, an anti-circumcision crusader named Lloyd Schofield has other unfortunate rhetoric: "Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what's in the best interest of the child. It's his body. It's his choice." Huh? If guardians have to do what is in the best interest of the child, how is it the child's choice?

At its core, this debate is not about facts, but about competing values and how far a municipality would like to go in regulating the conduct of its residents. And the fact that neither side could satisfy the other with facts — I am reminded of the classic Homer Simpson line: "Facts shmacts. Facts can be used to prove anything that's even remotely true!" — this leads to heated rhetoric, questioning the values and intentions of your opponents and conspiratorial claims like this one from an Orthodox Jewish rabbi: "The city of San Francisco knows it can't do anything about it's worst enemy, the right of Israel to exist, so it's taking out its hatred of Jews by banning our religious rituals." That is about as likely as you missing the repeated double entendre in the first two sentences of this post.

A society based on individual freedom must accomodate the legitimate religious observances of its citizens. It sometimes must do so in spite of generally applicable laws. But, it is not clear to me that the best way to decide when to allow religion to overide other laws is when there is another right also implicated. It minimizes the importance of religious observance to adherents and suggests that the freedom of religion itself is not compelling enough in our conception of liberty. Then again, maybe that is a good thing. A society cannot tolerate pretenses of religious observance as a way of excluding people from the rule of law; otherwise, we would be allowing certain religious people to commit human sacrifices if their religion calls for it. This is not simply a question of line drawing. Rather, it is a question of values and whether the Free Exercise Clause means that your individual rights are primary or whether your religious rights also serve some democratic or civic value. Under either theory, this ban is inappropriate and, in the end, will probably fail at the ballot box anyway.

(image source)


  1. peter says

    So clitoris amputation should be allowed as well? Or the more intrusive forms of “female genital mutilation”. Although I guess “mutilation” is not the word, the parents have the freedom/right to do whatever they want with their children. Hey, if some religious cretin decides having the hands amputated guarantees going to heaven there will be always some idiots who will do it to their children with the “best of intentions” at heart. As to the so called “health benefits” of circumcision, that’s a child’s tale, which can be dissmissed easily. Hygiene and education are needed to avoid any “problems” circumcision allegedly solves. Debate is useful and valid as long as it’s rational. Choping bits of a boy’s body when he cannot choose otherwise or defend himself is not rational. Those who are “for” it, only find justifications more or less in the realm of stupidity and ignorance.

  2. Bobby says

    The author says “A society cannot tolerate pretenses of religious observance as a way of excluding people from the rule of law; otherwise, we would be allowing certain religious people to commit human sacrifices if their religion calls for it”. I would argue that the genital mutilation of newborns would fall under the same category.

    Let anyone get circumcised who wants to! When they’re old enough to decide for themselves!

    Circumcision became a “religious rite” because ancient societies didn’t have soap and water to keep their foreskins clean. Now that we do, it’s time to outlaw this barbaric ritual.

  3. Circumcised says

    I disagree that this ban is inappropriate. I think it’s totally appropriate. If male circumcision is allowed under the guise of freedom of religion then other religious mutilation practices such as female circumcision would hold as well. A religions ancient barbaric customs should not be allowed in a free and liberal society. This is not about excluding the Jews or hating the Jews, but about a barbaric practice that needs to stop. If you disagree then maybe we should stone you (another religious practice). If as an adult, a religious male wants to get circumcised, then it should be akin to plastic surgery, and he has the freedom to do so. However, a child does not have that right, and you are taking away HIS freedom.

  4. BenB says

    Bodily integrity as a human right should trump free exercise of religion. If people want to voluntarily be circumcised when they are old enough to make an informed decision, then that’s fine, but newborn infants that are too young for anaesthetic and may well leave the Jewish faith, their right to an intact foreskin should take priority to the will of their parents. Were the religious custom to remove the hands of newborn infants, it would have been banned long ago. Female Genital Mutilation, also done for religious/cultural reasons (with much smaller lobby groups), is already banned. As for the alleged positive health benefits of circumcision, they remain unproven for a reason. Anecdotal evidence exists on both sides, showing that the issue clearly remains contentious, making personal choice a much better mechanism for circumcision than parental. I know I’d be very unhappy with my penis had I been circumsized. My partner was, and is. And if you can’t be bothered to wash under your foreskin, which takes about two seconds, then there’s something wrong.

    I really don’t understand god’s foreskin fixation. He’s supposed to have invented the things, after all. Shouldn’t have bothered if they’re so awful.

  5. Mstrozfckslv says

    an out and out ban is wrong, forbidding it till one is 18 and can make their own choice is the way to go

    Bobby, not exactly true…..circumcision originated in pagan egypt and spread from there. It did not take hold in all cultures. It had very little to do with sanitation. Not eating pork also originated in pagan egypt

  6. Xavi says

    Ezra, this key point is, of course, subjective:

    “A society based on individual freedom must accomodate the legitimate religious observances of its citizens.”

    What is “legitimate”? I do not consider the removal of an infant’s genital tissues to be a “legitimate religious observance”. It is mutilation without consent.

    If an 18+ year old male wishes to surgically remove their foreskin for religious or medical purposes, by all means, allow them to do so.

  7. blatherer says

    Routine circumcision of boys is based on a whole host of old wives tales and is meant to control the sexuality of males. It is unheard of now to allow ritual circumcision of girls, and the same should hold true for boys. The old excuse that “it’s easier to clean” by women is hogwash. It is a legitimate part of the male anatomy, and people need to learn how to care for it, just like any other part of the body.

  8. Jim says

    I’m with the other commenters who feel circumcision IS a bodily mutilation that is inflicted upon children who never have any say in the matter. I’m fully supportive of a ban until the age of 18 at which point people can decide for themselves.

  9. bryce says

    ari – your approach to this topic is too defensive. i wouldnt attempt to argue against the select constitutional precedents you have laid out, but most readers should see past your tangential anecdotes and recognize that the deliberate denigration of the proponents of the ban is a result of an emotional response to the issue.

    a handful of my reactions to your essay:

    – the CCSF is not trying to ban circumcision, but rather citizens are attempting to use the initiative process to do the same. thats an important distinction that gets a bit lost in your writeup.

    -dwelling on the fact that judaic customs will be affected by this law only serves to bolster the lie that the suggested ban is somehow anti-semetic. your selective outrage should, along the same lines, see proposed bans on shark-finning as ‘anti-asian.’

    -focusing your analysis on the concepts of parental rights belittles the premise that this law is intended to protect the individual child. you may scoff at the phrase ‘male genital mutilation’ as sensationalistic, but it is hard, cold truth.

    -any male circumcised at birth can show real, lasting affects of the practice. no parent denied the right to circumcise their child could ever do the same. i believe that distinction has weight in our law, and should therefore significantly reduce the parental rights standing.

    i believe this proposal is intended more to start a conversation than it is to succeed at the ballot box and in the courts – and look how far it has come! i wish that, in addition, it was a deliberate attempt to shed light on the absurdity of the california initiative process (but lets save that conversation for another time). irregardlessley, there is clearly still much to resolve in a world where our various (but all supposedly inalienable) rights seem more and more difficult to reconcile.

    for the record: my name is bryce, i am a 29 year old gay man living in san francisco, was born into a jewish family and circumcised at 8-days old, and have not yet decided how i will vote on this proposal.

  10. Eugene says

    “A society based on individual freedom must accomodate the legitimate religious observances of its citizens.”

    It’s one thing to get circumcised. It’s another thing to circumcise a baby boy against his will. The former is a “legitimate religious observance”. The latter is genital mutilation.

  11. TampaZeke says

    Funny that Ari complains about misrepresentations surrounding this measure and then titles HIS post “San Francisco’s Circumcision BAN…” Which is an absolute misrepresentation. San Francisco is most certainly not BANNING circumcision. It’s banning INVOLUNTARY circumcision of defenseless boys. Men can be circumcised all they want, before and after this law hopefully passes.

    I support it for the very same reason that I’ve ALWAYS supported “MY body MY choice” and a woman’s right to choose. I can’t imagine how one could not be considered hypocritical to claim that a woman has a right to self determination about her body and that she should have the right to choose medical procedures done to her body but then not support the same right for males.

    Oh, and I find your graphic HIGHLY offensive!

    And before anyone goes down the typical road of calling me an over reactor or a crazy activist let me just disclose here and now that my penis was severely damaged (mutilated) in the process of my “routine circumcision”. I have since found that many, MANY more men have suffered the same fate but NEVER speak about it because of the abuse they get when they discuss circumcision. Well I’m speaking up, even though it’s embarrassing and humiliating. The choice should have been mine and I have NO recourse for what was inflicted upon me. It’s time that more people, those who are victims, feminists, people who believe in individual liberty, rights to bodily integrity and others who believe that chopping off healthy parts of little boys genitals for no reason (other than religion and misinformation) need to speak up as well.

  12. Jim says

    Sorry to double comment, but this quote definitely rubs me the wrong way: “The phrase “male genital mutilation” is outrageous, considering anyone can muster as many, if not more, scientific facts in support of the health benefits of circumcision as proponents’ can offer on the other side.”

    The effects of circumcision have long been disproved as having any significant health benefit. And cutting a piece of flesh from someone’s body IS mutilation. By definition. You can disagree that it’s a bad thing, but it’s hardly an “outrageous” claim to call something what it is.

  13. Joel says

    Circumcision as an adult is not a difficult process, and can be done under a local anesthetic. I have heard of it being done under a general anesthetic, but that is just a silly risk.

    The disadvantage of doing it as an adult is that is must be more expensive.

    Sometimes in puberty circumcision is necessary because the penis grows faster than the foreskin, and erections are uncomfortable and difficult. That happened to a guy I knew in high school. Once circumcised, everything was just fine.

    Anyway, there is no particular reason to do it to an infant, except for the religious tradition.

  14. says

    I’ve always found it odd that circumcision is the norm in America. It seems logical that if people want to chop a bit off themselves they should be allowed to but it should be their decision. So I think it’s a good idea. I could always get circumcised now if I wanted to but I’m not a starfish I can’t grow back missing parts.

  15. Mstrozfckslv says


    that is not true

    there are questionable studies that show such but there are just as many questionable studies that show the opposite

    In other words there is no definitive scientific evidence either way that circumcision does or does not prevent the spread of HIV

  16. says

    I was born and raised in SF (Galileo HS/SFU), now married to an Irishman, live on Russian Hill. When our son was born we endured great pressure from family/friends to have him cut but Mike and I were adamant that the decision remain with our son. Mike is uncircumcised while I am circumcised and feel to this day my parents should have left the decision to me. It is my body. We will vote to block circumcision. No one, including a church or religion, should have the right to mutilate your body.

    Btw, I feel the same way about dogs and cats. Nature gave them tails for a reason. ( Nor should we snip their ears or remove their nails. )

  17. Chadd says

    An example of cutting off a hand in the name of religion is extreme and not really a good example because it would leave the person disabled. Circumcision is not disabling, so a closer comparison would be a religion who thought it was appropriate to cut the ears of their offspring into points like Spock. Not disabling, but still disfiguring. Our society probably would have banned ear chopping on humans just as we are starting to do on Dobermans. Just because the circumcision is not on display does not mean it is not disfiguring.

    Sorry, Mr Waldman, performing an unnecessary and irreversible surgical procedure on another human without that human’s consent is just plain wrong.

  18. Rob says

    It is appalling that anyone would be able to cut off a functioning, pleasure-filled, useful part of another person’s body before they give consent. If people want to get a circumcision when they’re fully able to when they’re older, that’s fine. But to take away a part of somebody, that’s outrageous.

    People with foreskins can masturbate (yes, I said it) without spitting on their d-ck or going to the drugstore to find lube or improvising with shampoo or conditioner (ouch it stings). People with foreskins can glide their hand up and down their shaft and get pure pleasure with no lubrication. It’s a protective sheath.

    Circumcision started in America as an antidote to masturbation and the fear of sex and pleasure. It should not be continued.

    It’s a matter of human rights and bodily integrity.

  19. luminum says

    The issue here ISN’T one of religious freedom; it’s one of personal body rights and the freedom to make decisions about the way one’s body is handled when one is 1) not in any serious medical peril and 2) old enough to make the decision.

    Barring very few exceptions that occur later in adolescence, such as phimosis, circumcision is unnecessary from a health perspective. Studies are finding that men have higher risk of STI infection when uncircumcised, but those studies (especially the ones about HIV) have not been generalized outside of a social-sexual and geopolitical context of sub-Africa. And with specific regard to the HIV studies that demonstrated reduced risk, the study showed reduced risk for heterosexual contact only. A similar study had to be halted early because it was clear that the same risk reduction of HIV infection was not applicable to men who have sex with men. (And this isn’t even to mention the thought process of pre-emptive body modification. Would we follow in the vein of women who get pre-emptive double mastectomies, pre-emptive tonsil removal, or pre-emptive appendix removal?)

    The concepts of “hygiene” and health concerns for uncircumcised men, in the context of a society where bathing occurs daily and water is plentiful is hardly an issue at all. It stands to reason that circumcision may have been given the boon of “hygiene” in societies and times when bathing was not regular, but if a man is showering and can take the 10 seconds to pull back his foreskin and give it a scrub, the concern goes out the door.

    In the end, this is about giving a child the freedom to choose whether or not they want a non-threatening, natural part of their body to be cut off or not for the rest of his life. Less and less do we accept the concept of corrective gender assignment surgery for intersexed newborns. If my religion believes in ritualistic non-threatening face-cutting or tatooing of newborns, why is this wrong compared to circumcision? If we balk at piercing a newborn’s ears, why is cutting off an envelope of skin off the penis–running the risk of damaging the sensitive glans–suddenly an issue of religious freedom and parents’ autonomy? Why would we feel free to make a non-threatening and, quite frankly, cosmetic decision about a child’s genitalia instead of allowing that child to make its decision later, even at age 11 or 15 or 18?

    We are at a place where we have to confront the sacred cows we hypocritically uphold and recognize that, in the context of our society, they are the product of tradition and nothing more. We circumcise at birth because we believe in it religiously or ritualistically or because we believe old wive’s tales that no longer apply. Barring serious medical concerns, what reason is there against waiting?

    A parent will never have to live with a circumcised penis, but the child does. If he happens to enjoy it, then the situation is only incidentally a non-issue. But if the child doesn’t enjoy it, he is the one who will have to live with his parents’ cosmetic choices on his body for the rest of his life. Circumcised men are not disfigured, and I hate it when the circ/uncirc debate goes toward making circumcised men feel that way about their bodies, but they ARE robbed of choice, whether or not it is the choice they would have made anyway.

  20. Rob says

    The health benefits are so minimal as to be almost ridiculous when it makes people think there’s like a double digit increase in benefit. The benefit is in the scheme of things small.

    The HIV studies were flawed. Go ahead, make your own decision on the facts.

  21. beth says

    If my clitoral hood (which is analogous to the foreskin) was removed against my will, I would consider that mutilation – and that is a considerably smaller piece of flesh than a foreskin.

    And you can’t use the freedom of religion argument to defend circumcision because the procedure is essentially forcing that religion onto someone else.

  22. Thomas says

    Circumcision should be banned except in the event of medical necessicity.

    One cannot claim religion for every time one wants to have power over (that is in this case chopping off another part of a person’s organ without their consent and which is an irreversible procedure) another person. It’s just wrong.

  23. says

    I love my canadian uncut penis.

    recently, my friends had a baby. Jewish couple. Husband did not want the son circumcised, wife did. “it’s our religion!” she cried. “it’s his penis!” said the father.

    the father “won”, but really, the kid won.

    don’t cut your kid’s foreskin off. please. don’t. if he wants it removed later in life, he can get it done then.

  24. says

    If these comments are any indication, the SF ban appears to have significant support.

    My strong feeling is that this is a human rights issue. We should have the right to do what we wish to our own bodies, but only after reaching an age where were are capable of making adult decisions. Removing the most sensitive part of baby’s penis solely under the guise of religious tradition or better sanitation is a slippery slope to debate, as ultimately it comes down to an individual’s right to have control over their own physical body.

    Botched circumcisions (I’ve seen a few in my time!) and the mental anguish that is caused by them should be enough to rule this practice obsolete. It’s the religious tradition that I believe largely maintains it in place. And this is more problematic for me, because I believe in religious freedoms (eg. I’m against the French ban on women wearing burqas in public). The difference here though is that if a woman chooses, as an adult, not to practice her religion, she can remove the burqa and go on with her life. If an adult male chooses the same, he cannot replace his foreskin.

    So I believe that the ban should be in place for males under the age of 18. For ALL males. I don’t believe that religious tradition should usurp an individual’s rites for control over their own body. I had this choice taken away from me, under the guise of tradition, and it’s a choice I wish I had been able to make myself (I would def. not have chosen to be circumcised).

    There’s a great site in support of a national ban.

    I have no problem with an adult man choosing to be circumcised. I have a major problem with a baby or child being circumcised before they have any concept of what this actually means.

  25. esurience says

    Religion has nothing to do with this. Keep in mind that laws aren’t supposed to favor religion either, and if cutting off part of a penis wasn’t something practiced by certain religions, we wouldn’t be having a debate at all about whether it should be banned. Imagine that cutting off part of the penis wasn’t a religious custom — who the hell would argue against a law that prevented parents from doing that to their children? NO ONE. That settles it. That’s as complicated of an analysis as one needs to perform.

    The idea that religious freedom can allow you to cut off part of your kids penis (without their consent), but not, under your own volition, ingest a drug that doesn’t cause harm, is absurd and obscene.

    There’s no debate to be had here, the issue is crystal clear. And anyone who doesn’t think so has had their moral compass thoroughly confused by religion. Your religious beliefs do not allow you to inflict harm on non-consenting 3rd parties. Heck, under current jurisprudence, they don’t even allow you to inflict harm to *yourself* (arguably that was decided wrong, but considering that that is the current state of affairs it really makes the debate we’re having now seem super-ridiculous).

  26. Robbie says

    Ugh! The headline is so biased. It’s not “freedom” to take away something that’s not yours to begin with, namely a foreskin. It’s not an objective headline. In fact, it’s very skewed and doesn’t address the real issue…

    The city of San Francisco is doing what should be done to allow everyone to grow up with their own body, all of it, and to make that decision later if they want to. Even though the benefits of a foreskin far outweigh not having one (no keratinized head, natural gliding, protection over a sensitive area, no chafing, etc.).

  27. Vlad says

    A newborn cannot choose whether or not to belong to whatever religious sect the parents adhere to. Therefore mutilating any part of their body to fulfill some religious duty is utterly barbaric. I hope this passes and that San Francisco is only the beginning.

  28. Will says

    @Robert, what’s worse for me is that I wasn’t born Jewish but I had my bits chopped off anyway. If I lived in SF, I would definitely be voting for the ban until 18.

    I strongly encouraged my siblings not to circumsize their sons. I’m glad they listened and did not. I am jealous of my nephews. And I hold nothing but contempt for the doctor and my parents (on this issue) who allowed it to happen with the excuse that everybody does it.

  29. Mstrozfckslv says

    touching on the “religious” aspect

    1- the oldest versions of Torah have the entire story of Abraham except the part about the covenant being sealed with circumcision. circumcision is not mentioned at all

    2- the earliest form of circumcision came about due to influence of pagan egypt and only required a sliver to be removed not the entire foreskin

    3- Rabbi Moses Maimonides in the 12th century stated that circumcision was for desensitizing the penis and to curb masturbation

    There are Jewish groups against circumcision and believe that modern Judaism requires overturning a barbaric tradition that has no spiritual connection

  30. Aedan says

    @Robert: technically you can get a foreskin back. Not the original one obviously, but there are methods. Just google it. Not hard.

    My opinion on this topic? Equating Male Circumcision to Female Circumcision is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. There is absolutely no comparison. The effects are entirely different. And I also think that an across-the-board ban on circumcision is also patently ridiculous. Would this include consenting adults? Men born with certain disorders where the foreskin doesn’t allow the head of the penis to show when erect? While I don’t agree with any ban I feel that if one WERE to be implemented it would need an age requirement- like it is illegal until you are 16 or something.

    To put it simply- there have been absolutely no credible cases that I can find that point to circumcision at birth being a source of trauma nor a inhibitor of sexual pleasure. Every single time I hear “you lose a lot of sensation with a circumcision” I ask them how they found out. Every single person I’ve met who has received a circumcision late in life tends to say the exact opposite. The sensation may be different, but the pleasure one experiences is not dulled.

    Outside of any of this- if they do manage to ban male circumcision in San Fransisco that will do very little to curb who does or does not get circumcised. Those of the jewish faith, or anyone who wants their child circumcised for different reasons, will simply take a day trip directly outside the city and get it done where San Fransisco laws have absolutely no jurisdiction. A city-wide ban will do nothing. So frankly I could care less if SF bans this. Sure I feel like the outrage concerning it is hyperbolic to say the least- but it’s your opinion. I just feel that if you want to convince people of your side it’s best not to be a hyperbolic ass about it. It makes your argument look less credible to call it on par with female circumcision (which is more in line with chopping off the entire head of a penis).

    Finally- I have to question why it’s any of your business what someone chooses to do with their kid (as long as it doesn’t permanently hurt the child and prevents them from receiving pleasure/having a normal healthy sex life- which normal male circumcision DOES NOT DO. Really. Frankly the Death Grip is a far bigger bane to sexual gratification than male circumcision ever was or will be). You don’t agree with male circumcision? Good for you! Don’t circumcise your child. But as long as Male Circumcision doesn’t include a ritual that chops a third of the child’s penis off or slices off his balls- I personally don’t understand why it is so outrageous. Because the sensation is still there and it’s been catalogues in countless cases that sex-drive and pleasure are completely intact.

  31. habitat67 says

    1) I don’t think ‘male genital mutilation’ is an outrageous term at all.

    2) the percentage of annual religious (Jewish or Muslim or whatever other religions mandate the ritual) circumcisions in the US has to be TINY compared to the total number of circs. jews only make up like 2% of the US population… practicing jews are a much lower percentage.

  32. Mstrozfckslv says

    aedan I could agree with 16 BUT 18 is better due to the fact that a male can try to leave the home of their parents and live without support. Under 18 (say 16) places a male child in submission to any and all psychological pressures parents might inflict on them while “living under their roof”

    Getting or not getting a driving license at 16 vs 18 does not forever alter one physically

    18 is the best age for a male to be able to make such a choice to be circumcised or not

  33. Really? says


    “To put it simply- there have been absolutely no credible cases that I can find that point to circumcision at birth being a source of trauma nor a inhibitor of sexual pleasure.”

    Yes, but we’re gay men here, and I’m guessing you’re not. We’ve handled and sucked far more dick than you will ever even see and have extensive first-hand information about the sensitivity differences between mutilated and non-mutilated cock. Nice try.

  34. mike says

    I’d vote yes.

    it’s wrong to slice off a part of male infant’s genitalia and make an irreversible decision for the man that infant will become, no matter which religion his parents belong to.

  35. Glenn says

    “an essential ritual in the Jewish religion that does nothing less than link Jewish males to God”

    Aside from your stating this as an apparent fact, rather than merely something which (some) Jews believe to be true, I would point out that one thing that is clear about Smith is that it rejects the notion that First Amendment protection for a practice should turns on its alleged centrality to the religion. And for good reason: we don’t want courts engaging in the exercise of determining that a given practice is “central” or “peripheral.” It’s hard to imagine a more inappropriate entanglement of the state into religion.

  36. Fran says

    Ari, your usual good judgement and deep analysis are severely impaired in this piece by your, I assume, religious roots.

    This will become federal law, maybe not now, maybe in many decades, for the same reason that marriage equality will. A free country with freedom of religion has to protect the equal rights of all of its citizens. With that in mind, it has to be illegal to cut any piece of someone else’s body (without their adult consent) because of religious/cultural reasons.

    I hope the response to this piece invites you to reconsider your stance and reasoning on this issue.

  37. Jack says

    @AEDAN: Agree, 100%

    @REALLY?: Well I’ll tell you this: I’m gay, and have sucked a fair amount of dick. I have noticed no difference. And, not that it has much bearing on the issue at hand, I find uncut dick to be pretty gross.

  38. ratbastard says

    Male circumcision IS NOT meant to ‘control sexuality’…LOL. FEMALE circumcision [as practiced in Africa, for example] however, is. But female circumcision is not comparable to male circumcision which simply involves ‘trimming’ the foreskin, making the penis easier to keep clean and less prone to infections.

    That said, I don’t think circumcision should be done as a matter of ‘routine’ on infant boys. If a male later on wants a circumcision, no problem. Circumcisions have many benefits.

    And here we go again: ‘Progressives’ BANNING things. Please ‘progressives'; don’t whine about ‘wingnuts’ trying to ban things, when ‘progressives’ love banning things, and net-picking people to death [sometimes literally]. I don’t like living in a Nanny State. I don’t care who is responsible for this condition, what their ideology is, right or left. Just grow the F up, and leave people ALONE.

  39. Fenrox says

    1) You can do this as an adult and not “miss out” on being circumcised.

    2) Children have ZERO say in the matter, the MUTILATION stays with them for their whole lives.

    3) Health, Religion and culture are NON-ISSUES as children are not required to hold anything of their upbringing dear. (As for health, all “benefits” of circumcision are not necessary, they are optional to other forms of self cleaning) To all people circumcised for religious reasons: Children have no religion, they eventually take ownership later in their lives, this point is one where they could reasonably decide to get circumcised.

    Why the hell didn’t your article cover this?

  40. says

    It’s not that complicated; if you want a circumcision get one.
    But let’s have the right to decide that issue and not be foreshortened (ha ha ha )in our ability to reach that determination by a gang of zealots.

  41. Ezra Waldstein says

    I got cut at the age of 19 due to a phimosis. I wish I had not, but back then, the medical people would not give you any real options, so cut happy were they. “Cut it off!” was about all the solution they were ready to offer.

    I wonder if members of a religion that worshiped, say, Baal or Memnoch, had a practice which required sacrifice of the first-born son, Waldman would be so quick to defend the practice on First amendment grounds. But it’s our religion! they would say, and who are the rest of us to question it? Or perhaps another faith required the practice of polygamy? Protected on First Amendment grounds? Seems to me there are limits. Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, but that probably does not man that anything at all may be allowed as a religious exercise. The butchering of one human being by another should probably fall outside the First Amendment’s protection, even if the Jews and other sects have been doing it for thousands of years.

  42. Glenn says

    While I disagree with much of what Aedan has to say in his comment, I do agree that equating male circumcision and female “circumcision” is inappropriate. Female “circumcision” is intended to suppress women’s sexuality and to subjugate them to men. However misguided I believe infant male circumcision to be, it is not on a par with what some people want to do to women.

    That said, the fact that infant male circumcision is not on a par with FGM does not mean that it should not also be banned.

  43. GregV says

    I wish I had had a choice. I would have chosen to keep my penis intact. My partner had it done as an adult (before we ever met) for reasons which he now second-guesses, and he knows what he’s missing. None of us who were chopped as babies will ever know. Even the long and arduous “restoration” techniques will never give you your own natural skin and nerve endings back.
    Eighteen seems like the most obvious age for consent because I don’t see how we would ensure that 11- or 12-year-olds who are under their parents’ rule are not being pushed into something they don’t want.

  44. says

    @fran: thank you for your comment and thank you also for your readership. i appreciate that this issue gets people going for many reasons, but while i always welcome comments from you and all readers, i must take issue with your attempt to criticize my motives. my view — which i purposely did not make clear in this piece — is based on my reading of the Constitution, the Courts precedents and my views on what the best jurisprudence would suggest. i am a completely irreligious person and no more swayed by the traditions of heritage than i am swayed by what tom ford is telling gay men to wear today. lets try to keep the discussion out of our motives and in the box of friendly debate. thanks for reading!

  45. ratbastard says

    I’ve always found it odd that circumcision is the norm in America. It seems logical that if people want to chop a bit off themselves they should be allowed to but it should be their decision. So I think it’s a good idea. I could always get circumcised now if I wanted to but I’m not a starfish I can’t grow back missing parts.

    POSTED BY: THEO | JUN 1, 2011 12:27:14 PM


    Body mutilation is practiced, especially by people who like to call themselves ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ all the time. Body piercings [often excessive], tattoos, etc., Not to mention various forms of cosmetic surgery, oral surgery, etc.,

    As for circumcision; it does help keep the penis cleaner and less prone to infections.


    I think there are 2 things especially going on here:

    1) Some gay men have a foreskin fetish and are OBSESSED with this issue. That’s fine, I don’t care. Most people, gay males included, aren’t

    2) The old leftist anti-Anything associated with ‘Amerika’ crowd. If it’s widely practiced by Americans, ridicule it. No question, this is a major driver of the anti-circumcison crusade, just like little issues like adopting the metric system over BTUs. A LOT of it is driven by leftist [especially European] who’ll go to silly lengths to mock ‘Amerika’.

    DISCLAIMER: I don’t believe in routine circumcision of infant boys [or especially girls as practiced in Africa], but don’t think it needs to be ‘banned’ by a city no less…LOL

    I also know BOTH the Metric and BTU systems intimately.

  46. Daniel says

    I was circumcised shortly after birth and obviously was not involved in the decision as to whether or not I wanted this done to me. I don’t understand how you can speak of freedom. This procedure is done on unwilling, defenseless people. I men want to get circumcised when they have all the information to take that decision, nothing forbids it. This is freedom.

  47. Myackie says

    I’m with Wish…there are so many much more important issues that nobody seems to give a crap about. This anti-circ crowd appears to merely enjoy shoving THEIR beliefs down other people’s throats (no pun). Don’t like circumcision? Don’t have one…don’t do it to your kids. But mind your own business regarding other’s beliefs.

  48. Glenn says

    There may be some (extremely ambiguous) evidence that circumcision provides health benefits for a sexually-active male — in which case, of course, then let the male who has reached the age of sexual activity make his own choice — but let’s be real here. No one is circumcising their boys because of “health” reasons. It’s for religious or (perhaps) aesthetic concerns. I understand, but disagree with, the argument that these concerns should be sufficient. But let’s not obfuscate matters by trying to turn this into a health debate, because it just isn’t.

  49. Jeff says

    Ari, I was very surprised that you wrote this about the main proponent’s “unfortunate rhetoric”: “‘Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what’s in the best interest of the child. It’s his body. It’s his choice.’ Huh? If guardians have to do what is in the best interest of the child, how is it the child’s choice?”

    It’s obvious to everyone else that he’s talking about parents/guardians preserving the child’s choice about circumcision until he is old enough to decide for himself. You are a very smart man. Why the “Huh?”? Strange that this straightforward argument baffled you or seemed contradictory. It’s a simple point he’s making.

  50. massachewsits says

    If you’re wondering why quite a few Jews (apologies to Bryce and Robert, the posters above) are rather “defensive” (as one poster characterized Waldman’s arguments), well, this is not the first time people, especially in a Christian-dominant country, have labeled our practices “barbaric” or “stupid” and prohibited them. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, to ignore this obvious ethnic/religious history is ignorant at best. Whether or not circumcision is explicitly mentioned in the Torah, not all Jews agree with it, etc., is immaterial. Jews are mentioned whenever this subject comes up. We’re associated with it even though most circumcised men in this country aren’t Jewish. So tone it down, folks. You’ll win more people over that way anyway.

  51. David B. 2 says

    I think two things should be mentioned:

    male circumcision is done by the lowest medical students with a cauterizing iron… as such, it is one of the most botched procedures in every hospital — the chances for mistakes are really high generally (as are the legal payouts I assume — if the parents notice)

    If you said to most parents — we have an intern with no experience who will be altering your son’s nose surgically and it will be permanent– they would all say no routinely!

  52. Cytyger says

    One thing I hardly ever see anyone mention when discussing the pros and cons of banning circumcision is the number of boys who are maimed or die every year due to complications or botched circumcisions. The journal of boyhood studies Spring 2010 edition had an article on a study that estimates that 117 boys die every year in the US from circumcisions. (info from How many more are left without functional genitailia? And for what?

    Every person has the right to practice their religion on their own body. No one has the right to practice their religion on someone elses body.

  53. tranquilo says

    Sadly, I doubt this will pass, even in San Francisco. People are just too wed to this practice just because they’ve been socialized to think “foreskin is icky”. All the arguments trying to link circumcision to the Bill of Rights or to studies that show it gives marginal health benefits are just justifications for perpetuating a purposeless and barbaric practice.

    On the positive side, less parents are choosing it anyway. I read recently that just 35% or so parents choose to make this mistake these days.

  54. ratbastard says

    Parents ARE ‘Guardians’, NOT the City of S.F., or some ‘Advocate’. MOST [by far] parents raise their children fine. If they think it’ll benefit their child to get braces, some surgery to ‘correct’ something, or male circumcision [trimming the foreskin], they should have the right, NOT some ‘Advocate’ or the City of S.F. [LOL!]

    I actually don’t believe in routinely, automatically circumcising infant boys. At the same time, I don’t think it’s a huge deal, and certainly is NONE of the City of S.F.’s business. Control your crime rate, improve your economy, fix your roads and infrastructure, etc. Do the stuff a city government is suppose to do. Not ban circumcision!

  55. andypharmer says

    As many of you said, the health benefits are minimal. Penile cancer, STD transmission, etc are not significant enough to warrant circumcision. Not one professional medical society in the US outright advocating circumcision. It’s almost saying that all women should just get a mastectomy to remove all of her breast tissue to prevent breast cancer. Circumcision is wrong. I do agree that there are certain medical conditions where circumcision is needed and this ballot issue needs to address those issues because an outran ban is never going to pass.

  56. avalon says

    And children shouldn’t be allowed piercings or tattoos even with parental consent? What about an outie or an innie belly button? I was circumcised at birth and I occasionally wonder what it would be like to have a foreskin but I’ve never regretted not having one. Female circumcision removes sexual feeling; I don’t think male circumcision does that. And I’ve gotten fat enough to have extra skin cling over the end of my penis enough to suspect that there’s not a lot of loss to fuss over. Would I get a son circumcised now? No. Would I stop someone from circumcising a boy now? No. What if the parents want the boy to “look like his father?” I’m pretty hard core in my belief that spanking is always child abuse and I don’t want any parent to do it. The circumcision arguments expressed here on both sides are almost all emotionally laden; I don’t see that it matters. Most straight and gay men I know that have been circumcised would refuse the chance to have it undone. And yes, I have asked many of them. I don’t think it’s legislation-worthy. Sorry to disagree.

  57. Bob R says

    @Jack, I agree. To me uncut cock is usually pretty gross. I know dad is supposed to teach sonny how to keep his junk clean, but in my experience most avoid those “subjects” due to personal discomfort talking about the “birds and the bees” and a well maintained penis.

    I prefer my men cut. Also, as an infant, your parents are permitted to make medical decisions on your behalf. They decide if you get the appropriate inoculations, receive proper medical care (or in some religions) no medical care, etc. Tampering with that parental authority can be dangerous and not beneficial to society.

    I personally am circumcised, do not regret it and do not condemn my parents for doing it. There are much more serious issues I could condemn them for, but this isn’t one of them. I think I enjoy sex as much as any “uncut” guy I’ve ever known, and I’ve known plenty. This “genital mutilation” terminology is designed to provoke outrage and sympathy for the cause, just like the use of the terms “death panels” or “death taxes”, etc, all political hyperbole.

    I do not come from a Jewish family, as a matter of fact I and my family have for the most part always been without a religion. So my circumcision wasn’t a religious decision. But, if I were religious, I would be offended by people trying to prevent me from fulfilling my religious commitments. To throw in the canard of allowing “human sacrifices” based on religion is no different from Santorum’s ridiculous man-dog sex analogy. But, hey, nice try. And the courts have upheld the right of some religions (Santeria for one) to conduct animal sacrifices. Personally, I’d rather permit a proper circumcision of a male infant than the ritual slaying of a goat or other animal. But then, I prefer animals to humans (not sexually, but overall).

    I also worked in a medical setting for years and spent some time in urology and have dealt with a number of patients who have been circumcised as adults for one reason or another. First, it is painful in the adult male, especially if you get an erection before the sutures are removed. And that is a frequent occurrence in younger males. An eighteen year old without an erection is like Sarah Palin without a dumb comment. Second, I’m sure insurance companies won’t cover the procedure and so it would be a personal out of pocket medical expense, including time off from work during the week to ten days healing process. And third, I don’t think it will pass Constitutional muster under the freedom of religion argument. So, I think in the end people will be inconvenienced by having to leave town to have the procedure done on their child and cause extra stress, and the courts will probably kill the bill anyway.

  58. johnny says

    Another factor that seems to be missing from the article is MONEY. This is a procedure that makes the hospitals around the country a LOT of money on a yearly basis. I have a friend who’s doctor practically screamed at her because she refused the procedure for her son. He was livid and tried to contact the baby’s father to get it done anyway. Odd, but once she realized it was about money, she changed doctors.

    The most idiotic reason I’ve heard many male parents give for mutilating (yes, mutilating) their son’s cocks is that they wanted them to look like Daddy and no questions would be asked later.


    Right. Because me and my dad compared dicks all the time and I was so proud that mine looked just like his? What kind of freakshow family is this happening in?

  59. ratbastard says

    It may be ‘wrong’, but MANY people would say raising a boy to be ‘genderless’ wrong, or USING children in social experimentation is wrong. Many would say giving you child certain kinds of food is wrong.

    If nagging and nit-picking to an early death is the ultimate goal, so-called ‘progressives’ are doing an excellent job. The stress from living around radical ‘progressives’ is enough to substance abuse or an early grave from stress induced illnesses.

  60. Jollysocks says

    I agree with Ari that the ban will fail, but I also agree with everyone else that he’s basing his arguments more on an emotional response rather than an analytical one. Some religions require circumcision of a woman’s clitoral hood — which is no where the same as doing damage to the clitoris itself — yet doing ANYTHING to a young girl’s vagina is strictly illegal.

    I believe the ban will fail not because there isn’t enough support behind it, but I think the ballot language is too strongly written when considering this measure in the first go-around.

    What I would like to see first would be a ban on all state funds being used in circumcision along with a restriction on insurance companies covering it on their plans. If parents actually had to go to a different hospital and doctor and actually pay for it themselves, then circumcision rates will start to drop automatically.

    Now, down the line I could easily see this law have legs, not just in SF, but nationally. Despite the fact that wide-spread routine circumcision is still performed on non-Jewish Americans, one can sense a moral dilemma around it starting to build.

    I originally come from New Zealand where circumcision is quite rare if you are not Jewish. There is no law against it because it’s not culturally wide-spread to do it. But it’s so wide-spread in this country that a big debate about it is bound to happen.

    I also find it amusing how heated gay men get about this issue, which largely grows out of our own penis preferences. Like the person here who is like “ewww uncut dick is yucky so don’t ban circumcision” or the reverse “there’s nothing better than a big uncut dick so ban away!”

    It’s all a good excuse to talk about dick anyway.

  61. ratbastard says


    Over a billion Muslims also, like most Jews, circumcise on religious grounds, but it’s based on health and the importance of keeping the penis clean.

  62. ratbastard says

    I would suspect circumcision never really caught on widely in Europe due to it being associated with Jews. I really believe this. This obviously was not a major issue in America.

  63. says

    What is this huge deal with cleanliness? If you take a shower everyday you’re good. Foreskins don’t require hours of cleaning with special products to be kept clean.

    Cutting off the foreskin does deplete sexual pleasure it’s where a large amount of nerve endings are in the penis. Another reason why it shouldn’t be preformed until people are older and educated about what circumcision actually does.

  64. Miche Rutledge says

    Honestly, how big an impact is it on their religious right if they only have to go a maximum of seven or eight miles to a different city to have the circumcision done?

    It’s easy to forget that circumcision errors are prevalent and not all doctors who perform them know what to look for anatomically to ensure they aren’t causing more harm to the penis than good. It is one of those surgeries that every doctor thinks she can do, but isn’t a urologist so she has no clue about webbed penises or other problems that should contraindicate circumcision.

    Parents should educate themselves to know about these things before allowing surgery to be performed on their infant boys, but don’t.

    It’s not just a matter of a little skin. Looking at it dispassionately, there really isn’t much difference between female and male circumcision, religious reasons or otherwise. If we are going to ban one, we logically should ban the other. Men shouldn’t be treated worse than women by the law any more than the other way around.

    While I’m not sure I personally support a total ban, I think it has some merit in forcing parents to not do something and allowing the child to decide for himself when he is an adult.

    What would have more merit to me is forcing doctors who perform them to have a thorough education in circumcision and when it is contraindicated, forcing parents who want to circumcise their child to be thoroughly educated (on their dime) on the pros and cons and then making the decision. If a child’s anatomy is wrong for it, then it should be illegal for the parents to force the circumcision.

    Or maybe allowing men to sue the doctor and parents for making the wrong choice before age 30. That might cool the passion to snip parts off boys, too.

    Either way, it may seem trivial on the first read, but there are serious and less serious complications with circumcision about which most people are unaware.

  65. Robert says


    I just googled it. I don’t know what you consider “hard”…but putting a clothes pin on my dick every night for 2 to 3 years seems hard to me.

  66. Really? says


    I’m very certain that finding your uncut partners’ dicks disgusting has some bearing on your inability to measure their sensitivity

  67. ratbastard says

    Wow. I wish people felt this unilaterally supportive of the great job Obama is doing for us as President.

    POSTED BY: JACK | JUN 1, 2011 2:18:41 PM


    Wow. Because he’s not doing a particularly ‘great’ job, Jack.

  68. ratbastard says


    ——-The issue is it’s NOT YOUR PLACE to ban it. And it’s not the City of S.F. [I have ZERO doubt a court would strike such a goofy law down, anyway]. And it’ll end up costing S.F. taxpayers $$$ in court.

    ——- STOP BANNING things. Try and learn to live and let live, Miche.

  69. Jay says

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around this.

    Religious individuals claim it is their right to make a choice for their infant…because of their religion. And they claim the State should not take that right away.

    However, these same individuals claim the State must take a woman’s choice away when it comes to determining her own destiny…because the woman shouldn’t make a choice for an unborn child.

    I mean…a woman can’t chose to abort an unwanted pregnancy but a child can’t chose to abort an unwanted mutilation. Self-determination is important when it is not about you, but when it is about you it’s not important.

    Religion is hard!

  70. says


    You should work for Fox News. So far you have suggested that people for the ban only want it because they have a foreskin fetish or because they hate America and that circumcision isn’t common in Europe because Jewish people get circumcised (And Europeans don’t like Jewish people?).

    By not banning circumcision people are forcing it on babies that might not want it when they are older. It’s makes sense to wait and let people decide for themselves.

  71. Randy says

    I defer to the author on legal issues, however morally there is simply no adequate justification for mutilating (and that’s what it is, no matter how “outrageous”) a boy’s genitals.

    Without the boy’s consent, parents authorize the cutting off the majority (yes, majority) of the penis’s skin, including its most sensitive areas, and usually including the frenulum. This results in a fundamental difference in sensation, and in how the skin operates, changing it from a sliding motion that acts almost like a lubricant, to something tight. It also results in an unnatural toughening of the head.

    Just because this practice has been widespread does not make it right. Indeed, it makes it all that much more barbaric.

    As for religion, I do not believe parents should have the right to force their religious beliefs onto their children who may be of a different faith (or none). Nor should they have the right to make permanent changes to their child’s body with the aim of “preventing” some health problem that may never happen. Parents have a responsibility to ensure the health of their child, including proper training in how to keep the body clean.

    The real consent and rights issues here are those of the child, not the parents.

  72. AnotherG says

    Put in a religious exemption and call it a day, law-wise. Then take these arguments against the practice, which are good, and bring them to the religious and work from there to change hearts and minds. Judaism has abosrbed lots of cultures’ mores over time (see also, Hellenism), they can and will again. I seem to recall that circumcision did once fall out of fashion amongst all but Orthodox Jews for a period of time.

    A social, rather than legal, taboo against the practice, will have the greatest and longest-lasting effect among secularized observers, which is by far the largest population of those who ritually circumcise in America.

    I understand the arguments in favor of bodily autonomy, but regardless of any argument you make even with the holy texts (which you can contradict with other citation), circumcision *is* seen as central to Jewish and Muslim identity, and that won’t be changed by a mere overturnable law.

    In my admittedly sour view of organized religion, religious mental indoctrination is the more insidious of ills to inflict upon the unable-to-consent young than a non-debilitative foreskin removal. But alas, a law prohibiting religious practice in front of minors (without due exposure/education/survey of other religions) is about 17 trillion times more dumb than this one, and even more unconstitutional, however much I’d like to see it.

    Full disclosure/M4M profile: I’m a cut gay Jewish man living in SF who has never had a problem having/wanting sex, who would nonetheless probably not circumcise his kids for most of the reasons expressed against it. Issac didn’t have a choice, but Abraham did, and went ahead with it on himself, and that, I can say with 5,000+ years of hindsight, is preferably modern, but historically unheard of.

    P.S. I’m typing this while having to stare at a bannana in an ad. Heheheh, Beavis…”bannana”

  73. Mstrozfckslv says


    Rabbi Moses Maimonides, 12th century, just one of the most prominent Rabbis of all time mentioned nothing what so ever about cleanliness and circumcision. He stated flatly that it was to desensitize the penis and discourage masturbation

    Muslims did not copy the practice from Jews due to cleanliness but due to COPYING. Islam was born of an amalgamation of Judaism and Xtianity by a group of people or 1 person (not someone named Mohamed that is just myth) to provide a unifying religion for arab people whose gods and languages were all tribal …..with each tribe having a different god / gods and a different language. Someone or a group of someones saw the ability of religion to unite a people and hit on taking from Judaism and Xtianity to create a religion to unify the arab tribes and give them 1 language = arabic

    Muslim circumcision had nothing to do with cleanliness.

  74. Chadd says

    @ RATBASTARD: The city is not implementing the ban. This is a voter initiative placed on the ballot by voters. The city will only instate the ban if the voters pass it. That was kind of all over the post and the comments, but you must not have been paying attention – unlike Fox News, there is more to the story than the headline. And regarding your other comments, you should probably run for public office as a Tea Party candidate and not waste your time on a gay blog.

    @ AVALON: It is illegal in the entire country for a licensed tattoo artist to tattoo someone under the age of 18 – regardless of parental consent. Piercings are different because the holes eventually close.

    @ BOB R: Parents are permitted, in fact required, to provide medical care for their children and make appropriate medical decisions. However, circumcision is cosmetic and not akin to say, deciding whether or not to do chemo on a child with cancer.

    And whoever commented about insurance not paying for circumcision on an adult, your are correct. If the procedure is done for cosmetic reasons, insurance shouldn’t pay just as they don’t for boob jobs. Really, insurance shouldn’t pay when it is done on an infant either. Insurance would pay when the procedure is done for medical reasons such as with phimosis.

    @ AEDAN: “You don’t agree with male circumcision? Good for you! Don’t circumcise your child.” I suggest we poll all of the 8 day old infants who are about to be circumcised as to whether or not they agree with male circumcision. That is the point of this. It is a permanent alteration and the male that it is being done on has no say in the matter.

  75. Bastian says

    Some of these comments are ridiculous, especially the guy that says he is, “jealous of his [uncut] nephews and holds his parents and doctor in contempt”. You don’t even know what you’re missing, don’t you think you’re being a little dramatic?

    I am happily circumcised from birth. I’m sorry so many of you are mad at your parents for cutting off your foreskin, but get over it already–it’s certainly not the gross barbaric practice you make it out to be. Cut, uncut, can’t we all just get along?

  76. booka says

    I have never forgiven my parents for cutting me as a baby. My cock is de-sensitized, and no fool with a religious agenda can convince me otherwise. Most of my lovers have been uncut, so I am well versed in the kind of sensitivity they have, and I don’t. I also dated a guy that had half of the head of his dick missing, and he was so traumatized by the butcher job done on him, if I had ANY reservations on this issue, they ended with him.

  77. Mstrozfckslv says

    bastian and others

    per the oxford dictionary 1 deffinition of Barbaric is

    “primitive or unsophisticated; unrestrained”

    circumcision is most definitely primitive. A primitive hold over going all the way back to ancient pagan egypt pre any Jews ever existing. it is not a “Jewish thing” It is pagan which Jews and some other cultures picked up and incorporated into their culture

    It is similar to binding feet, the Mayans binding skulls to deform them, etc

    Primitive and useless hold overs from ancient people who we would consider Barbaric and backwards (just as humans 1,000 yrs+ from now will consider us hopelessly barbaric and backwards)

  78. Glenn says

    Clearly, the questions of the rights of the child and the rights (and necessity) of the parents/guardians to determine what is in the child’s best interests are some of the most difficult and fraught areas of the law. I think that I would balance these by saying that a child should be free from unwanted medical procedures unless the parents had a genuinely held, and objectively reasonable, belief that the health and/or psychological benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks. (And by “psychological” benefits, I would not include the purported benefits of conformity with your parents’ religious beliefs — that would just be question-begging. )

    Under that test, I think most circumcisions would actually not be performed because the parents don’t genuinely have any belief that the health benefits are important. They are doing it for religious and/or aesthetic purposes. The interesting question would be, what if the parents did hold a belief that circumcision as an infant (vs. letting the grown man decide on his own) carried health benefits that outweighed the downsides? Would that be objectively reasonable? Based on the data I’ve seen, I’d say no. But I could probably be convinced otherwise.

  79. Zlick says

    I’ve seen this discussion before, and it always gets people up in arms. I appreciate Ari’s original intent to analyze this legally – not morally, not ethically, not aesthetically, not gayly, not religiously – but legally under the U.S. Constitution – and I happen to agree that the proposed ban would not pass legal muster. You may think it SHOULD, but that doesn’t make it so.

    I’m always drawn to play Devil’s Advocate when the mass of people commenting seem to come down on one side … so I’ll say, with tongue a bit in cheek, that I’m a very happy, circumcised, gay, non-practicing jew. I don’t consider myself harmed at all, would not even want to have my dick be more sensitive, am glad I don’t have to deal with keeping my foreskin clean, and personally find uncut dicks rather gross and animalistic.

    Sure, I get it. The infant has no choice in the matter. Get over it. There’s so much a kid has zero choice over until he leaves his parents’ house. Yeah, this is removing a part of the physical body – but it’s really no more of a body mod than stretched earlobes. Yawn.

    In any case, to practicing Jews – this is a covenant with God – and there’s no way it’s stopping. And there’s no way this particular religious rite is going to be ruled unconstitutional in the United States. For both the legal reasons Ari stated, and for political reasons.

    In truth, I would probably agree with the majority of commentors – but I like circumcised penises much better on myself and others – and I’m not at all sure I would have gone out at 18 and had it done – so yeah, I’m glad it was forced on me as well. Call me a heretic. Whatever.

  80. ohplease says

    Very pleasantly surprised that the vast majority of people commenting here got it right.

    Ari, this is far and away your most disappointing post yet. You throw logic, rationality, common sense and the law out the window.

    Of course having someone cut off a healthy and fuctioning part of your newborn son’s body is mutilation. Of course no parent has a right to mutilate their child. Of course there are no gods and using religion as an excuse for mutilating your child is despicable.

    All organized religion is evil and this is an excellent example of that fact.

  81. SFVoter says

    The comments here keep focusing on the fact that the procedure is “involuntary.” But, as a matter of law, children until the age of 18 do not have the power to consent to virtually anything that happens to them. A lot of things that parents do to children is “involuntary” in the sense either that the child does not consent or the child does not want the procedure, etc. For instance, do we view vaccinations as “involuntary”? They are irreversible medical procedures that no baby that I’m aware of asks for. And there’s a vocal minority of people who view vaccinations with immense suspicion — something like 15% of the population doesn’t get vaccinated for a whole host of diseases. Under the logic that I see in many of the comments, do we wait until the child can decide that for himself? If not, why is circumcision different? What if the child ends up believing that vaccines cause autism or are unnatural, etc.? How is the violation of that consent any worse than in the circumcision context?

    Also, do we view piercing babies ears (as is common in Latino culture) as “involuntary”? That’s a “mutilation” of a body part that the baby didn’t consent to. How about braces? And this doesn’t even touch upon a whole of host of non-physical but life-altering choices that parents again don’t give their children: going to school, going to church.

    The point is consent is a bit of a redherring. I see this comments and they seem more born out of anger at religion than anything else. But, looking at this from a neutral standpoint, male circumcision, let’s face it, is rather benign as bodily changes go. There’s medical evidence on both sides of the equation (just go to the American Academy of Pediatrics website to see). This is different from female circumcision which is done for no other purpose than destroying female sexual pleasure. Having no foreskin, I can attest that my “mutilation” didn’t prevent me from sexual pleasure. So, in the end, this should be a choice the parents make. Maybe the kid will be pissed. Maybe he’ll be happy. This is a decision that should be left to the individual parents.

  82. Joe says

    Waldman wrote “The fact that parents have a fundamental right to educate their children as they see fit does not necessarily mean that parents have a fundamental right to do whatever they want to their children.”

    We KNOW that parents don’t have “a fundamental right to do whatever they want to their children.”

    Parents may not repeatedly beat their children or starve them. While parents are generally left alone by the government to raise their children as they see fit, there are limits. So, does altering a child’s body in this fashion fall within or outside of those limits?

    The baby cannot consent to this surgery. There is no medical reason to do it. If you wait until the kid is 18 the kid can consent then. So why not wait?

  83. JeffNYC says

    “Routine circumcision of boys is based on a whole host of old wives tales and is meant to control the sexuality of males.”

    It hasn’t controlled mine.

    I think the debate about doing it or not doing it is fine.

    What is NOT fine is passing a law about it.

  84. Mstrozfckslv says


    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child do give rights to children that would negate circumcision decided on by a parent and is international law by those countries who have signed on to it

    Of course america has not signed onto it for the simple reason that xtian parents couldn’t force their kids to go to church and religious schooling till they were old enough to make up their own mind nor would parents be allowed to beat their kids

    One day though humanity will be more advanced and children will have more rights protecting them as individual entities from their parents

    (side note, I think 16 yr olds should have the right to vote and serve in politics since it is their future that is being decided by old farts)

  85. Bryan says

    I see a great deal of obfuscation and rationalization around this issue.

    The Constitution doesn’t give any citizen the right to make permanent cosmetic alterations to the body of another without his or her consent, and to do so is a grotesque mockery of a free society. If we’re not allowed autonomy with regard to our own bodies, our much vaunted freedom becomes little more than the freedom to live, buy, and die.

    Similarly, the notion that children are or should be chattels with whom parents are free to do as they wish is appalling. Children are human beings, not shrubs, and the fact that they share their parents genes does not give parents the right to make intellectual, spiritual, or physical bonsai out of them.

    A free society “must accomodate the legitimate religious observances of its citizens”? There are well established and quite venerable religious traditions which require the removal of the clitoris and the drastic trimming of the labia majora, but any American doctor who performed such a procedure on a little girl would – at the very least – suffer loss of the right to practice medicine. We don’t accept “God told me to do it” as a justification, any more than we allow conjecture about the Biblical “sons of Ham” to be used to justify the enslavement of African Americans.

    Except in extraordinary instances where it’s necessary to save a life, no one should be permitted to take a scalpel to another human being without obtaining the informed consent of the the subject, and all surgical procedures should be subject to peer review and approval by the FDA.

  86. xtincta says

    Foreskin’s are tools of the devil!!!! OFF WITH THEM!!!!!! Only the foreskin hungry queens in San Francisco could come up with the ridiculous law, It won’t pass. Trying to force people in America to accept foreskins is like trying to force Americans to accept vegetarianism.

  87. Dean says

    Religion has nothing to do with it. Circumcision has huge benefits to health, cleanliness, and safety (including a dramatically reduced risk of transmission of STD’s). Parents have a right to protect their children through circumcision, vaccination, and teeth cleaning. I had my son circumcised and I would hope all parents would do the same.

  88. Justin says

    Circumcision is the cutting off of part of a boy’s penis. Just think about that for a minute: cutting off part of the penis. Whatever your culture or religion, that is just objectively sick.

  89. says

    Freedom of religion does not grant one permission to assault others. Reconstructionists believes gays should be stoned to death. Does denying them the right to kill gay people violate their freedom of religion? No. Freedom of religion most certainly stops when it comes to others and violating them. If a wacko religion decided that cutting off hands brought one in communion with god, that would not excuse them maiming their children.

    Remember no anesthesia is used when infants have their foreskins cut away. It is extremely painful. Accidents happen which maim the entire penis during the operation and there is no medical reason for it. That some sect believes it is their godly duty to mutilate children does not mean the rights of the children should be ignored. I note that numerous law professors seem to think the ban is quite constitutional. Religious people have the same rights as everyone else, no more, no less. And I find it appalling that they think they should routinely be exempt from laws that apply to the rest of us, merely because they invented a deity to justify their actions.

  90. Justin says

    Ari, your headline suggesting that a circumcision ban would be a defeat for “freedom” is ridiculous.

    If you want to talk about freedom, how about my freedom to have a whole body? How about my freedom of bodily integrity? My freedom to have an intact penis without an ugly scar? My freedom to decide for myself whether to have part of my genitals cut off?

    If you think “freedom” means the right of some people to decide whether to cut off part of another person’s genitals, then you have a truly perverted view of freedom.

  91. Dean says

    Circumcision greatly reduces the spread of HIV and should thus be more common than it is. The vast majority of parents who circumcise their kids are not Jewish; the religious debate is a non-issue. It is a simple cost-benefit analysis. My husband and I had our son circumcised and I also had it as a requirement for my other biological son when I was a sperm donor.

  92. Dean says

    The facts are simple, circumcision saves lives: “A systematic review and meta-analysis that focused on male circumcision and heterosexual transmission of HIV in Africa was published in 2000 [5]. It included 19 cross-sectional studies, 5 case-control studies, 3 cohort studies, and 1 partner study. A substantial protective effect of male circumcision on risk for HIV infection was noted, along with a reduced risk for genital ulcer disease. After adjustment for confounding factors in the population-based studies, the relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men.” If anything it should be mandatory.

  93. PDX Guy says

    I see this with a couple main points:

    -It is irreversible. And no stretching your other skin does not count.
    -Infant/child can not consent.

    Where is the line drawn at what parents can do with their child? Most of the things mentioned: education, religion, etc. are mentally based and the child can change that once they are an adult. Others affect society as a whole, like immunizations.

    I like to draw parallels when debating, so let’s say the parents had a female child that is sexually mature, but under 18. Or a child that is mentally equivalent to a small child. Now suppose these parents desire a grandchild. They have an interest in this, continuing their bloodline and/or religious reasons. Should they be allowed to have this child impregnated? In the end, isn’t this just a medical issue? And unlike circumcision once a pregnancy is over, its over (more or less). Should the parents be allowed to do this since it is their minor child? I think (hope) most people would say No. But what is the difference in the logic in the argument for circumcision? Its just a medical procedure on their minor child, right?

    Our society and laws evolve together. What was once seen as benign can later be seen as destructive. We should always revisit issues to move towards the benign. Since the research on the health benefits of circumcision seem sketchy at best, and the first two points above remain, and the fact that our society does expect its government to act in the interest of those who need it; I can see the purpose and development of this law. Let the boy make the decision when he is 18 and can consent.

  94. Dean says

    “When the data were reanalyzed to account for these occurrences, men who had been circumcised had a 76% (South Africa), 60% (Kenya), and 55% (Uganda) reduction in risk for HIV infection compared with those who were not circumcised.”
    These are the facts. Also, please remember that 79% of men are circumcised in America and only 2% are Jewish. The religious issue is a bit of a non-issue.

  95. Daniel says

    All I can say is I LOVE that so many commenters are opposed to this barbaric practice.

    There are no health benefits that outweigh the risks of this surgery (which is what it is).

    As for HIV prevention, lacking a foreskin doesn’t stop your ejaculate from splashing all over the place — unless you put on a condom. End of argument.

    Jews and Muslims need to come to terms with the 21st century and abandon circumcision like they have abandoned so many other rituals, rites and habits.

  96. says

    I’ll make it simple… stop cutting the tip of other peoples dicks. Let them grow up and at 18, let’s all gather around like we would when they are a child for a religious tradition and do it at 18 without pain relief since the kids don’t get it and let’s watch them scream at 18.

  97. ohplease says

    @Dean, you can obsessively post all the still-in-question medical data you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that if your child is sexually active, you have more important things to worry about than mutilating his penis.

    You believe that sexually active adult men are healthier if they are mutilated (because evolution makes you come equipped with body parts that can kill you, I guess). Fine. Then on his 18th birthday, a man who also believes this can make the choice to be circumcized — and if your child has been sexually active for too many years and on too many occassions with too many partners before his 18th birthday, then you’re a lousy parent in a whole different way.

    But at least you won’t have mutilated your baby because of a sex life he won’t be having for at least approximately two decades in the future.

    And he can have the facts that we have at that time to make whatever decision he wishes to make with his own body.

    Seriously, parents who would never let a 17 year-old get a tattoo think nothing of putting their newborn’s life at risk just to rob them of a lifetime of sexual pleasure based on, at best, nothing rational and, at worst, nothing that — if any of the ongoing research is someday proven to be true — couldn’t wait until he can make an informed choice as an adult.

    With any luck you’re finished mutilating babies for this lifetime, anyway.

  98. ohplease says

    Oh no, MYACKIE! Something bad happened in San Francisco once? Say it ain’t so!

    Clearly all San Francisco babies must be mutliated then as punishment!

    I guess?

  99. Bob says

    While Biblical injunction doesn’t seen to carry much weight in this discussion, it is what it is. Jews are commanded to perform circumsicion on the 8th day, and it is so important that it can be performed on the Sabbath. It is a physical sign of the covenant between the Children of Israel and their Creator.

    Muslim boys in many traditions are also circumsized between birth and the beginning of puberty.

    If you don’t subscribe to either of these traditions, fine, however you have no right to dictate religious practice (actual religious practice not the various hypothetical practicies that have been brought up in this discussion)

    What’s next? Declaring by popular vote that the pouring of water over an infant’s head could be traumatic and there for outlawed.

    Our population, especially our population in SF should know the danger of putting rights, either religious or personal rights up to a popular vote.

  100. massachewsits says

    If only Jews did it, and you all were not circumcised, would you still be so angry? Sure, it’s a hypothetical question, but one which could have implications for the future. Jollysocks posted earlier that there is no ban in New Zealand, since circumcision was rare among gentiles… and another poster commended the debate but didn’t like the proposed ban. Still another called for religious exemptions. Most of the people here have no idea what Judaism really is culturally or religiously, and obviously are unaware of the historic hatred for Jewish practices (or have serious empathy deficits). So I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt. What disturbs, me however, is the revulsion expressed at a cultural practice – which I don’t even support – when 75% of Jews, some of whom quite devout, support same-sex marriage. And this is the minority you chastise by calling “barbaric”? The one you “want to drag into the 21st century”? Are you serious? Be against circumcision – fine. But really, don’t bother defining my culture for me in this way. Now *that* is really disgusting and unethical.

  101. avalon says


    I’m a 50 year old gay man living in North Carolina; I do and have always lived in urban areas. I’ve been to gyms, YMCA’s, Junior High, Senior High, open showers in dorms, skinny dipping, strip poker, frat parties and probably several other places where I’ve seen plenty of penises.

    In my entire life I have only seen THREE people with an intact foreskin. North Carolina is not completely populated by people who are culturally, racially or religiously Jewish. Circumcision is the absolute norm in North Carolina cities in excess of 100,000 residents.

    Circumcision is just what American people do. It’s not really an issue, not even in the gay community.

  102. massachewsits says


    You’d never know it (your last sentence) by the comments on this thread. I always thought it was a non-issue, too, until blogs started reporting on the proposed ban. Oh well. I do happen to think it’s an issue of personal autonomy, but really, I had to say something when these bullying idiots started in on the ethnic/religious crap.

  103. Andalusian Dog says

    Ari, remember when most people on this blog were on your side about things? Remember the good times?

    I think it’s fair to say that you have stuck your foot in it. And besides, you really are just plain wrong.

    This isn’t (only, really) about competing cultural values in a municipality. I know you would like it to be, but it isn’t. It’s (also, really) about removing a body part that a child was born with to ensure his future sexual pleasure and how far a municipality should protect the bodily integrity, if not health, of minors.

    It is (also, really) about how this country is so schizophrenic that we are obsessed with sex, and yet can only refer to aspects of it, and usually only in the context of science or religion (devoid of the true human pleasure aspect, i.e., the good stuff, the reason we all like sex) or in the context of humor or crudeness (which necessarily limit what parts of sex we focus on to pack their punch). It’s as much about how this consumer-producer driven culture fetishizes sex by editing the language (verbal, visual or otherwise) describing sex — and thereby constructing how we very fundamentally think about sex — at least as much as it is about the rights of religious groups performing medical procedures on infants, rightly or wrongly.

    What’s missing from your report is anything to do with the purpose of the foreskin. I am going to venture to guess that you are rational enough not to think that we evolved to have foreskins specifically so we would cut those of our children off, and certainly not specifically to cut it off just to make a pact with an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent supernatural being.

    Is the foreskin useless? If indeed it is useless, cosmetic, then would it then be right to perform cosmetic surgery on infants too, because a religion dictates it? How about removing vestigial body parts at birth, like nipples? Is that a good idea if a religious and cultural tradition says it is? How about, if the foreskin may someday (or just as likely may not, jury’s still out) allow for the trapping of the HIV virus close to the urethra post coitus, should we allow people to perform similar preventative surgery on their newborns, like removing the tonsils? Finally, should we as a society allow for such uncomplicated, uncomplicating, no-effect, harmless, removal of body parts from infants to continue just because no one up till now has raised a stink about it? Or should we just go on not talking about the elephant in the room?

    That elephant is that the foreskin does indeed have a purpose. The purpose ultimately is sexual pleasure – but as a society we are loathe to talk about sexual pleasure in a way that is frankly, truly “adult.” We can allude to it in scientific, religious, pornographic, or comedic ways, but all of these ultimately are infantile evasions of the full array of facts regarding sex.

    So, what about the foreskin’s ontological purpose? First, it is full of nerve endings that transmit pleasure sensations to the brain, specifically sexual pleasure sensations. It’s also there to promote the continuing suppleness of the glans (head), which has the highest concentration of such nerve endings. Without the foreskin, males lose a portion of the nerve endings that transmit sexual pleasure to the brain, and the glans, now exposed full-time and left to rub against clothes, limbs, hands, etc, undergoes keratinization, which is a toughening of the skin and further loss of pleasurable sensation. Finally, there is a mechanical aspect – the foreskin slides over the glans and part of the shaft, keeping the natural lubrication in place, and allowing for the friction necessary for sexual pleasure, orgasm, and ejaculation, but in a safe and protected way.

    (I’d like to point out that as that is the purpose of the foreskin, it certainly raises the question of whether our bodies have evolved for masturbation in addition to sexual intercourse. Our bodies certainly did not evolve to PREVENT masturbation – confer the foreskin. And this is indeed a propos our discussion, because circumcision only became a widespread practice in Victorian England (i.e., relatively late in the historical game) and later the majority of U.S. households specifically to prevent masturbation. So, do we still all want to say that masturbation is wrong and bad for us, or do you think we have all moved on from such unhealthy thinking?)

    Sexual pleasure is a good thing. It relieves stress, promotes strong connective bonds between people, probably boosts our immune system. And sure, it usually ends with an ejaculation which under the right circumstances can lead to, you know, continuing the species.

    But who cares about all that. Sexual pleasure is a good thing because it makes (sane) people happy.

    So, does society have the right to limit a practice, which is, granted, a long standing religious practice of great significance to Jews and Muslims, that will permanently reduce someone’s happiness and well-being, not to mention alter their body in a permanently physically and psychologically debilitating way, from before they can even open their eyes? Even if you are the parent of that person? (Yes, it is physically and psychologically debilitating, insofar as that parent is possibly reducing his or her chid’s ability to feel pleasurable physical sensations, and therefore potentially feel more psychologically happy. As opposed to doing nothing. As opposed to leaving them intact and letting pleasure and happiness play out as it will in that child’s life.)

    Ari, you know the rational answer to this question. Leave it till he’s 18. If God doesn’t like it, I’m sure it has ways to let you know.

    Or one can always hop over to Sausalito and destroy his or her baby son’s penis there if it is that important. At least for now they can…

  104. intristin says

    should be banned until age 18 so the person who owns the dick gets a vote. Parents forcing their religious views on their kids is wrong.

  105. says

    Ari — I agree that this proposal goes way too far, but not for the actual intent of the bill.

    The hefty penalties for violating the proposed law were far too onerous, there should be nothing criminal about it, and there absolutely should be religious exemptions and a reduction in the age to, say, 12, instead of 18.

    All that said, circumcisions are a totally unnecessary procedure and there *are* risks to any surgery. At the very least, there should be no public money going toward the procedure unless deemed medically necessary by a doctor, and I could even see a ban on allowing insurances to cover it when not medically necessary (because why should my premiums go up because another parent wants — not medically needs — to lop off a part of their kid?).

    Finally, the notion that there’s any “medical benefit” to circumcision has been long since been laughed off. There’s no medical “benefit” that outweighs the risks associated with the surgery, even with the dubious studies done in Africa on HIV — funded by politically charged pro-circumcision groups, and even the “findings” weren’t dubious, still wouldn’t make sense given the availability of an infinitely cheaper and more effective alternative: condoms.

    The “science” just isn’t there, so if it’s a cosmetic decision, the decision should be made by the the child when he’s old enough to make it. If there’s a medical necessity for the surgery, or religious reasons, fine, but that’s it. Routine infant circumcision is not giving parents ‘the freedom of choice,’ it’s taking that choice away from men, pure and simple. I say all this as someone who, like roughly 80% of my generation in my country, who was circumsized as an infant — that was not my choice and my freedom on that matter was taken away — nipped in the bud, as you say.

  106. Andalusian Dog says

    You just spouted a load of ideological, biased turds about the origins of Islam. But at least you are up on your Hagarism a la Patricia Crone, which gives you the cover of presumed authority to those who don’t know about such things. Good for you for pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. Especially in this day and age where it’s fun to beat up Muslims!

    For those of us who do know about such things, Hagarism was written thirty years ago and today is widely deemed self-satisfying and unrigorous, if not completely false and polemical, by actual real-for-real scholars. Sure, everyone should read it — it is compelling — but it’s chief point is that Islamic history had been up to that time largely written based on early Islamic historical sources, which the authors argue would not present a critical view of its own civilization’s origins. Crone and Cook then go on to use newly uncovered source material from non-Muslims that bear witness or, in their opinion, are otherwise important to the rise of Islam. Problem is, Crone and Cook are as selective and unrigorous as they portray the early Islamic sources they distrust so much to be.

    But hey, ain’t it fun to crap on the 1400 years of history and civilization of those whom we disagree with or dislike, especially in the completely dishonest guise of acting like a big smart fella? What’s that like?

  107. Ryan D says

    Personally, I don’t think circumcision is a big deal one way or the other. If I had to rule on it though, I would side against the practice of cutting off foreskins at birth. I don’t have a problem with circumcision or circumcised penises but I do think it should be up to the person who’s getting it done; after all, it is his body. As for the ban being called “extreme”, everyone weighing in on the debate should know that female circumcision has been banned nation-wide for 15 years and no one has a problem with that. On another note, if a religion that was smaller and less powerful than Judaism called for the branding of newborns we wouldn’t give them an exemption. Foreskins aren’t dirty; we’re just unfamiliar with them. Soap and water keeps them clean (just like with feet and arm pits).

  108. CynDaVaz says

    It’s past time this brutal and unnecessary procedure be outlawed. There’s no justification for it being inflicted on the body of a non-willing human being.

    There’s still a lot of ignorance out there among Americans – people who literally have no clue about the negative consequences (as well as the human rights violation) associated with inflicting this unnecessary genital surgery on infants.

    Many (but not all – , ) Jewish people are upset; they think it’s a threat to their freedom of religion. To which we counter: Muslims are legally prohibited from having the genitalia of their baby girls cut for cultural/religious reasons. Males are being denied equal protection under the law, and this is unconstitutional.

    Religion really shouldn’t be allowed any more as an excuse for inflicting physical alterations on the body of a non-consenting human being. Besides, babies don’t have a religion. They don’t even understand the concept. And circumcising a child in the name of religion actually infringes upon the child’s individual freedom of religion.

    Therefore, a ban on infant cutting would actually preserve our inherent rights acknowledged by the Constitution. It’s just that many people are unwilling to look at it that way … that’s how strong of a grip this culture of cutting has on the mindset of many Americans. :-(

  109. Patric says

    This post represents a low moment in the history of this website and, frankly, it warrants an apology. While Mr. Waldman has posted a comment criticizing another commenter for questioning his motives and offers the ridiculous assertion that he “purposely did not make clear [his own view] in this piece,” methinks he doth protest too much. As others have noted, Jews are not the only religious group who practice circumcision as a religious ritual, yet Mr. Waldman’s post exclusively and almost obsessively focuses on the need to protect the rights of Jews to practice their religion. He also takes proponents of this measure to task for the use of language which he alleges is “egregiously over the top” while at the same time using a completely misleading title for his post. He is of course entitled to his view on this topic but basic standards of professionalism would seem to dictate that he not try to pass off as an objective analysis of legal precedent what in fact is strident advocacy on a topic about which, I think most readers would conclude, he obviously has a very certain perspective.

  110. circ du jour says

    “Nipping” – Schmipping! And, as for “freedom”: sounds to me like the only freedom being lost here, is that of the little boy’s. You know, all those boys who will not have the freedom to choose to have an intact penis. You know the ones, the tykes who are going to have a part or their penis slashed off, unanaesthetized. Oh, heavens no, how could anyone say that’s mutilation!

    Ari – Aren’t you good at getting comments! I’ve learned a great deal from your posts. You have a great way of “pulling it all together”, in a cogent, easy to read, form. I’m guessing you didn’t intend to create a pasture, chalk full of very large, effluvial, cow pies for you and Andy to wade into, up to your necks. But, there you have it.

    As for keeping our comments 1) “out of our motives” and 2) “in the box of friendly debate”, that’s gonna be tough, when religion gets thrown in the mix, and when you entitle your posting: “San Francisco’s Circumcision Ban: Nipping Freedom in the Bud”. Because, you insinuate that some citizens are attempting an outright ban on circumcision, which they are not. Your use of the words: ”ban”, “nipping”, “freedom”, and “bud” while poignant, invite rigorous and motivated debate, from the outset.

    Maybe some who feel strongly about circumcision, should gather, and remove Ari and Andy’s clothes to check to see if there is any foreskin on their penis which needs to be cut off. Perhaps, if they’re circumcised, some foreskin was accidentally left intact? It could be severed on the spot! Maybe judges, both male and female, who hear the case, and are in favor of this “religious/parental practice” should partake of the same treatment which I suggest for Ari and Andy. Of course, I don’t advocate any of this. Because, I doubt any of the aforementioned want this. And, I don’t imagine any of the little boys want part of their penis removed either! Although, when those boys turn 18, if they really want to have a part of their penis slashed off, more power to them …

    @Andalusian Dog, you said it all so well. And, not that it matters, but, I’m circumcised, like almost all of my friends were. In graduate school, I used to wonder about being “intact”. Although today, I don’t really like the look and smell of an uncircumcised penis: those things we referred to as the “Northern California Anteater”, in the locker room, after PE, in junior high. I think it would have been best, if I had the choice, after I was 18. And, it’s best for little boys to have their foreskins, and decide if they want them removed when they’re adults. I find it odd that those who interpret our Constitution, will probably protect mutilation. But, stranger things will no doubt transpire in the future …

  111. Ron says

    I suspect most of the people on here have never actually seen a Jewish Bris. Regardless, here’s why this is such a big deal to Jews. A bris for a Jew is akin to a Baptism for Christian–you aren’t considered Jewish until you’ve had it done. So by making it illegal in SF, you’re effectively making it illegal (under Jewish law) to be Jewish until you’re 18. I think that’s antisemetic.

    Experienced moil’s take the job very seriously, and make mistakes EXTEREMLY rarely. There’s no anesthetic, but the baby is given a small amount of sweet wine, and none of us remember having had it done, as your brain isn’t really capable of forming memories at that age.

    When all is said and done, the penis is 100% functional, and it doesn’t hurt the baby really at all.

  112. ratbastard says

    My circumcised penis NEVER stopped me from masturbating and enjoying it. The 15th century Rabbi was wrong.

    But, in fact, a circumcised penis IS more healthy, and has been scientifically proven to greatly reduce the rate of [for example] HIV and opportunistic infections.


    PLEASE stop with the Fox News OBSESSION. Nothing I posted on this topic had ANY connection to Fox or reflects any particular ideology.

    1) Yes, I really do believe circumcision never caught on in Europe due to it’s association with Jews and antisemitism.

    2) Yes, circumcision is scientifically proven to greatly lower infections [bacterial and fungal], and even HIV.

  113. theotherlee says


    “To put it simply- there have been absolutely no credible cases that I can find that point to circumcision at birth being a source of trauma nor a inhibitor of sexual pleasure.”

    You want sources for trauma? How about death? Is that traumatic enough for you?

    From that article:
    “THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2010, 78-90


    – Dan Bollinger

    Abstract: Baby boys can and do succumb as a result of having their foreskin removed. Circumcision-related mortality rates are not known with certainty; this study estimates the scale of this problem. This study finds that approximately 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths (9.01/100,000) occur annually in the United States, about 1.3% of male neonatal deaths from all causes. Because infant circumcision is elective, all of these deaths are avoidable. This study also identifies reasons why accurate data on these deaths are not available, some of the obstacles to preventing these deaths, and some solutions to overcome them.”

    It may not be a huge number, but to me, ANY death due to “cosmetic surgery” performed on an individual that is unable to decide for themselves whether or not the procedure is done, is.. barbaric.

    You say there is no correlation between female circumcision and male circumcision. You need to do more research. There are four types of female circumcision, one of which is an exact equivalence to male circumcision, and ALL female circumcision have Federal laws in place since 1996.

    As has been stated numerous times in this thread; Adult circumcision is fine, as long as the patient is the one making the decision to get cut. Infant circumcision without medical justification should be illegal.


  114. Marlee says

    You foreskin fetish queens are a mess! lol

    You would think given the history of SanFran that the queens there could find something else to focus on beside dick, but I guess not.

    Seriously, since both sides seem to agree that there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other on the effects of circumcision (sucking dick does not count as evidence) then it should be up to the parents. By no means, should the city of SanFran have the final say.

    Oh, and those that hold a “grudge” against there parents REALLY need to let it go. I mean, honey, I’m sure your life has more going on that THAT. I hope. lol

  115. theotherlee says

    @Marlee –
    You need “conclusive evidence” to have an opinion on whether or not an infant should be given the time to make the decision themselves on whether or not a part of their body should be surgically removed? – Wow.. you’re just scary!

    I’m not a “foreskin fetish queen,” I just realize that male circumcision is just as wrong as female circumcision.

    @Dean –
    1. An intact penis can be cleaned just as easily as a cut penis, so the cleanliness argument is moot.

    2. You may want to quote statistics on penile cancer to support claims for the removal of the foreskin, but penile cancer is such a rare problem as to not warrant the removal of HEALTHY foreskin. And, if you still choose to support the claim, then I would hope that you would have your (general you, not you specifically) daughter’s have mastectomies at birth, because breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 35 (about 3%).

    If that doesn’t make sense to you, then why does circumcision?

    3. If you’re studies were accurate on how much circumcision lessens the risks of HIV transmission, can you then give reasons why in the UK, where only about 20% of males are circumcised versus the US, where nearer to 70% are circumcised.. how is it that the US is consistently having more people come up HIV+?

    The answer to HIV prevention isn’t infant, or even adult circumcision, it’s using CONDOMS!!

    Face it…

    Circumcision is an antiquated construct of a puritanical movement to attempt to reduce masturbatory behavior in men and boys, that became a financial boon to the medical field for many years. It has been regarded by medical professionals to be unnecessary unless there is disease or dysfunction. It boils down to a cosmetic surgery that the ‘patient’ has no say in the matter.

    Aside from religious practice (and that, apparently is starting to go by the way-side) there is no reasoning to justify circumcision at birth any more. Leave it to the individual being circumcised to decide what happens to his penis.

    Peace, again…

  116. says

    ” essential for a Jewish person to understand his people’s traditions, customs and liturgy.”

    It doesn’t “educate” the children … most don’t even know they lost something until they’re practically adults.

  117. Marlee says

    No, “TheOtherLee”, I need conclusive evidence that having a child circumcised is such a threat to the child’s health and well being that it warrants over-riding the rights of parents to decide.

    Parents make many health and aesthetic decisions for their child ALL THE TIME. Unless you can “prove” it is harmful to the child (and again, sucking dick doesn’t count as evidence) then it is UP TO THE PARENTS. Your parents made decisions for you all the time growing up that you dealt with. Unless you can prove the child is HARMED, then YES, conclusive, definitive evidence is needed.

    Welcome to the adult world.

  118. Brian says

    If you don’t want your kid to have a circumcision, then don’t have one. Don’t tell other people what to do though!

    I don’t know a single circumcised guy who REGRETS that he was circumcised as a child. Most guys I know are GLAD they are!

  119. theotherlee says

    I guess then it depends on what your definition of “harm” is.
    harm: –noun
    physical injury or mental damage; hurt: to do him bodily harm.
    moral injury; evil; wrong.

    Watch here, and tell me that there is no harm being doing:

    I’m willing to bet a large number of men that have been circumcised would definitely fall under the stance of, they have been “harmed.” Yes, there are many men that have been cut that wouldn’t, but therein lies the rub. The fact that a sizable portion of men feel that they’ve been mutilated by circumcision should give you pause before just categorically stating circumcision should be done to someone that can’t give their own opinion on it. I would urge you to do some research on what harm circumcision does, or can do. And then I’d really like your opinion if the risks involved really are worth the aesthetic appearance of a cut penis.

    For a start in your research, please take a look here:

    As far as adults making decisions for their children all the time, yes, they do, and they should. However, there are certain lines that should not be crossed. As a parent, if I were to have my daughter circumcised, would you support me, as a parent making a decision for my child?

    I won’t welcome you to the adult world, but I’ll tell you that the world we live in is a result of what we make of it. I’d much rather we live in a world where a child isn’t subjected to unnecessary, and potentially harmful surgery for no good reason. What world do you want to live in?

    Peace again

  120. Marlee says

    Unfortunately “TheOtherLee” you’re just making my point.

    If a “sizable” portion say it’s harmful yet there is “sizeable” portion that says it doesn’t, then without EVIDENCE it’s just a matter of OPINION. That doesn’t give people the right to over-ride a parents right to decide for their own child what’s in their best interest.

    As many have said, if you don’t want YOUR child circumcised then don’t get him circumcised but it’s a parent’s right to decide.

    As for your “relativist” argument about what constitutes harm, well, that’s why we have courts of law and objective standards to measure what’s considered harm in society. The whole “well who’s to say” argument is for the intellectually weak. We as a society “say” all the time.

    Setting a child on fire is harmful. Getting his ear pierced is not. why? As a society we’ve determined objectively what’s harmful.

    If millions of men are walking around living productive lives blah blah, then circumcision is not harmful. Just stop the BS

  121. theotherlee says

    “I don’t know a single circumcised guy who REGRETS that he was circumcised as a child. Most guys I know are GLAD they are!”

    Read the comments here. There are MANY circumcised men that not only regret, but are furious that they were circumcised. Open your eyes.

    “If you don’t want your kid to have a circumcision, then don’t have one. Don’t tell other people what to do though!”

    Does that mean you would support female circumcision, Brian? I mean, we shouldn’t tell people what to do, right?

  122. theotherlee says

    “As many have said, if you don’t want YOUR child circumcised then don’t get him circumcised but it’s a parent’s right to decide.”
    Fine, I’ll ask you the same as I have Brian, would you be opposed then of female circumcision? A circumcised woman can “lead productive lives blah, blah, blah… then it’s not harmful,” right?

    “As for your “relativist” argument about what constitutes harm, well, that’s why we have courts of law and objective standards to measure what’s considered harm in society. The whole “well who’s to say” argument is for the intellectually weak. We as a society “say” all the time.”

    Exactly right. And it looks as though people in San Francisco are looking to amend that.

  123. Marlee says

    And I would certainly support everyone’s right to speak their mind, even whackadoos.

    Thankfully we DO have courts of laws and as many who have looked at this recognize it has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing much less being ratified in a court of law.

    but, I’ll keep my popcorn handy watching you try.

  124. theotherlee says


    I find it very interesting that you decide not to answer the questions I posed you.

    Is it so difficult for you to do so, and still keep your position of “pro-circumcision”?

  125. Marlee says

    Your question has been answered by numerous posters. Female circumcision in NOTHING close to male circumcision. Female circumcision completely represses female sexuality, whilw male circumcision does nothing even close. Female anatomy and male anatomy are completely different. Your “relativist” argument is completely absurd. The two practices are only the same if men and women’s anatomies are the same.

    please stop the bs.

  126. Hoyle McCain says

    I wonder do people that support circumcisions understand exactly how this procedure is done? I’m a registered nurse and have seen many of them done. Baby is strapped into a plastic tray with Velcro over the arms, legs and waist. Doctor uses hemostats to manually PRY the foreskin loose from the glans and widen the opening. A plastic bell shaped device is placed over the glans and a curved blade is used to excise the extra skin that overlaps the bottom rim of the bell. Very efficient, but the problem is all this is done with ABSOLUTELY NO ANESTHETIC WHATSOEVER!! Babies poop, scream, pee, scream, struggle, scream, cry, puke and scream some more. It is obviously barbaric and torture. Then stool gets into the wound at times and generally causes infections that have to be treated. Us guys know how painful that area can be when injured. Imagine a small child who’s nervous system has not developed feels that sensation all over his little body!! Give us guys the CHOICE, IMHO!!!!

  127. Brian says

    Theotherlee: you’re a little too obsessed with this topic. Chill out and find something important to be passionate about.

    PS – Anyone with a brain understands that if this ban is voted in, there is ZERO chance it will ever survive. It’ll be struck down by the courts immediately, and rightfully so.

  128. Bill says

    @DEAN: “The facts are simple, circumcision saves lives: ‘A systematic review and meta-analysis that focused on male circumcision and heterosexual transmission of HIV in Africa was published in 2000 [5]. …'”

    Try for more comprehensive information. The picture is a bit more complex: “As there are a number of difficulties associated with circumcision as an HIV prevention approach, considerable care must be taken wherever it is promoted.” (Read the article for the details – when it might help is dependent on a number of factors.) Regardless, it is far less effective than condoms.

  129. Bill says

    @BRIAN: “Anyone with a brain understands that if this ban is voted in, there is ZERO chance it will ever survive.”

    I wouldn’t say zero, although there is a pretty good chance it would be ruled unconstitutional for the reasons Ari Ezra Waldman gave (and he did not claim certainty). If you read Hoyle McCain’s comment, however, one would wonder whether a video or audio track of this medical “procedure”, complete with an infant’s screams, would suggest to a court that there is a compelling state interest in banning the procedure until the patient is old enough to provide informed consent.

    So far, the most amusing part of the debate was the statement opposing the ban by San Francisco’s Catholic archbishop, who is in favor of letting parents decide to have a portion of a boy’s penis cut off while at the same time opposing the removal of a smaller amount of tissue from a pregnant woman at her request.

  130. Stanley says

    I find it hilarious that child protection was immediately invoked when a mother claimed she had been giving her 8-year-old Botox injections, yet many parents happily authorize this painful, irreversible, risky, pointless surgery. No, wait, I mean ‘tragic’, not ‘hilarious’.

  131. Ninong says

    If I still lived in San Francisco, I would vote for the ban. “Religious ritual” is what is making the United States the laughing stock of the rest of the civilized world. This is the 21st century but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at statistics comparing the U.S. to other modern countries when it comes to anything involving “religious ritual.”

    When it comes to acceptance of the theory of evolution, we’re near the bottom, just above Turkey. Europeans think we’re all a bunch of ignorant hicks. The rate of circumcision of newborn male babies in most other Western countries is well below 10% but it’s still close to half in the U.S.

    Female circumcision is illegal in the U.S. We banned it by federal law in 1996. That practice is a “religious ritual” in certain cultures but that ban passed with flying colors over here. No Supreme Court challenges that I know of.

    Parents should not be allowed to mutilate their newborn babies in the name of “religious ritual,” whatever that means in the 21st century.

  132. Ninong says

    Apparently the rate of circumcision of newborns in the U.S. is no longer “close to half” as I previously stated.

    Aug 18th, 2010: The CDC has reported that circumcision rates in the US have fallen sharply over the last decade—from 56% of newborn boys circumcised in 2006, to 33% in 2009. Declines are being attributed to the American Academy of Pediatrics statement in 1999 that “existing data [was] not sufficient to recommend routine newborn male circumcision” and reduced insurance coverage of the surgery—among other factors.

  133. Ninong says

    The following statement by the Netherlands medical association is typical of current European medical opinion:

    “The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications.”

  134. Luke says

    As Professor Waldman correctly notes, the seminal modern case concerning the free exercise of religion as it relates to a particular practice associated with a sincerely held religious belief is Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) (finding that the free exercise clause did not prohibit application of Oregon drug laws to ceremonial ingestion of peyote [marijuana], and thus the state could, consistent with free exercise clause, deny claimants unemployment compensation for work-related misconduct based on use of drug), wherein Justice Scalia (widely considered the most conservative Justice) delivered the opinion of the Court.

    The following excerpts from the Court’s opinion exemplify why I think Professor Waldman gives short shrift to the precedential effect that this case will have on any future regulatory circumcision “ban” and the religious freedom arguments set forth in opposition.

    As Justice Scalia reasons:

    “The free exercise of religion means, first and foremost, the right to believe and profess whatever religious doctrine one desires.” Id. at 877. “But the ‘exercise of religion’ often involves not only belief and profession but the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts: assembling with others for a worship service, participating in sacramental use of bread and wine, proselytizing, abstaining from certain foods or certain modes of transportation. It would be true, we think (though no case of ours has involved the point), that a State would be ‘prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]’ if it sought to ban such acts or abstentions only when they are engaged in for religious reasons, or only because of the religious belief that they display.” Id. However, “[w]e have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.” Id. at 878-89. “[Our] decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a ‘valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).'” Id. at 879.

    Here, the circumcision ban is a proposal of general applicability which would apply to the populace irrespective of sincerely held religious beliefs. The ban, on its face, does not target religious activity for prohibition. Examined solely under the Free Exercise Clause, a challenge must fail in light of the applicable law.

    Professor Waldman is right, however, that the situation becomes murkier given that the ban would implicate several constitutional liberties and clauses, though I don’t think the issue is quite the slam dunk that Professor Waldman suggests. As Waldman points out, the Court has been much more willing to find that a neutral, generally applicable law violates the Constitution when it interferes with, for example, parental rights regarding the upbringing of their children in the educational context. However, the hybrid rights involved would switch the Court’s Free Exercise analytical framework; the Court would likely ask: (1) is there a sincerely held religious belief; (2) if so, does the governmental action substantially burden (meaning more than trivial) religious exercise; and (3) does the state have a compelling interest in banning circumcision for minors, and are the means employed narrowly tailored to that interest.

    The sincerity of the religious beliefs involved in this issue are unquestionable. But whether a ban on minors’ circumcision substantially burdens religious exercise is less clear; the Jewish faith has many tenants, and it is hardly a given that prohibiting circumcision of minor males fundamentally interferes with the free exercise of Judaism. But even if, hypothetically, the circumcision ban is a “substantial burden” on religious exercise, the City of San Francisco could easily set forth a variety of compelling interests (many of which have already thoroughly been fleshed out in the comments above) which the Supreme Court could find satisfies strict scrutiny review.

    The larger point of this comment is simply to show that this is a relatively novel issue. Yet, the legal framework under which the issue will be analyzed already exists. And under that framework, I am skeptical of Professor Waldman’s hard conclusion that the ban would not likely survive constitutional review, particularly because of nature of the competing freedoms and liberties at stake.

  135. Dean says

    We should be clear here about the issues:
    1) There are no negatives to circumcision.
    2) Circumcision saves lives and dramatically reduces the risk of becoming infected with HIV and other STD’s. Many large studies have shown this; these are well documented on the CDC website at
    3) Circumcision makes keeping the penis clean easier and reduces other diseases and complications.
    4) Uncircumcised men often have problems requiring more complicated surgery later in life and the foreskin may have problems retracting from the glans.
    5) Parents have a right to do what is best for their children (even painful vaccinations and dental cleanings are legal!).

  136. Dean says

    As a man who lives in San Francisco who is married to a man, is not Jewish, has two biological sons, and most of whose friends are men, I can say with great certainty that there are no negative consequences to circumcision and great benefits. I will vote ‘no’ of course and don’t see any really chance that the ban will pass. If it does, it will be struck down as unconstitutional on a variety of grounds. I know four men who were circumcised as adults (two gay and two heterosexual). Three of them were circumcised for health reasons and one for aesthetic reasons. All four attest that there has been no loss of sexual pleasure or function. I won’t say this is the worst initiative in California since Prop 8, but it is certainly heinous on many levels. Now we see that the proponents of the ban are motivated by religious bigotry (

  137. Ninong says

    The statement that “there are no negatives to circumcision” is factually incorrect.

    “The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications.”

    “It is generally agreed among medical professionals that there is no medical reason for routine circumcision.” – New Zealand medical association statement. They go on to say, “It is known, however, that circumcision can reduce the risk of developing urinary tract infections, cancer of the penis and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). It also eliminates the risk of developing infections of the foreskin.”

    Routine circumcision of newborn male babies is declining worldwide.

  138. Ninong says

    How do statistics on HIV transmission have anything to do with routine circumcision of male infants? When they’re old enough to engage in sex, I’m sure their parents will tell them about condoms.

    Many other medical associations outside the U.S. have already spoken out against routine circumcision of male infants. In the U.S. the CDC has not yet issued any official policy statement. They’re still working on it.

    In some countries, the medical associations are in favor of a ban on routine circumcision of male infants, with exceptions for religious purposes. Doctors would be required to inform the parents that there is no medical benefit to routine circumcision of infants. If the parents still insisted that they wanted it done for religious reasons, then it would have to be performed under sedation by a medical professional.

  139. Ninong says

    No national medical organization in the world recommends routine circumcision of male infants, including those in the U.S. It is considered non-therapeutic and medically unnecessary intervention.

    Some national medical associations have spoken out strongly against routine circumcision of male infants.

  140. Ian says

    ….and by all means do not correct cleft palates. How dare you impose societal pressures to look pretty on unsuspecting children. Why stop there?

    Whereas one is correct about the child not having a say in the matter, the comparison to female genital mutilation which is meant to deny pleasure for women and to subjugate them is ridiculous.

  141. Ninong says

    “Cleft palates?” Really? What a ridiculous, juvenile comparison!

    Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is child abuse, plain and simple. Unlike a “cleft palate,” there is no harm in waiting until the child is 18 and old enough to make his own decision.

  142. Ninong says

    @MYACKIE: This will probably come as a surprise to you but San Francisco Bay is the name of a body of water. There are quite a few cities that border San Francisco Bay. San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland are just the largest.

    The man who walked into the body of water known as San Francisco Bay was in the city of Alameda. That’s in the East Bay. San Francisco is 7 miles away, on the other side of that body of water known as San Francisco Bay.

    Read the article next time before you post something that stupid.

  143. says

    I paused when I read this:

    “And, besides, a circumcision could be seen as an educational tool, one essential for a Jewish person to understand his people’s traditions, customs and liturgy.”

    Does this mean that a female can not be fully educated to understand her people’s tradition without (her own) circumcision, or that she can understand but only at an inferior/vicarious level via a witnessed male cirumcision?

  144. Dominic says

    As an uncut man, I can say I don’t know how sex would be at all enjoyable without it. As an atheist, obviously I think that cutting a baby’s parts off is evil, the kind of evil only inspired by the bad factual premise of religion. Personally I am against it, and will argue with my acquaintances on the subject. But legally I admit there is difficulty. The rights of the parent to raise a child as he likes should be balanced with the right of the child. The health benefits of cutting are contested, as I understand it.

  145. terryp says

    As an old man already may I say: I Love foreskin, just can’t get enough (so to speak), wish I still had mine too. Oh well.
    Just love other peoples foreskin, just love
    em. What a great subject to talk about.

  146. Rudeger says

    Religious and cultural groups are EXEMPT from the Law. This is why Jews and Muslims have not been going ape-poo over it.

    Do you really think they’d sit back while the government outlaws part of their religious traditions? Good lord, did you even READ the law?

    Next: health benefits? Circumcision is listed as a cosmetic procedure. It is not covered by health insurance because it is purely elective and aesthetic.

    Condoms are 99.98% effective at preventing HIV/AIDS … not circumcision. That’s medical, scientific fact.

    My biggest smack-down to this article:

    Human rights.

    “My Body, My Choice” is not just a chant that applies to women. My body is mine. Nobody should have the right to force a permanently disfiguring (in my eyes) cosmetic procedure on it… but that’s exactly what was done. I’ll go to my grave never knowing what my full and complete anatomy feels like. That is wrong.

    If an adult wants to get circumcised, or tattooed, than hey, knock yourself out. But to force that on a child — an infant?

    Why not let parents tattoo their baby? At least a tattoo can be removed. I’ll never have a complete penis.

    This law is long overdue.

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