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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monitoring the News

There are some crusades which are just a little too reminiscent of bad stages in Jewish history. (It is ironic that this story came out in the weeks prior to Hanukkah - see the third sentence here as well)

There is a man in San Francisco who is reportedly gathering signatures for a petition to make it illegal to circumcise minors - which of course translates to anyone under the age of 18. The petition will merely allow the issue to be put to a general vote in the near future, which can always lose at the ballot box. But in San Francisco, who knows what can happen?

I am not going to go into the legalities beyond suggesting that such a ban is unconstitutional simply because it would step on the toes of religious freedom (for those religions such as Judaism that require circumcision), and also puts the law into people's private lives in a way that seems to be illegal according to US law.
 As a parent, I have a right to have my child undergo circumcision if I feel it is in his best interest.

The anti-circumcision people have an unfortunate obsession (as most of the headlines about this man and his petition will indicate) with their apparent dissatisfaction with physical intimacy, and blame their problems on their lack of foreskin.

This is certainly debatable. Frankly, Maimonides agrees with them in his Guide to the Perplexed, but he also says that the bris helps us have other pursuits in life - holy, spiritual pursuits - as we are not running like chickens to our bedrooms all day (not an exact quote).

As many sources, quotations and studies that the anti-circumcision people will quote, I can challenge with pro-circumcision sources, quotations and studies to diffuse their arguments.

Which is why I am intellectually honest and say there is a debate to be had.

There are studies of adult males in Africa who underwent circumcision as adults specifically to report if they felt any different (once healed, of course) when engaged in the marital act. (They didn't.) There are studies that indicate a much lower percentage (though never 0) of certain diseases and illnesses in circumcised males (penile cancer, AIDS, and transfer of STDs).


All these studies are irrelevant to the conversation. The procedure of circumcision, when done under the proper conditions, by a skilled practitioner, and done properly, is not dangerous. The physical benefits or cons, as I've said, are debatable. But most people, except the obsessed (ie this petitioner), don't put too much thought to what they'd prefer. And, by the way, there are cases where a child who is not circumcised as a baby medically needs a circumcision as he grows and develops, for his health and well-being. I did not read the proposed petition, but if it challenges the possibility of circumcising such a child, it becomes a dangerous law if put into effect.

For the purposes of this argument, and the focus of this "Pro-Bris" blog, I hope the petition goes nowhere and if it comes to a vote, is voted down on constitutional grounds.

This is a country that tolerates religious freedom and free choice that does not harm others. Properly done, circumcision is not harmful, may even be beneficial, and is only probelematic to those who may benefit from a few visits to the psychoanalyst.

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