Evangelicals have come out in opposition to a proposed ban on circumcision in northern California.
The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 local churches, released a statement on Thursday expressing solidarity with Jewish and Muslim leaders in their stance against the ban.
“While evangelical denominations traditionally neither require nor forbid circumcision, we join Jews and Muslims in opposing this ban and standing together for religious freedom," said NAE President Leith Anderson.
"Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circumcision begins with Abraham. No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake."
Voters in San Francisco will have the chance to vote on a measure in November that, if approved, would outlaw circumcision of male children. There would be no religious exemption and a violation of the law would be punishable with fines up to $1,000 or one year in jail.
Behind the controversial ballot initiative is Lloyd Schofield, who collected more than 7,700 signatures to get the measure before voters this year.
"The base of our argument is you're spending incredible amounts of money doing painful and damaging surgery to an unwilling patient," Schofield, a partnered homosexual, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The frequency of circumcision in the United States is unknown, as hospitals are not legally required to report how many they perform. According to organizers behind a similar bill (Genital Mutilation Prohibition Act), the average U.S. circumcision rate fell from 56 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2009. The statistics are based on government surveys.
Circumcision is least practiced on the West Coast.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed in 2005 a policy statement that says the decision to perform a circumcision should be left to the parents to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
"In the case of circumcision, in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child," the AAP states.
"In the pluralistic society of the United States in which parents are afforded wide authority for determining what constitutes appropriate child-rearing and child welfare, it is legitimate for the parents to take into account cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions, in addition to medical factors, when making this choice."
The practice of circumcision is an important tradition in Jewish and Muslim communities. Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles commented on The Washington Post's On Faith forum that he finds the proposed ban "faintly ludicrous and very offensive."
"There is an undercurrent of contempt for religious belief in general that drives this measure," he stated, adding that he carries the covenant of Abraham in his flesh. "The authors think of themselves as liberal but they are actually coercive; they are believers in transcendence as well, but it is in the transcendence of their own judgment."
He disagreed with a select few imposing their beliefs on the rest of the public.
"We make scores of decisions for our children that are determinative of their lives: where to live, where to go to school, what to eat, what language to learn, what books and television shows to watch when young. Increasingly there is a cadre of people who believe they know better; that all children should be raised as they raise their own."