California’s Jewish and Muslim communities celebrated Monday after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new state law the day before affirming the legality of male circumcision.
The practice, which dates back to time of Abraham, according to the Bible, was under attack by such California cities as San Francisco and Santa Monica, which sought to ban circumcisions for males younger than 18 years of age.
Both Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Golden State said that the proposed bans on circumcision were a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee that neither the federal government, nor state or local governments could impose laws restricting the free exercise of religion.
Proponents of an end to circumcisions in California argued that the issue was not about religion, but about human rights. They likened male circumcision to female genital mutilation.
The measure Gov. Brown signed into law Sunday was prompted by a San Francisco referendum that would have outlawed male circumcisions if approved by the city’s voters. A local San Francisco judge removed the measure from the ballot in August, ruling that, under California law, only the state can regulate medical procedures.
The San Francisco court ruling did not prevent other local governments around the state from considering – and, perhaps, enacting – bans of their own, thus the state legislature passed the measure blocking cities and counties around the state from banning circumcisions.
Of course, that did not set well with the organized interests that had hoped a San Francisco ban on circumcisions would lead to a California ban, and a ban in the nation’s most populous state would ultimately lead to a nationwide ban.
California has “taken a big step backwards,” said Matthew Hess, president of MGMBill.org. His group, which claims to be part of a worldwide movement, aims to end “male genital mutilation” in the United States, city-by-city, state-by-state, as necessary.
But the organization is not only up against the Jewish and Muslim communities in California and other states; it’s also up against the Christian evangelical community.
Back in June, the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 local churches throughout the country, issued a statement expressing support for Jewish and Muslim leaders in their opposition to a ban on circumcisions.
“While evangelical denominations traditionally neither require nor forbid circumcision,” said association president Leith Anderson, “we join Jews and Muslims in opposing this ban and standing together for religious freedom.”