San Francisco Ballot: Judge Orders Removal of Circumcision Ban

In a case that has religious groups accusing opponents of trying to trample on their constitutional rights, a San Francisco judge ordered Thursday that a measure meant to criminalize child circumcision to be dropped from the city's November ballot.

Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi said Thursday that banning circumcision would violate a California law that affords states, not cities, the jurisdiction to regulate medical procedures. The judge sad she found no legitimate reason to allow the measure to remain on the ballot.

The initiative made it onto the ballot in May with the support of 12,000 signatures from local residents. The proposed law would have made the practice of circumcising male children, a procedure common among Jewish males, a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine or one year in jail.

The language of the proposed ban does not allow for certain groups to claim exemption due to religious rituals.

The Jewish Community Relations Council, representing Jewish and Muslim families as well as doctors, filed the lawsuit against the city and Lloyd Schofield, the man who spearheaded getting the initiative onto the ballot.

Schofield's opponents argued that the initiative threatened their religious freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Schofield, who calls male circumcision a brutal practice, told Bloomberg that he is considering filing an appeal.

His attorney, Michael Kinane, told the Judge Giorgi that circumcision is neither cultural nor religious and that California has no laws to sufficiently "justify the mutilation of little infants."

If the measure had remained, the city would have become the first in the country to ask the public to decide on criminalizing the circumcision of minors.

A group called Male Genital Mutilation (MGM) has been calling on Congress since January to place a federal prohibition on male circumcision, similar to the law enacted in 1996 that bans female genital mutilation.

Matthew Hess, president of the group, told Bloomberg that he plans to appeal Giorgi's ruling and is currently working on a legal strategy.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents more than 45,000 local churches from 40 different denominations, issued a statement last month in support of faith groups cornered by the proposed measure.

“Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circumcision begins with Abraham,” said NAE President Leith Anderson. “No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake.”