Banning Circumcision is Simply Banning Judaism (Guest Voice)

Banning Circumcision is Simply Banning Judaism
by Yaakov Kirschen

A bill to ban circumcision of all males under the age of 18 will be on the ballot in San Francisco this November. This is alarming because circumcision of all males is the single most basic ritual of Judaism. Banning circumcision is a direct attack on the practice of Judaism, even if it is presented as having other motives. In fact, history shows us that viral anti-Semitism always comes to town in disguise, usually portraying its motives as a need to protect innocent victims from demonic Jews.

In the past, violent lynch mob pogrom attacks on Jews and Judaism were launched to protect the peasants and townsfolk from Jews who had “poisoned the wells.” The Nazis were just trying to protect racial purity. More recently, Jew-hatred has been packaged as an attempt to protect the “Palestinian” natives from the evil colonialist Jewish State, and now, in 21st century California, the attack on Judaism is being promoted as protecting Jewish babies from their demonic Jewish parents.

A second characteristic of the behavioral virus we call anti-Semitism is its compulsive use of cartoons in spreading its libels. Anti-Semitic movements from Nazism to Fascism to Stalinism to contemporary Islamism all share a surprisingly intensive use of anti-Semitic cartoons in their campaigns. And so it is with the framers of the anti-circumcision bill.

The bill was written by a private non-profit organization based in San Diego, California with chapters in sixteen states. It is led by someone named Matthew Hess. Their goal is a nation-wide ban on the practice of circumcision and, sure enough, Matthew just could not resist the compulsion to draw those standard Nazi blood-libel caricatures of fiendish Rabbis sacrificing innocent babies. Hess, to push his campaign for the anti-circumcision bill, wrote and edited a propagandizing comic book called Foreskinman. The work is incredibly rich in Nazi ideology and filled with vile anti-Semitic imagery. The shockingly blatant anti-Semitism of the piece was so obvious that, in response, the woman who had been a proponent of putting the same bill onto the ballot in Santa Monica has now withdrawn the measure from consideration.

The comic book stars a blond, Aryan-looking superhero that interrupts a circumcision ceremony, beats up the fiendish, grinning Rabbi (named Monster Mohel), thrashes the Rabbi’s machine gun-toting Jewish accomplices, and takes the Jewish baby from his Jewish father. The child’s father shouts “Give me back my son” but our Nordic hero flies the terrified baby off to safety.

The baby, now rescued from the Jews, is taken on a two-day trip to a group of beach-dwelling pagans and given to them. As the pagan woman who has been given the stolen Jewish baby announces at the end of this touching saga, she is now free to “raise him as one of our own.”

The history of the attempts to destroy Judaism is punctuated with anti-circumcision laws. In 167 BCE the Syrian Greek occupiers of the Land of Israel banned circumcision. A few hundred years after that the Romans occupiers of the Land of Israel banned circumcision in their attempt to destroy Judaism. The Nazis banned circumcision, as did the Stalinists. Banning circumcision is simply a synonym for banning Judaism.

And while we’re at it, here’s a question for you. Why does the Christian calendar start on Jan. 1? Shouldn’t the Christian calendar start on Dec. 25?: the day of Jesus’ birth? What made Jan. 1 so important? It’s simple. Jan. 1 (when baby Jesus was 8 days old) was the day of his circumcision.

©2011Yaakov Kirschen. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate and is licensed to run on TMV in full. Yaakov is an internationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, political analyst, blogger, and popular speaker. His “Dry Bones” cartoons have commented on the Middle East and the World since 1973. He may be reached at [email protected]

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  • Degrance

    “Why does the Christian calendar start on Jan. 1? Shouldn’t the Christian calendar start on Dec. 25?: the day of Jesus’ birth? What made Jan.1 so important? It’s simple. Jan. 1 (when baby Jesus was 8 days old) was the day of his circumcision.”
    Utter nonsense.
    Dec 25 is Christmas because early Christians borrowed the date from a roman festival called Saturnalia. That festival was on that date before Christianity even existed. Neither the date of Christmas nor the date of the beginning of the new year have anything what-so-ever to do with Judaism or circumcision.

  • Bub Snikt

    If the basis for your entire religion is genital mutilation, that’s pretty damn sad.

  • ShannonLeee

    While I believe there is antisemitism behind this “movement”, I find this article a bit silly. Degrance makes a very valid point about Christmas day.

    That being said….I do know people that are against circumcision because it cuts out many nerve endings in that part of the body. Apparently, in comparison to having foreskin, being circumcised is like wearing a condom. The feeling just isn’t the same.

  • Tom Tobin

    Yaakov, you don’t sound like a man upset because his religion is under attack. You sound like a boy, whose mother is threatenting to take a toy away.
    You can kid yourself all you want, that circumcision is done out of love. It’s not.
    No one does an act of violence, severing healthy flesh, out of love.
    Yes, it’s an anti-Semitic cartoon. It’s ugly.
    What is uglier? The free speech in an ugly cartoon, or actually cutting up the genitals Jewish people? I find it peculiar. People complain about Mengele, and turn around and do the same kind of thing to their own flesh and blood. I just don’t understand how people can ignore the well being of their infant, for the purported well being of their G*d.
    This is the voice of moderation? I don’t think so. I agree with Bub Snikt, if the basis of the religion is partial ritual genital amputation, it’s not a lot to go on.
    Russian Jews have their foreskins, and are totally accepted as full Jews in Israel, and the world over. Perhaps, if you are that attached to the surgery of Abraham, you should adhere to his example. Voluntarily cut off the tip of your own foreskin, when you are 99. Bottom line, it’s his body. He should be the only one to decides which healthy parts to keep.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bonobo3D?feature=mhee James Loewen

    The title says it all, that this writer, Yaakov Kirschen’s grasp on religion is entirely based on his cut genital status and his need to perpetrate this onto others.

    Carving religion into the genitals of an infant is both a very weak and very bullying act. By legal definition it is an aggravated sexual assault.

    I am fortunate to know many good Jewish people who have given up on forced circumcision of their boys, while retaining all the good aspects of their religion and culture.

  • jdledell

    Circumcision is another rite where Judaism and Islam intersect. Both religions practice circumcision “religiously”. The San Francisco ban has been actively opposed by Jews, Muslims AND the Christian Evangelicals. While the comic book may be anti-semitic, the law as proposed had nothing to do specifically with Jews. It was an outgrowth of the crazy liberals who populate that city and their ideals on health and environment etc.

  • http://whatimmissing.blogspot.com kurt_t

    You know, if you talked to my Christian ancestors in Germany and Poland 150 years ago, they probably would have told you that participating in pogroms was part of their religion, and laws to prevent pogroms were an attack on Christian culture. I like to think that humanity has evolved past the point where we think that a belief in the supernatural gives us the right or the obligation to hurt somebody. I like to think that we live in a world where your right to practice your religion stops somewhere before you draw another person’s blood.

  • ShannonLeee

    I wonder if moving this ritual to the fetal stage of development would make a difference?

    Say a procedure at the 8 month stage?

    The left would have to defend a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body.

    The right would have to defend the fetus’ right to not be mutilated before birth.

  • roro80

    Yaakov, except for the final paragraph (which is interesting, but certainly not substantiated here in the article, and isn’t even really relevant to the point of the article), I found you post to be a very important point of view in this debate.

    While I do think that many in the movement to end circumcision do have good intentions, and only want to make sure the decision is supported by the boy himself, the fact and history of anti-semitism cannot be discounted. I’m frankly a little shocked at those on this thread who would never deny outright that a law that overwhelmingly affects black people couldn’t possibly be racist are making that exact argument here. I expect that sort of “logic” from our TMV commenters on the right, but not from those on the left.

    As the post correctly points out, there’s no doubt at ALL that there is some ugly, anti-semitic crap going on with this campaign. That comic that is brought up is truly jaw-dropping in its blatant racism, and you are right that it looks very much like Nazi propaganda. The guy who came up with that is either a blatant anti-semite or is so shamefully ignorant about the history of his own issue of choice that he belongs nowhere near any sort of activism at all.

  • roro80

    “Yaakov Kirschen’s grasp on religion is entirely based on his cut genital status and his need to perpetrate this onto others”

    No. This is just silly. He says it’s the most important ritual. It doesn’t say his entire grasp of the religion is based on circumcision. C’mon, disagree with his point if you want, but don’t just lie about what we can all clearly read for ourselves.

  • roro80

    “While the comic book may be anti-semitic, the law as proposed had nothing to do specifically with Jews.”

    Laws that state marriage is between a man and a woman also don’t mention LGBT people. Poll taxes and literacy tests for voting rights never said “because we don’t want the negroes to vote”. It’s just that certain laws overwhelmingly negatively affect certain groups more than others. You don’t have to have a swastica on your arm to support racist laws.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bonobo3D?feature=mhee James Loewen

    Kirschen’s statement, “circumcision of all males is the single most basic ritual of Judaism” indicates that he thinks Judaism is entirely resting on this act of violence upon a helpless infant. If this barbarism is the most important act…? Judaism needs to evolve.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    I’ve never read of any studies saying there’s that much difference either way, especially with modern sanitation and medicine.

    I don’t know of any practical reasons for opposing the practice. Would any of these new posters care to enlighten the rest of us as to what’s so horrible about it that it deserves to be called “mutilation”?

  • roro80

    No, it indicates exactly what he says it does: that it’s the most basic *ritual*. Surely you know the difference between a ritual associated with religion and the religious belief system itself? Surely this is not a difficult concept. Purposeful density and strawman arguments do not help your cause. Perhaps the most basic ritual of Catholicism is the eucharist, but saying that does not mean that the entire religion is based on bland crackers.

    I’d also suggest that it’s pretty heinously arrogant for someone on the outside to tell an entire cultural and religious system that they need to “evolve”, as if Jews were some sort of semi-human simians. You might want to work on your talking points if you want to come off as righteously angry instead of blatantly racist. You might want to make sure you haven’t mixed the two ideas up in your own mind first.

  • foreskin

    Thank You Tom Tobin, You said it better than this Jew could have. I AM HARMED !!! Where are my most basic of human rights to be free from harm ? Freedom of religion stops at some one else’s body. Children are not chattel. Brian Levitt.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    “I AM HARMED !!!”
    I was circumcised also. Everything seems to work just fine, thank you. Exactly what consequences do you think you’ve suffered?

  • http://whatimmissing.blogspot.com kurt_t

    ProfElwood, first person accounts of the harm of male genital mutilation are all over the internet these days. Here’s one from a young man named Shea Levy…

    http://blog.shealevy.com/2011/05/17/an-open-letter-to-mohel-michael-henesch/

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    He has a scar. Since most Christians have been circumcised, I’m guessing that it’s rare, since there’s no such requirement for Christians.

    I asked what consequences you suffered. Unless you’re scarred like Shea, you haven’t made your point.

  • dduck

    And of course, ancient Arabs also practiced circumcision as did Egyptians. Mohamed was rumored to have been circumcised.
    It is also performed in South Africa and some parts of Asia.

  • roro80

    dduck — many pre-western-era polynesian cultures also did. The difference there is that they’d wait until they were going through their “becoming a man” stage, in which a group of similarly-aged boys would go through a long period of study and learning (including physical tasks), followed by the final ceremony in which they got circumsized…using a sharp shell…in the salty ocean. Ouch! Their reward, though, was that then they would be tended to and ultimately shown the ways of sex by some of the older women in the group over the next weeks.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bonobo3D?feature=mhee James Loewen

    The proof of the harm is a scar now exists where a mobile erogenous body part once exited. Mutilation is surgery without consent.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    I’m also an “innie” instead of “outie”. Perfectly intact flesh was killed without my consent. I’m sure that the procedure is occasionally botched.

    We must stop umbilical cord clamping!

  • Dr. J

    While I do think that many in the movement to end circumcision do have good intentions, and only want to make sure the decision is supported by the boy himself, the fact and history of anti-semitism cannot be discounted…. As the post correctly points out, there’s no doubt at ALL that there is some ugly, anti-semitic crap going on with this campaign.

    So what? This is a question of balancing legitimate interests: some people’s freedom to practice a religious tradition versus other people’s freedom to keep their body parts intact. Both sides are invoking cartoons in an attempt to demagogue the issue, but cartoons and historic injustices are irrelevant. Neither side should get more weight because of anything that went on in Syria in 167 BC.

  • dduck

    Absent strong scientific evidence of harm, I support freedom of choice, without the religions hyperbole.

  • roro80

    “So what?”

    Really, Dr J? Think a little here, please. Saying “people should be able to read in order to vote” can sound non-racist, but we all know that the purpose of literacy laws were specifically to keep black people from voting. It was the point of the law, not some unintended side-consequence. Therefore: racism. One cannot talk about issues that overwhelmingly negatively affect one particular group without discussing the possibility that the writing of said law is has not only harmful effects, but harmful intent. Drawing on the history of discriminatory laws is not only valid but is necessary to understanding whether a currently proposed law will be discriminatory.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    It is revealing that when it struck down literacy laws, the Court did not simply assume they were intended to be racist, but required specific findings from the legislative history (e.g. floor statements from sponsors of the laws) and details of how the tests were applied before making that conclusion.

    Therefore, some people’s current practice of simply assuming racist intent whenever they don’t like something or someone is not as well supported by the example of literacy laws as you say, roro.

    It is also revealing that the first literacy test laws were designed not to discriminate against blacks, but rather against Irish. http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html

  • Dr. J

    It was the point of the law, not some unintended side-consequence.

    But I believe you’ve already agreed that’s not the case here, that the anti-circumcision side is representing a legitimate interest of well-intentioned people. Their interest doesn’t become less legitimate because someone drew an antisemitic cartoon.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    So, let’s look again at the statistics and hard facts that the above anti-circumcision posters have presented in order to make their case:

  • roro80

    “But I believe you’ve already agreed that’s not the case here, that the anti-circumcision side is representing a legitimate interest of well-intentioned people. Their interest doesn’t become less legitimate because someone drew an antisemitic cartoon.”

    That “someone” (who commissioned it, not physically drew it, of course) is the main driving force behind the movement in California to enact this sort of ban. It’s the main dude, running the main campaign, distributing racist propaganda. I’m sure there were and are those who genuinely thought the democratic process would work better if only those with a certain level of literacy could vote, too, when it was put into those terms by the racists who thought up the idea. And Dr J, if you’ll read my comments from earlier, my point was not that the law has no merits, and it was not that everyone involved is an anti-semite. It’s that there are anti-semitic forces driving the law, and the point of view being expressed by the OP is an important part of the debate. I expressed disbelief at the first few commenters who out-of-hand dismissed the point of view of the people who will be most directly negatively affected. Saying that the most affected group has nothing to bring to the debate because they are Jews who think the practice of their religion is important is, indeed, a discriminatory act. This was my point.

  • Dr. J

    Saying that the most affected group has nothing to bring to the debate because they are Jews who think the practice of their religion is important is, indeed, a discriminatory act. This was my point.

    On that point I agree with you. It’s just a bit of a strawman, as no one above claimed Jews have nothing to bring to the debate. Most of the criticisms above are that specific claims in Yaakov’s post are inaccurate, irrelevant, or overstated.

    Where I think we disagree is whether it matters who drew the cartoon. IMHO one must decide issues like this by considering both sides’ legitimate interests, not their illegitimate ones.

  • roro80

    Um, what do you think Jews in particular (as opposed to others) would have to bring to the conversation besides that it is an important ritual of their religion, and its banning has been and continues to be something attempted or acheived for racist purposes? Because that’s what the article said. There was an short, possibly irrelevent aside at the very end of the article, but that doesn’t make his other point incorrect or useless.

    And if you don’t think it matters if the group pushing the hardest to get this passed is doing it for racist reasons, then you are correct that we disagree on that. It makes it fundamentally impossible to distinguish those who have legitimate concerns with those who do not, unless those who do not are stupid enough to draw up cartoons that looks like Nazi propaganda.

  • Dr. J

    I think the message that it’s an important ritual of their religion is exactly what Jews would have to bring to the conversation. It’s a legitimate point. I thought Yaakov’s presentation of it was overstated and accusatory, and it deserved the heat it drew.

    Of course person X’s right to his foreskin or person Y’s right to his religious ritual are not contingent on person Z’s motivations for starting a debate on the topic. If they were, then the more antisemitic cartoons come to light, the less right I have to keep my foreskin. And conversely, the nicer the intactivists’ campaign literature is, the less right Jews have to preserve their religious ritual. That’s an unworkable framework for balancing people’s rights.

  • roro80

    I think it’s pretty hard to overstate the reaction a long-persecuted cultural group might have to laws and propaganda that have long been used to persecute that same group. In the long history of Jews in the world, laws and propaganda that targeted them have been damn near 100% based on anti-Semitism. (Hopefully that’s not controversial?) One might forgive Jews for a certain level of disbelief that finally this one law (why is this law different from all other laws?) is different and well-meaning. Might one not?

    Perhaps, then, it should be noted that person X and person Y can have a civil argument on the topic, and person Z can keep his bigoted racist opinions out of it. Pushing back against person Z, and being suspicious of persons A B and C, whose arguments are identical to person Z’s arguments, is a totally valid reaction. Not, I would say, an “overreaction”.

  • Dr. J

    Sure, Yaakov’s reaction is valid. In fact, everything you’re saying is valid.

    I don’t see the relevance to the specific question on the ballot. You still seem to be arguing that I should be more willing to part with my foreskin because of antisemitism’s long history. That doesn’t make any sense.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    “IMHO one must decide issues like this by considering both sides’ legitimate interests, not their illegitimate ones.”

    I haven’t seen a single legitimate point made by the measure’s supporters here. Normally, when someone has facts on their side, they present them somewhere. Yes, both sides will also put up emotional arguments and unprovable anecdotes, but they normally mix in a legitimate point somewhere also.

    Did you see something that I didn’t?

  • Dr. J

    What facts are unclear, Professor? Many men who were circumcised at birth would prefer not to have been. I apparently have to vote in a few months on whether to stop the practice. Yaakov and Roro believe history from 167 BC should weigh into my decision somehow.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Yes, religious freedom does have some weight, and requires some real consequences to override. Parents make all kinds of decisions about their kids, including nutrition, education, medical, and emotional care. All of these have permanent consequences. If you’re going to ban a religious practice, you need have something more than a lot of screaming about mutilation and “preferences” on the other side.

    Binding feet would be going to far, because it causes permanent disabilities. Removing the foreskin isn’t.

  • Dr. J

    One can certainly approach the matter that way, Professor. You’re defining religious freedom or parental latitude or the status quo as the natural state of affairs. And you’re saying the burden of proof should be on the intactivists to show material harm.

    Or one can define body integrity or personal autonomy as the natural state of affairs. You have a right to keep the parts you’re born with. If someone wants to lop bits of you off without your consent, they must show that leaving you intact would cause material harm.

    Neither side of this issue can point to a lot of material harm. Circumcisions occasionally have complications, but the death rate is about one in a half million, which probably puts it way down the list of childhood perils. Loss of sensation or pleasure from lack of a foreskin is difficult to show.

    Likewise, instances of God smiting people down for leaving foreskins intact seem are difficult to document. So circumcision defenders like Yaakov resort to slippery-slope arguments like the one above, claiming that outlawing circumcision is the first step to pogroms and genocide. It seems a bit of a stretch.

    So the issue ultimately does come down to preferences. One side prefers to keep their rituals, the other side to keep their foreskins.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    “God smiting” vs religious freedom. Sorry, Dr. J, that’s now two anti-religious cartoons in this debate.

    If you want to talk slippery slope, how about the one concerning loss of parental rights?

  • Dr. J

    The point remains, Professor. The circumcisionists have not demonstrated any material harm if they were to end the practice, and they’re stretching to do so. Yaakov stretched back to 167 BC.

    I share your concern about parents being trusted less and less to make good decisions about their kids. On the other hand, to defend circumcision on the grounds of parental autonomy rather undercuts the religious argument. Yaakov’s post is arguing that the ritual is critical, and Jewish parents *don’t* have discretion in the matter.

  • Dr. J

    Or, to put it another way, parental discretion seems to be missing from too many circumcision decisions. I think a lot of kids get circumcised by default, because of religion or custom or both, but not because of an active choice of their parents. An outright ban is a little heavy handed, but some serious stand against the practice is probably necessary before people start thinking about it more critically.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    If the ban had a religious exemption, it would be a lot less problematic both legally and morally. As it is, I think it is legally problematic under the First Amendment and morally problematic because the steadfast refusal to even consider a religious exemption raises legitimately strong suspicion that anti-semitism actually is a contributing factor.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    “Or, to put it another way, parental discretion seems to be missing from too many circumcision decisions.”

    I’m sorry, but you’ve veered off the road again. All non-emergency medical procedures require approval. This law is a ban. Are you saying that Jews are forced to accept their religion and its practices?

    You’re trying to frame a loss of freedom as a gain.

  • roro80

    “You still seem to be arguing that I should be more willing to part with my foreskin because of antisemitism’s long history. That doesn’t make any sense.”

    No, I said nothing of the sort, Dr J. The history argument comes in when you are listening to the arguments on either side. Someone who is trying to practice their religion vs someone with pernicious motives concern trolling about baby mutilation because they don’t like Jews. The history (and things like Nazi-esque propaganda on the issue) make it clear that at least some of those people painting themselves as saviors of poor baby boys’ giblits are really just anti-semites who want to take away the ability of Jews to practice their religion. This will certainly help to do so. I know you may have different standards on whose passionate arguments to side with, but I tend to go with the non-bigots as much as possible.

    As Prof mentioned earlier, also, parental rights are an important issue here too. In this country and most others, we allow parents to do things to their kids that we don’t allow other people to do. If my boss were to say I was too fat for my outfit at work, I’d sue the company and likely win. Yet I grew up with my mom saying that stuff to me all the time. Parents sometimes do things to their kids that aren’t that great. If you miss your foreskin (if you don’t have it any longer), I suggest you take that up with your folks, who asked that it be removed (it’s not random evil people coming after your junk, after all — it’s your own parents), and make sure not to subject your own kids to that procedure. Just like I have told my mother she’s not allowed to comment on my weight ever, good or bad, and I’m going to make a point of not fat-shaming my own children into disordered eating and body dismorphia. Closer analogies can be made — say, the fairly common practice of piercing ears of girls a few days after they’re born — but really, it boils down to parental rights, and the rights of those parents to make religious decisions on behalf of their children.

    And again, I think there are some good arguments for the other side. I see that Prof disagrees, but I think the letter written by the Jewish man (linked above) was a totally valid argument too, even if it is a really very small number of circumsized men who feel that way.

  • roro80

    “I think a lot of kids get circumcised by default, because of religion or custom or both, but not because of an active choice of their parents.”

    It’s possible that this happens in many parts of the country, where not circumcizing your kid would be extremely rare. It’s really common in SF, and according to my maternity nurse friend, it’s become something that maternity wards are extremely sensitive to. While cirumcising a child with parental approval is obviously still legal, doing so without approval means huge numbers of lawsuits. (Non Jewish people who want their sons circumcised will often have it done right away, not 8 days later.) I think this is important, as the law is for SF. Perhaps in other areas of the country, where they don’t have the activism we do on the issue, there should be laws that make sure that the parents specify to any medical personel one way or the other.

  • dduck

    Please leave my package unopened unless my parents sign off and say “off with his head”. And, religious parents shouldn’t have to worry about a law or regulation. For sure, parents make plenty of decisions for us while we are young, and we can debate it all later when we grow up (screwed up or not).
    BTW: Don’t the government people in SF have more important things to worry about?

  • Dr. J

    All non-emergency medical procedures require approval.

    Yes, but not necessarily much consideration.

    This law is a ban. Are you saying that Jews are forced to accept their religion and its practices?

    Whether “indoctrinated into Judaism from birth” and “forced to accept it” are meaningfully distinct is a question I won’t weigh into. But according to the counterexamples Tom and James cited above, circumcision apparently isn’t as inseparable from Judaism as Yaakov’s title claims.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    Dr. J, if religious practices are subject to limitation based on outsiders’ opinion about whether they were accepted only after sufficient consideration, all meaning of the Free Exercise Clause would be destroyed and it is not an overstatement to say that religious liberty would not exist.

    roro, the fact that Jews are an even smaller minority in SF than in other reason is cause to be MORE concerned about potential for anti-semitism there, not less. If a law was passed banning the playing of hip-hop and it was accompanied by stereotypes about black people, would it be less of a problem is the city passing it had very few black people living there?

  • Dr. J

    I know you may have different standards on whose passionate arguments to side with, but I tend to go with the non-bigots as much as possible.

    Sorry, Roro, I’m still hearing the same position from you. Either you feel that evidence of proponents’ antisemitism should incline one to vote for this measure, or to vote against it, or isn’t relevant either way.

    You seem quite committed to the second point of view. Which makes perfect sense, if you’re willing to ignore the legitimate stakeholders and their legitimate interests, as if antisemitism on “their” side invalidates their interests.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Dr. J, this is the first time that you’ve advocated for a nanny-state. No significant harm has been established, which would be required for normal ban. Parental choices are being eliminated, not added. You’ve attacked other people’s reasoning, but have yet to back up your arguments with anything practical.

    You have, however, mentioned “anything that went on in Syria in 167 BC” and “God smiting people down”, which sure sounds like anti-religious sentiment to me.

  • Dr. J

    No, Professor, in a nanny state you wouldn’t be able to get rid of your own foreskin. Or you’d be required to, depending on Nanny’s mood. In my libertarian utopia, we would at least have qualms about people lopping off other people’s without their say-so. We would reject your reasoning that because you don’t consider the harm significant, the owner won’t either.

    I don’t see enough qualms today. Practically speaking, the way to inspire some is to for some activists to take a perhaps-over-strong stand on it. They probably won’t prevail, at least not very widely, but they may shift some opinions.

    Outlawing the practice in a 47 square mile patch of land, at least until the courts overturn the law, might open up more choices elsewhere. I predict Judaism will survive, just as marriage survived when San Francisco started letting gays marry, despite apocalyptic predictions like those in the OP.

    Yes, I’m less accommodating of religious traditions than you are. Call it anti-religious if you like.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Libertarianism is about limiting government control, which is the opposite of allowing parental control. The government is trying to institute a ban — if the parents want to, the government will try to stop them. Now you’re saying that a government ban on a issue that, by your own admission, has no compelling secular basis, is libertarian.

    Then, in the middle of covering principles you say, more or less, “come on, this is just a little evil, for the greater good”.

    Finally, you started by saying that the opposition wasn’t necessarily anti-religious, but then admit that you’re being anti-religious, again because you have no real secular backing.

    This is, by far, the most bizarre discussion that I’ve ever had with you.

  • Dr. J

    I’m sure you’d agree that libertarian principles permit government to keep parents from cutting bits off kids’ fingers. This case is the same principle, different body part.

    I understand your position that it’s a body part that doesn’t matter, that there’s no “compelling secular basis” for keeping it. But that point is disputed (and is not quite what I agreed to before, which was more about neither side being able to prove material harm). There is certainly a secular reason to keep it; how compelling it is is a matter of opinion, and many people find it more compelling than you do. So whose valuation should prevail?

    I’m not sure I understand your point about anti-religious arguments. To the extent this issue is about weighing religious ritual against foreskins, a few people will take positions at the poles and most will take positions in between. You can fairly characterize any position on the pro-foreskin half of the spectrum as anti-religious, but what do you mean to imply by that?

    It’s the most bizarre conversation I’ve ever had with you too, Professor. I so rarely find myself disagreeing with you, period, much less you and Roro at the same time.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Hey, that’s the fun of this site: opponents and allies change with the thread, or even half-way through the thread.

    And of course, people disagree over a lot of things, including how long people’s hair should be and what foods we eat, but the law has to go with material evidence (or in the case of public nudity, at least overwhelming cultural preference). There are far more compelling cases for preventing parents from smoking, watching over 1/2 hour of TV a day, or eating junk food. You again try to pull a false equivalence by using a piece of the finger, which would cause a disability, to something that doesn’t. Your web link was broken, so I’m not sure which page you were trying to point to, but they do the same thing by trying to equate male and female circumcision.

  • Dr. J

    You’re using a bunch of terms that I will of course take issue with. Losing sensation sounds like as much of a disability as losing a bit of a finger, so I’ll stand by my analogy. I don’t know what it means to “equate” male and female circumcision or why doing so would disqualify the opinions of those writing that site, so if you really believe you can get some mileage there, perhaps you can explain.

    As for the law having to go with material evidence, that sounds like a lovely idea. How exactly does that support your case?

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    I’ll state it again: I don’t have to prove what’s great about it, the people banning it have to prove that there’s something wrong. They are the ones trying to create a new law to stop something that’s legal right now. They should be the ones that have to prove why it’s needed and what the benefits are supposed to be.

    I haven’t seen anything about loss of sensation that wasn’t just an assertion. How much loss? What are the effects? This all seems like pretty basic information that would needed to back their point, yet no one seems to even make the attempt.

  • roro80

    Dr. J, I haven’t ignored anyone’s opinion. I’ve said that Yaakov’s is an important one to listen to.

    Logan, I’m not sure what you think I said, but your comment doesn’t make any sense in context of any comment I’ve made, so I’m really not sure how to respond. If you think I implied I thought the Jewish population size in SF had anything to do with my opinions on this issue, it wasn’t intended at all. I think you must have misread.

  • Dr. J

    I don’t have to prove what’s great about it, the people banning it have to prove that there’s something wrong.

    Of course something is wrong, parts of people’s bodies are getting cut off without their consent. Or even a good reason.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    You mean like their hair or toenails? How about when parents poke holes in their earlobes or other body parts?

    You know, they probably could have avoided some controversy if they’d simply phrased the law to say that no non-reversible non-emergency change could be made to an underage child, nor could unneeded pain be inflicted for the purpose of changing appearance.

    Why do you think that specified only one?

  • Dr. J

    I don’t know. Because it’s their foreskins specifically they miss? What’s your theory?

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    That it’s exactly what people are accusing them of: anti-religion. If they thought it was about uninformed decisions, they could have launched an information campaign, or even mandated that the doctor tell them that it’s not needed, which has been done before. If it was about unnecessary pain, then ban unnecessary pain. If it was about permanent change, then ban permanent change. Of course, those last two would open up their own rather large cans of worms, because no one’s ever been that concerned about harmless (as in, lack of harm) changes before, and there are far more harmful (smoking, excess TV) and painful (punishment, forced exercise) things that parents do to their children, not all of which are bad, and many of which people would rather the government didn’t control.

    As far as missing it: is this locker room shower envy? A strike against them in nudist colonies? What are they (mentally) missing?

  • Dr. J

    You seem to be using “anti-religion” to mean something more sinister than the definition I offered above, so what do you mean by it? That these people want to wipe out all religions? So they’re going after one particular ritual of one particular religion?

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    That they (the group pushing the ban) are attempting to do so mainly because it’s a religious practice. Like most groups, I would expect varying levels of commitment. A ban is the strongest method available, so it needs to be justified, and even your web site (I don’t know if they’re the same people or not) makes no attempt to do so. When you’re getting ready for a fight, you better have some ammo.

    Unless you’re saying that they didn’t expect a fight. That would be just calling them idiots.

  • Dr. J

    Okay, but why this one religious practice, and not all the others? And to what end?

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Well, since they already stopped sacrificing animals, what else could they go after, Bar Mitzvahs?

    I’m still trying to figure out what people think they’re going to accomplish by fighting mosque construction.

  • Dr. J

    So you figure their stated goals aren’t their actual ones. You’re not sure what their actual ones are, but it has something to do with being “anti-religion”. Have I got that right?

    This is sounding a lot like the Yaakov/Roro suspicion that intactivists are “anti-Semitic.” That’s another vague label, and they haven’t pinpointed the “real” motivation lurking underneath it either. They can’t quite come out and say “the intactivists seek to torment or wipe out all Jews,” because it sounds comically extreme when you bring such a charge out into the daylight. But that does seem to be where their arguments head.

    Anyway, the more reasonable thing I think you’ve said is that you don’t think the intactivists have made a sensible case. Fair enough. I don’t think the traditionalists have made a sensible case either.

    As for the burden of proof, I probably agree with you that who *should* bear it is the one who wants to change the rules. But this isn’t a jury trial, it’s a ballot initiative in San Francisco, and anything can happen. It would be great if both sides brought fact-based arguments and voters weighed them carefully. But instead the issue is likely to be decided demagogically, between cartoons and outrage thereover.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    You gotta admit that the comic didn’t exactly help their case. I also think that it’s safe to say there’s no way that it would survive the court battles if it passed, which I also seriously doubt.

    Maybe this was the best way that they could come up with to get media attention on a budget.