Snip poses a dilemma over religious freedom

San Francisco voters in November will be asked to weigh in on what was until now a private family matter: male circumcision. City elections officials say an initiative that would ban the circumcision of males younger than 18 in San Francisco has received enough signatures to appear on the ballot. The practice would become a misdemeanour, writes Rebecca Goldstein in the Washington Post.

Let's put aside the question of whether the people behind the bill to ban circumcision in San Francisco are anti-Semites. Their comic-book depiction of the villainous Jew suggests that their motives may not be of the purest. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the promoters of this bill to outlaw ritual circumcision have nothing in mind but the autonomous rights of the individual, in this case, the rights of newborn boys.

Let's also put aside the various questions that have been raised about whether male circumcision has health and/or hygiene benefits and ultimately good for the baby, just as vaccinations are. After all, nobody asks an infant whether he wants a series of painful injections.

So then, putting all this aside, what's there left to argue? Just this, and it's a serious philosophical dilemma: where do the rights of a parent, specifically their rights to practice their religion, end in relation to the rights of a child? To what extent is a child to be considered as owned by his parents, to do with him or her what they will?

Our increasing sensitivity to children's rights is part of our increasing sensitivity in general to human rights. And this, too, seems to me an excellent thing. But it's a balancing act, and I think that here, in the case of ritual circumcision, the harm to the welfare of the child is fairly minimal, as compared to the harm inflicted on children's minds by indoctrination.

- Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

FULL BLOG: A serious dilemma over circumcision (Washington Post)

LINKS:

Circumcision (The Children’s Hospital at Westmead)

Circumcision (ABC Catalyst)

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