The San Francisco debate over circumcision initially centered on the value of the procedure itself — opponents call it barbaric, supporters point to its long tradition and say it prevents disease. But increasingly the debate is becoming one about religion, in which critics accuse backers of the referendum of bigotry and insist a ban would violate the First Amendment's religious freedoms.
There is plenty of reason to oppose the ban on its own merits. There is no need for a law: if people do not believe in circumcision, they should not have it done to themselves or their children. And even if there were to be a circumcision ban, this one is poorly constructed because of the well-founded religious objections that are being raised.
The anticircumcision debate began in April when a group of self-proclaimed "intactivists" — people who believe strongly that infant boys have a right to keep their foreskins intact — submitted enough signatures to put a circumcision ban on the ballot. The intactivists have taken up the language of international human rights: they are fighting, they say, for "genital autonomy" and "male-genital-integrity rights." Framed this way, it seemed like an appropriately earnest next step for a city that last year banned any kind of Happy Meal that paired toy giveaways with fast food.
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