According to an article I saw in the Huffington Post the other day, San Francisco residents may vote on a ballot measure next year that would outlaw circumcision.
The initiative, which requires 7,000 signatures before it can be added to next November's ballot, would make it a misdemeanor to "circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the...genitals" of all minors, and would not make exceptions for religious reasons.
The decision to permanently remove a boy's foreskin should not be made by parents, says Lloyd Shofield, the proposal's author.
"People can practice whatever religion they want, but your religious practice ends with someone else's body,"Schofield told CBS affiliate KCBS. "It's a man's body and...his body doesn't belong to his culture, his government, his religion or even his parents. It's his decision."
I have so many conflicting opinions about this subject. However I might feel about the merits of the removal of the foreskin of the penis, and however much I might question its necessity I do wonder what world Shofield actually lives in. That last quoted sentence is fairly amusing because, despite his noble-sounding rhetoric, it strikes me as absurd. We are not speaking of a man's body. It is a baby's body and for all intents and purposes, its body does belong to the parents. It may not be fair in many cases, but it is a fact of life and I am not sure how society would work without this system.
Anyway, religions routinely claim ownership of the child's body and its soul: Religious training normally begins as early as possible- as soon as children begin to ask difficult questions.
Another example is the Christian rite of baptism which formerly inducts a baby into the Church and absolving it all that hand-me-down sin left over by Adam and Eve. While certainly not as invasive as circumcision (or permanent perhaps) it is done without the consent of the infant, condoned by the parents and mandated by the religion. Vaccinations are another case in point where parents make decisions without the consent of the child.
Still, all of us hope that parents will not suddenly decide that Junior looks cool with a full body tattoo. I assume there are already laws regarding child endangerment or abuse that would prevent such a possibility. Let's hope so, anyway.
Of course, this ban will never pass unchallenged. The first amendment of the Constitution clearly states that Congress shall not enact any law that impends the worship of religion. Are Muslim and Jewish citizens to be banned from performing a well-established rite of their respective religion by California law? I can't see that happening.
In Turkey, the circumcision procedure, or sunnet, is a big deal but quite the opposite of the Jewish rite or Brit milah - which is all very discreet and low-keyed.
The Prophet Muhammad recommended performing circumcision at an early age but it is usually customary to perform the ceremony before the age of seven.
As part of the ceremony, the Turkish boy is decked out in a white prince costume with a cape and paraded around in a celebration. In rural areas, he is mounted on a white horse or donkey but in the more urban areas, the family rides in (generally) a red 1960s Chevrolet Impala. Horns are honking, drums are beating as they fly around the neighborhood. A man with a video camera dangles dangerously off the back of the car in front, trying to get every detail for posterity. You would think this rite of passage would involve a lot more trauma and psychological damage. I have heard stories of boys climbing on roofs and having to be cajoled down with lies and enticements, but on the whole, the event passed pretty much as expected. The thing I think would be most emotionally damaging would be the humiliation of being the spectacle of all the family members while the foreskin is removed.
While my mother was dead-set against baptism before the age of consent, she didn't seem to have a problem with circumcision. The doctor, she later informed me, had told her that it was a hygienic procedure and best done at infancy. It was the latest medical fad and I always suspected the surgical removal of my foreskin was merely a way to finance a doctor's holiday in Florida.