A San Francisco activist has secured enough signatures to force a referendum on banning circumcision in the city know as being tolerant of almost everything else.
Most observers say, however, that a ban on circumcision has no chance of standing legal tests.
It takes only 7,168 people to force a referendum vote in the city of San Francisco, whose population is more than 750,000.
Virtually all Jews, most Muslims, as well as an estimated 80 percent of the American population, are circumcised, but activist Lloyd Schofield has managed to turn the city upside down with a campaign against the religious rite, a Torah commandment. He has called his proposed referendum the “Male Genital Mutilation bill.”
The city’s legal department disagrees and calls the measure “male circumcision.” Whatever it is called, passage of Schofield's initiative would forbid circumcision among males under the age of 18, and anyone who is found violating the law would face a fine of $1,000 or a year in jail.
Schofield argues that parents are only "guardians” of a child, who himself should have the right to decide what is done with his body. His apparent suggestion that a person should be allowed to decide only at the age of 18 if he wants a circumcision would force a blatant violation of the Torah commandment that Jewish males be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.
He also has not been quoted as explaining why circumcision is widely recognized as a method to reduce the spread of AIDS in Africa.
"For a city that's renowned for being progressive and open-minded, to even have to consider such an intolerant proposition ... it sets a dangerous precedent for all cities and states," Rabbi Gil Yosef Leeds of Berkeley told The New York Times.
The newspaper quoted Dr. Laurence Baskin, chief of pediatric urology at San Francisco’s Benioff Children's Hospital, as saying that the referendum proposal “is a bunch of nonsense” and ”would never pass the First Amendment test," guaranteeing basic freedoms, including that of religion.
Nevertheless, a similar petition against “Genital Cutting of Male Minors” is circulating in Santa Monica.