Globe and Mail - Canada June 10, 2011
Russell Crowe launches Twitter tirade: Circumcision is ‘barbaric’
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe is not a fan of circumcision.
“Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature?” Crowe tweeted on Thursday. “Is it real that God requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect.”
Crowe went on the tirade after one of his Twitter followers asked whether he should get his son circumcised.
Then, Crowe appealed to his Jewish friends, including the director Eli Roth, to end the traditional practice of circumcising children.
“I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats, but stop cutting your babies,” he wrote. “I will always stand for the perfection of babies. I will always believe in God, not man’s interpretation of what God requires,” he added. “Last of it, if you feel it is your right to cut things off your babies please unfollow and f--k off; I’ll take attentive parenting over barbarism.”
Not surprisingly, the messages have landed Crowe in hot water. His tweets have been deleted, and early Friday morning the actor apologized to anyone he may have offended.
“I have a deep and abiding love for all people of all nationalities. I’m very sorry that I have said things on here that have caused distress. My personal believes aside I realize that some will interpret this debate as me mocking the rituals and traditions of others. I am very sorry.”
Roth has been defending Crowe on his Twitter feed since the scandal broke, saying it was just a joke and that Crowe is “NOT antisemitic.”
San Francisco's proposed circumcision ban galvanizes religious opposition
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - The nation’s largest evangelical Christian umbrella group has come out against San Francisco’s proposed circumcision ban, evidence that the voter initiative is beginning to galvanize national religious opposition.
Thursday’s announcement from the National Association of Evangelicals was noteworthy because unlike Jews and Muslims, Christians are not religiously mandated to practice circumcision.
“Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circumcision begins with Abraham,” said National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. “No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake."
"The proposed ban violates the First Amendment’s guarantee to exercise one’s religious beliefs," Anderson said in a statement.
How much of a national issue the ban becomes is yet to be seen. An effort to put a circumcision ban on the ballot in Santa Monica, California was abandoned last week.
Many Jewish and Muslim groups have come out against San Francisco’s proposed ban on the procedure that removes the foreskins of infant boys.
Jewish groups have suggested anti-Semitic motives behind the ban. Here’s Nancy J. Appel, associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League:
This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible.
And here’s influential Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe:
Some involved are simply opposed to religion (there are after all some misguided Jews arguing for the ban as well), some wish to target both Muslims and Jews. But can anyone doubt that there are anti-circumcision advocates who seize on this as a chance to hurt Jews and the Jewish tradition?
Many Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, alleged that a comic book called “Foreskin Man,” created by the proposed San Francisco ban’s author,draws on centuries-old stereotypes about Jews. [see related articles links below]
Just as the National Association of Evangelicals did Thursday, some Muslim groups have called the ban an attack on religious freedom:
A ban that specifically targets a religious practice of Muslims and that has been proven to be medically beneficial is a violation of First Amendment rights that guarantees all Americans the right to religious freedom.
The proposed ban would make it "unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis" of anyone 17 or younger in San Francisco.
Violators could be jailed for a year or fined up to $1,000.
The group that drafted the ban's language says the procedure has adverse physical and psychological effects and likens it to female genital mutilation, a claim that doctors generally reject.
In November 2010, CNN reported that medical evidence had shown mixed risks and benefits of circumcision:
Apart from the San Francisco proposal, circumcisions are under scientific scrutiny.
While widespread in the United States, circumcision rates could be falling, according to recent surveys. About 65 percent of American male infants born in hospitals were circumcised in 1999, according to latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While nationally the circumcision rate has remained steady, the most dramatic decline occurred in the West, where it fell from 64 percent in 1974 to 37 percent in 1999.
Earlier this year, there were unconfirmed estimates that the circumcision rate had fallen to fewer than half for boys born in U.S. hospitals, The New York Times reported last summer, citing a federal report at the International AIDS Conference.
The American Academy of Pediatrics task force on circumcision has been reviewing recent research before it issues an official new position on the issue, probably next year, one panel member said.
"In the past, we've said newborn circumcision has benefits and risks," Dr. Douglas Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, told CNN last year. "Given the fact that neither the risks nor benefits are particularly compelling, this is a decision to be made by parents."
This article was found at:
TIME - June 13, 2011
San Francisco's Circumcision Ban: An Attack on Religious Freedom?
By Adam Cohen
In the 1960s and '70s, the San Francisco Bay Area was where the counterculture really started — the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury, gay rights in the Castro. Today, the Bay Area is challenging the larger culture in a new and controversial way: there will be a referendum on the ballot in November that would make it the first major city in the U.S. to outlaw circumcision.
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.
The intactivists argue that circumcision needlessly inflicts pain on newborns, and they compare it to female genital mutilation — which is, in fact, a far more serious procedure. (Female genital mutilation can produce severe harm, including infertility and an increased risk of newborn deaths.)
Supporters of circumcision argue that there is a long tradition behind it, both religious and nonreligious, and that the pain involved is fleeting. They also say circumcision has proven health benefits. Removal of the foreskin has been found to help prevent the spread of HIV and other infections. In clinical trials in Africa, the incidence of HIV infection was 60% lower in circumcised men. The World Health Organization has said circumcision is an important component in fighting HIV infection.
Still, the drafters of the San Francisco referendum could have avoided the religious issue — and kept the focus on the harms and benefits of circumcision — if they had included an exception for circumcisions done for religious reasons. Jews, whose religious traditions require male children to be circumcised eight days after birth, and Muslims, who also practice circumcision, are a small part of the city's population.
Instead, the referendum expressly states that the ban would apply equally to religious circumcisions. If it passes, Jewish parents in San Francisco who hold a traditional bris, or circumcision ritual, could be sentenced to a year in jail.
This strict policy certainly seems insensitive. Jews who circumcise their sons trace the tradition back thousands of years. It is a sign, they believe, of a covenant with God, and an affirmation that the Jewish people will survive. There are accounts of circumcisions performed in the direst of circumstances, including in concentration camps. The intactivists aren't swayed by such arguments and insist it's gone on long enough.
Claims of insensitivity, however, have recently turned into charges of outright anti-Semitism. One of the referendum's key supporters has written a comic book, Foreskin Man, that portrays a blond, Aryan-looking superhero doing battle with "Monster Mohel." (Mohels are people trained to perform ritual Jewish circumcisions.) The bearded, prayer-shawl-wearing mohel leers manically at defenseless infants. As one rabbi blogger put it, "Hey San Francisco, 1930's Germany Called — They Want Their Anti-Semitic Propaganda Back!"
Jews and Muslims are not the only religious groups opposing the ban. The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches, declared last week that while their faith neither requires nor forbids circumcision, "Jews, Muslims and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Circumcision begins with Abraham. No American government should restrict this historic tradition."
If the referendum passes, it is unclear whether it would survive a constitutional challenge. The First Amendment protects people against laws that unduly interfere with their religious rituals. The question is, How would the courts see this particular interference? In 1972, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Amish parents to not send their children to school past the eighth grade. Yet more recently, it held that the "free exercise" clause does not protect Native Americans who want to engage in ritual use of peyote, an illegal drug. Under the logic of the peyote case, the ban could well survive. The ban could also be challenged under California's state constitution, which might contain broader religious protections than the U.S. Constitution.
On one level, the stakes in the San Francisco vote are small. If the referendum passes, parents can easily take their children out of the city to be circumcised. The danger, though, is that intactivism could spread — and that more localities, and eventually states, will enact bans.
On the other hand, the intactivist movement could come to a quick end. Last week, an activist who had been collecting signatures to put a similar referendum on the ballot in Santa Monica, Calif., announced that she was halting her effort because, she said, a cause that was not intended to be about religion had become a religious issue.
Cohen, a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board, is a lawyer who teaches at Yale Law School. Case Study, his legal column for TIME.com, appears every Monday.
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