The City of San Francisco will have on its next ballot a measure that would ban circumcisions performed on minors in that jurisdiction. There is nothing in the proposed language that would allow for religious exemptions for Jewish or Muslim families wishing to circumcise their sons for religious reasons.
The legal blogs are all over this, discussing it in terms of both parental rights and religious rights. (It's honestly pretty dense reading, I didn't get through all of it, and they reference quite a number of other cases. But here's a good roundup for the curious.) I had declared myself cautiously in favor of the ban in conversations with friends/family, but in the ensuing discussions, I discovered I actually felt far stronger about it than I'd thought.
It still bothers me a little that there's no religious exemption. Being of a minority faith which is still struggling in many ways to be treated fairly under the law, I find the idea of laws that ban a practice originating in a particular religion to be troubling.
On the other hand, the vast majority of circumcisions in the U.S. are not done for religious reasons, but for reasons like "not looking different," or "so he looks like his father," or "just because that's what's done." Given that circumcision offers only minimal, mostly potential health benefits (the US Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine circumcision) and is generally a cosmetic procedure, why is it acceptable for parents to choose such an intimate bodily modification for an infant incapable of consent? When a mother was featured on TV last week for having had her 8-year-old daughter given Botox injections, there was a righteously outraged wave of condemnation. How can we logically condemn one parent for having a minimally-invasive, semi-permanent (Botox injections fade after about six months, IIRC) cosmetic procedure done on a child, while accepting a much more intimate and absolutely permanent *surgical* cosmetic procedure performed on days-old infants without comment?
And I even find it harder and harder to advocate for a religious exemption, the more I consider it. Those who would have female "circumcision" - more accurately described as female genital mutilation - performed on their children are not permitted to do so (it's legally banned in California, at least), deep-held cultural values notwithstanding. Which makes it logically inconsistent to advocate upholding the ban on FGM without exception, while wanting a religious exemption for a circumcision ban.
So I suppose in the end, it comes to this: I don't believe parents should be making permanently-body-altering decisions for their children, period. I don't care what religion the parents hew to, or what their cultural beliefs dictate they do to their kids. It's unethical, to perform such procedures on those too young to independently decide for themselves. If people choose to have body modifications made as adults, that's their prerogative. If you want to get circumcised, go for it. Have fun. But something like that should require active, informed consent, and an infant is absolutely incapable of giving such.
What do you think? I'd like to hear other perspectives on this.