Jewish Journal

UPDATE: Anti-circumcision movement reaches Santa Monica

by Jonah Lowenfeld

Posted on May. 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm

UPDATE: Santa Monica Circumcision Ban Ballot Measure Withdrawn

Santa Monica residents may get to vote soon on whether circumcisions can be done in the beach city.

San Francisco residents learned last week that a measure would be on their November ballot allowing them to vote on whether to ban circumcision in their city. Now, if a petition about to begin circulating succeeds in garnering enough signatures, residents of Santa Monica could soon have the same opportunity, The Jewish Journal has learned.

Sources provided The Journal with a copy of a petition, filed with the Santa Monica City Clerk on May 19, which proposes adding an initiative prohibiting “Genital Cutting of Male Minors” to a ballot in a future election in Santa Monica.

Included with the notice is the text of the proposed initiative, which is identical to the text of the initiative approved in San Francisco on May 17.

The text allows for exceptions to the ban only in cases where a surgical removal of the foreskin is deemed “necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed.”

Religion is not an excuse, despite the fact that the practice of circumcision is a sacred ritual of both Judaism and Islam.

The petition also suggests that the act of circumcising be treated as a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to one year in county jail.

“This smacks of a clear infringement on religious rights and freedom of Jews,” Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, said. Calling the effort to ban circumcision “outrageous,” Diamond said he was confident that rabbis and other faith leaders would join together to fight the iniatives. “We’ve been practicing this rite for thousands of years, and we are not going to stop now,” Diamond said.

The Santa Monica petition’s proponent, Jena Troutman, is a doula, a mother of two uncircumcised boys and a self-described “intactivist.” She disputes the claim that anti-circumcision initiatives like the one she proposed are a violation of religious freedom.

“Congress already passed a law saying that it was illegal to cut girls even if it’s for a medical reason,” Troutman said, referring to the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1995. “All we did was copy that law exactly. That’s already been passed and proven constitutional.”

To qualify the initiative for inclusion on the ballot in Santa Monica’s next election in November 2012, its proponents will need to collect signatures from 10 percent of the city’s approximately 61,000 registered voters in the next six months. If they obtain signatures from 15 percent of Santa Monica’s voters, the initiative could be put to a vote in a special election.

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