Reacting to recent efforts to advance ballot measures banning circumcision of underage males in California cities, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is set to introduce a bill that would prevent municipalities nationwide from prohibiting the procedure.
“Religious freedom is a federal issue, and medical practice is a state issue, maybe a federal issue as well,” Sherman said today. “Neither of them is in the proper realm of cities.”
The exact language of Sherman’s bill, the Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011, hadn’t been released as of press time, but Sherman said the bill would be presented to the House Judiciary Committee today or tomorrow. Sherman also said that he was gathering co-sponsors. “One of note is Keith Ellison,” Sherman said, referring to the Minnesota Democrat, the first Muslim American to be elected to Congress.
A proposition banning circumcision in San Francisco will appear on that city’s ballot in November. An effort to put an identical proposition before voters in Santa Monica was abandoned by its proponent on June 6.
Sherman did not coordinate his legislative efforts with the local organizing effort to defeat the San Francisco ballot proposition, which is being led by the Jewish Community Relations Council. He said he does not expect the measure to pass in San Francisco, nor does he expect any state to enact such legislation. Nevertheless, he was moved to act by the anti-Semitic comic book “Foreskin Man,” penned by Matthew Hess, an anti-circumcision movement leader.
Asked about the precedent for using federal legislation to restrict the types of laws that may be enacted by cities, Sherman cited a 2000 law that prevented cities from enacting zoning laws that would inhibit the construction of houses of worship. “Even when it is a city issue, such as zoning, the federal government steps in when we think cities are unduly burdening First Amendment rights,” Sherman said.
Ultimately, Sherman said, the decision over whether to circumcise “should be left up to the parents. I’m not going to propose a mandatory circumcision bill.”