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ACLU joins effort to quash vote on circumcision ban

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The ACLU of Northern California filed a court brief Friday supporting an effort to block a ballot measure that would ban juvenile male circumcision in San Francisco.

The friend of the court brief bolsters the arguments of a coalition of Jews and Muslims who filed suit in June asking a judge to invalidate the controversial measure headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The lead supporter of the circumcision ban characterizes the procedure as “genital mutilation that is unnecessary, extremely painful and even dangerous,” the Associated Press reported.

The ballot measure would make the circumcision of a male younger than 18 years old a misdemeanor carrying up to $1,000 in fines or a year in jail. There would be no religious exemption to the ban, even though Jewish and Muslim followers consider circumcision part of their religion.

The move flies in the face of mainstream practices. The New York Times has reported that 80 percent of U.S. males are circumcised.

A group seeking to get the ban off the ballot cites a number of mainstream sources, including Harvard and UC San Francisco physicians, saying the procedure can stem the spread of AIDS and should be based on parental choice.

In the brief filed Friday, the ACLU argues that state law bans any city or county from passing a law that restricts a licensed medical professional from performing “any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that licensee.”

In other words, no city authority can stop a doctor from doing things that doctors normally do.

The brief also argues that the initiative would threaten the rights of mature teenage boys younger than 18 to make decisions about their health.

Lloyd Schofield, the initiative’s supporter, also filed a court brief Friday, batting off criticism that has surfaced about the law's apparent anti-Semitism. Schofield, of Oakland, noted that “it is not honest to suggest that the sole purpose of the initiative was to be anti-Semitic.”

Schofield goes on to raise concerns about the religious traditions of a non-medically trained Jewish mohel, usually a rabbi or doctor, or Islamic barber who at one time performed circumcisions.

The question of anti-Semitic motivation for the ban came up when San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders posted the image of the buff and blond “Foreskin Man” comic book, posted on a website run by a man who supports the circumcision ban.

The hero is apparently fending off a dark and shifty Hasidic rabbi who is leering over a baby. The book’s author brushed off the notion that the movement is anti-Jewish, saying it is “trying to be pro-human rights.”

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