The Council of Europe will not ban Jewish ritual circumcision of boys, its leader assured members of the Conference of European Rabbis. Thorbjorn Jagland, the council’s secretary general, said Monday in Berlin that he wanted to make it “absolutely clear … that in no way does the Council of Europe want to ban the circumcision of boys. It is a very important part of Judaism and of Jewish life.” Read more here.


The Council of Europe will not ban male ritual circumcision as it does female genital mutilation, the organization’s Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland wrote in a letter to President Shimon Peres. The letter came in response to Peres’ appeal Sunday over the council’s resolution against circumcision last week.

The council’s Parliamentary Assembly called male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children,” and voted in favor of the nonbinding resolution 78-13. Read more here.



Jews and Muslims sometimes don’t want to publicly acknowledge this – but their religions have much in common.

One religious tradition is to circumcise new-born boys.

In Germany, that common tradition has resulted in the uniting of Jews and Muslims, protesting together against a court ruling banning circumcision in one part of the country.  Although the court order only affects that one region, doctors elsewhere in Germany are declining to perform circumcisions for fear that they may be putting themselves in legal jeopardy. READ MORE

Muslims, Jews work together to stop California circumcision ban movement

California's anti-circumcision movement fails. urbangarden photo/Flickr


Several months back I wrote a lengthy piece for Nikki Stern’s on the self-styled Intactivist Movement and its effort to place on the ballots in San Francisco and San Francisco referendae that it hoped would ban circumcision in those jurisdictions.

Here’s the end-game.

This past July a Superior Court judge, in response to requests from dozens of Muslim, Jewish and secular medical and constitutional rights organizations, cut down the ballot initiative saying that only the state (and not cities, towns, villages, one-mule farms, or sincere-but-sincerely-lunatic pop-culture movements) could create or slice into medical law.

Now, the California legislature has dealt the death cut to the Intactivists. It has passed (and Governor Jerry Brown has signed) a bill that will prevent any further potential circumcision bans. Muslim and Jewish groups in the state are celebrating their joint victory, as a ban would have struck at the root of their first amendment freedom of religious expression.

With all California foreskins now saved by this joint Muslim and Jewish effort, it cannot be long in coming that we’ll see a rise in overall interreligious cooperation toward peaceful resolutions to all of our long, drawn-out, pent-up problems.

Circumcision saving lives in Africa

There was an attempt, failed, to outlaw circumcision in San Francisco and there are new studies out which suggest that the health benefits of a bris are overstated.

Tell that to the Zulus of South Africa, whose lives are being saved through circumcision. The Jewish ritual is being credited with reducing the number of HIV cases among Zulu tribesmen.

Circumcision ban to be removed from San Fran ballot


Several weeks back I shared here “Penis Ennui”, my sense of why Hebrews chose circumcision as emblematic of a new kind of ancient-world relationship between men and God. I wrote, in part, that while I could never hope to prove it, a legal and ethical revolution was and is embodied in the demand that males show their subservience to God by starkly diminishing what for them had always marked their lust for unbridled, and far-too-often unjust, power. Circumcision announces that there is a Power greater than male power and that all people must regard that Power’s will and Law. I concluded by suggesting that our common and more modern notions of Justice owe their existence to circumcision’s acknowledgement of men’s relative insignificance, individual and tribal, in the context of Just Law.

In the piece I also laid out the claims of the ‘Intactivist Movement’, a small but growing mix of California-based groups–some, though not all, who regularly publish neo-Nazi tracts and comic books–bent on making male circumcision of any kind (religious and otherwise) illegal. Intactivists had garnered signatures sufficient to place on the November 2012 ballots in San Mateo and San Francisco measures that would penalize anyone performing circumcision. The San Francisco initiative, if passed, would have, according to the Associated Press, “made the practice a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1000 or up to one year in jail” for each circumcision. I ended my piece by suggesting that government ought not interfere with a religious or a medical practice where it cannot be shown that it causes harm. And no research suggests any significant health concerns attend male circumcision (outside the minds of the far-too-imaginatively-queasy).

Yesterday a San Francisco judge, Loretta M. Giorgi, announced her intent to remove the circumcision-ban from the city’s ballot. She said that “It serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot.” The judge went on to say that it is not the proper function of a city to regulate any medical procedure. Judge Giorgi noted that state and not municipal government has that responsibility.

I’m pleased that San Franciscans won’t have the anti-circumcision measure on the ballot. Voting is a just a part, albeit a vital part, of what makes democracies work. Misuse of the ballot, voting simply to express fear and prejudice (even if it does soothe the overly queasy), is not democratic; it’s democracy’s perversion.

ADL: Anti-circumcision comic book antisemitic

Monster Mohel. graphic

The Anti-Defamation League is condemning the “grotesque antisemitic imagery and themes” in a comic book created by supporters of an anti-circumcision movement in San Francisco.

The League called the “Monster Mohel” comic book’s imagery, which features identifiably Orthodox Jewish characters as evil villains, “disrespectful and deeply offensive.”

“Monster Mohel” is one of two titles in the “Foreskin Man” comic book series – the creation of Matthew Hess, the president of the Male Genital Mutilation Bill group and one of the leaders of the anti-circumcision legislation movement, which has achieved enough signatures to appear on a ballot for a public vote in November.

Nancy J. Appel, ADL Associate Regional Director, issued the following statement:

“This is an advocacy campaign taken to a new low,” said ADL Associate Regional Director Nancy Appel.

“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. It is one thing to debate it, is another thing to degrade it. ‘Foreskin Man,’ with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive.”