Congressman Brad Sherman announced today that he will be introducing the Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011, a bill to prevent San Francisco and other municipalities from banning the circumcision of males under the age of 18.
Sherman's new bill is in reaction to a measure that has qualified for the November 2011 ballot in San Francisco that would make the performance of circumcisions on males under 18 a misdemeanor--with a possible $1,000 fine and one-year prison term.
"Male circumcision has been practiced for thousands of years and is a deeply important ceremony for two major religions," said Sherman. "Circumcision is obligatory for Jewish-born males -- it must be performed on the eighth day after birth and is only postponed in the case of threat to the life or health of the child. Muslim parents also circumcise their male children."
Sherman expressed concern over the motivation of the provision. "To infringe the religious rights of so many Americans, San Francisco should have some compelling medical reason; however, the medical literature actually shows clear benefits of male circumcision."
According to a United Nation AIDS agency study, male circumcision offers a 60 percent reduction in HIV risk and the benefits are life-long.
"I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that parents should clearly have the right to freely decide whether circumcision is in the best interests of their male children," said Sherman. "In fact, American parents have chosen circumcision for over 75 percent of male children."
"Congress has a legitimate interest in making sure that a practice that appears to reduce disease and health care costs remains available to parents," Sherman said. "And, nothing in my bill prohibits statewide law ensuring that male circumcision occurs in a hygienic manner."
"Congress has historically legislated to protect the free exercise of religious rights from state and local intrusions," Sherman said. "In 2000, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, designed to protect religious institutions from unduly burdensome local zoning laws."
"The Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011ensures that Jewish and Muslim families will continue to be able to enjoy the free exercise of their religious beliefs," Sherman said.