Proposal to Ban Circumcision (Brit Milah) On San Francisco Ballot

Posted on July 28, 2011 In Blog

Efforts to criminalize brit milah are underway in San Francisco. On July 28, 2011, a California Superior Court judge ordered the proposal stricken from the November, 2011 ballot, a major victory. However, proponents have vowed to appeal. To learn more about this proposal and what the OU – and you – can do to stop it, please read below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What would this November 2011 ballot proposal do?

If enacted, it makes a misdemeanor criminal act to perform circumcision on an male below 18 years of age. The proposed ban would apply in the City and County of San Francisco.

How did this happen?

The proponents successfully submitted the signatures required (a minimum of 7,168 valid signatures) on a petition to qualify their proposal for the ballot.

Is there a religious exception to the proposed ban on circumcision?

No. The only exception would be in cases of “clear and immediate medical need, if there is no less-destructive alternative.” The ballot measure specifically states \ “there is no exception for persons who believe that circumcision is required as a matter of custom or ritual.”

If enacted, what could happen to those who perform circumcision?

Anyone, including physicians or mohels who performs the procedure could be sentenced to serve up to a year in county jail, and/or fined up to $1,000.

Why is the OU opposing the ban?

It strikes at a core mitzvah/command of Judaism, and resurrects attacks on the practice of Judaism that our enemies throughout the centuries have attempted. As well, it is a fundamental violation of religious liberty as provided under the US and California constitutions for Jew and, as well, Muslims.

Is this part of a broader movement?


San Diego-based anti-circumcision activist Matthew Hess, drafter of the proposed ballot, has an organization dedicated to outlawing circumcision, and has made efforts st ballot proposals or legislation in Santa Monica, Massachusetts and in the US Congress. He also writes and publishes a comic book series, Foreskin Man, featuring grotesque anti-Semitic imagery, including a villain named Monster Mohel” who looks as if drawn by Nazi propagandists.

Hess himself has said a win in San Francisco would help fuel their efforts nationally.

How is the OU fighting this?

We have joined a broad based coalition headed by the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, which includes Jews, Muslims and other faith groups, as well as elected officials and civic leaders. The Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom is waging legal and political campaigns against the proposed ban. While we hope legal challenges, based both on constitutional issues, as well as California preemption issues (only the State of California may regulate medical procedures; it is illegal for a city, county or other locality to do so) succeed, we must still plan an aggressive campaign to defeat the measure, as opposition to defeat the measure.

We are also supporting legislation in Sacramento, sponsored by Assembylman Mike Gatto which would “ban” any bans on circumcision. This legislation can be considered as early as mid-August and, if enacted, would go into effect immediately.

Can I Support the Coalition’s Efforts?

Financial contributions to the coalition can be made via