Banning Circumcision Won’t Change Reality for Children

The primary difference between adult drug use and circumcision on boys is that adults have more latitude with their own than with their children’s bodies.

The primary positive outcome I can envision for a ban on male circumcision is that Jews and Muslims would finally have a cause on which they could work together. If it starts with a piece of flesh, perhaps it will one day lead to peace.

That said, I personally oppose all medically unnecessary operations and circumcision is one such procedure. However small the risks, there are risks. I also personally oppose the use of illegal drugs (and oppose, even more strongly, the use of some legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol in excess). My preventive solution in all these cases is education rather than bans.

Alcohol prohibition was instituted in the United States in 1919, by passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. This violence-producing and unenforceable prohibition was wisely repealed in 1933 with passage of the Twenty-first Amendment. President Nixon in 1971 declared a War on Drugs, with the same problems as our war on alcohol. Unfortunately, this losing war continues even after 40 years of increased violence.

Does anyone doubt that a ban on circumcision would lead to more medical problems because the procedure would be performed underground by less qualified cutters? Circumcision, like clean needle exchanges for those injecting illegal drugs, is far less harmful than passing a law to ban it would be.

The primary difference for me between adult drug use and circumcision on little boys is that adults have more latitude with their own than with their children’s bodies. That’s why adult Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists are free to refuse life-saving blood transfusions, but are not free to do so with their children. Were there strong medical evidence that circumcision caused considerable harm to boys, I would favor a ban.

In my mind, circumcision is further from child abuse than current, perfectly legal procedures initiated by parents—like teaching children religious fairy tales as fact, and shielding them from evidence-based material that includes evolution and comprehensive sex education. That’s where I worry more about the thin line between religious freedom and child abuse.

About

Herb Silverman Herb Silverman is founder and President Emeritus of the Secular Coalition for America, author of “Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt,” and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.