City Attorney’s Office pans circumcision ban on ballot 

Anti-Semitism charges against the anti-circumcision measure on the November ballot were echoed Thursday by the City Attorney’s Office.

The office said the measure’s campaign material is clearly anti-Jewish and targets members of the Jewish faith. The statement took particular exception to the comic books promoting the campaign portraying Jewish mohels as sinister villains, calling the comics “darkly evocative of Nazi propaganda of the 1930s and 1940s.”

Jewish groups, along with Muslims, filed a lawsuit over the ballot measure last week against The City’s director of elections and Lloyd Schofield, the San Francisco resident who gathered more than 12,000 signatures to place the proposed ban on the ballot.

Groups filing the lawsuit argue that state law prevents local jurisdictions from restricting medical practice by “healing-arts professionals” and the ban would limit First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.

The ban would make male circumcision of a minor in San Francisco a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Therese Stewart, chief deputy city attorney, said while the office normally reserves judgment on pre-election challenges, the circumcision ban is a special case.

“It’s demonizing the faith practice itself really as a sadistic, evil practice,” Stewart said. “There are times when you can’t sit silently, and this is one of those times.”

Schofield equates the legality of male circumcision with allowing members of the Mormon faith to practice polygamy and Christian Scientists to deny their children access to medical services. He said while the comic books might portray circumcision practitioners as villains, other Jewish people are shown as loving and caring individuals.

He added that the ban effort is aimed at basic human rights to “genital integrity,” and Schofield sees no difference between male circumcision and widely condemned female circumcision.

Stewart said City Attorney Dennis Herrera — a candidate in the mayoral race — won’t weigh in on the circumcision debate because of a self-imposed policy not to become involved in any ballot-related matters.

Schofield said the fight over the ballot measure has become political, but not necessarily on the part of Herrera.

“Politics is politics,” Schofield said. “Any time you have a politician involved, it’s political.”

A Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear lawsuit arguments July 15.

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Dan Schreiber

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