WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman will introduce a bill to prevent cities from banning male circumcision, the California lawmaker’s office said.
Sherman’s bill, which his office announced Tuesday, comes in response to a measure that qualified recently for the November ballot in San Francisco that would outlaw the circumcision of males under the age of 18, making it punishable by a $1,000 fine and a one-year prison term.
The congressman said it was also a reaction a comic book called "Foreskin Man," which gained notoriety earlier this month for its depictions of a handsome hero battling against a hook-nosed "Monster Mohel" to prevent a baby boy’s circumcision.
"I became aware that this was going to be a San Francisco ballot measure and I said hey, I have to do something about this," Sherman, a Jewish Democrat, told JTA. "Then I saw this outrageous comic book and decided I need to make it a priority."
Sherman said the Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011 will ensure Jewish and Muslim families will be able to enjoy the free exercise of their religious beliefs. Judaism and Islam are the two major religions that practice male circumcision as a religious ceremony.
"This could happen in any city," Sherman said of the ballot measure. "This ought to be stopped statewide and it ought to be stopped nationwide."
Sherman, whose congressional district is in the Los Angeles area, pointed to studies in the medical community that show the health benefits of circumsion.
"To infringe the religious rights of so many Americans, San Francisco should have some compelling medical reason," he said. "However, the medical literature actually shows clear benefits of male circumcision. 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 the bill currently has one co-sponsor, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress. Sherman said he expects to pick up a number of additional co-sponsors and plans to introduce the bill within the next week.
A similar effort to put a circumcision ban on the ballot in Santa Monica, Calif., was dropped last week.