Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mass. Bill Would Ban Circumcision

Every year when Jews celebrate Hannukah, the story of the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks is told. In ancient Greece ,Judaism was permitted as a philosophy. It was as a way of life and a system of laws that the Greeks opposed Judaism. One of the commandments that was banned under Greek rule was circumcision. In Greece as well as under subsequent totalitarian regimes through the ages, there were those who risked death and imprisonment to fulfill this biblical commandment. After the age of eight days, a Jewish male is supposed to be circumcised. It is a clear commandment. It can not be wished away by the government on behalf of those who practice Judaism.

A man named Charles A. Antonelli of Massachusetts is waging a campaign to pass a law that would compel Jews and Muslims living in Massachusetts to violate the tenets of their own faith by forbidding circumcision on anyone under the age of 18 unless there is a pressing medical need. The bill does not merely overlook the requirements of Jewish and Islamic law. It specifically bans circumcisions that are performed on minors for religious reasons. It bans a commandment that has been performed for thousands of years around the world and for the entire time that the United States has been in existence.

This bill purports to protect the rights of children not to be encumbered by irreversible procedures that could not be done later in life. A close examination of the statute shows that it does not ban abortion. Perhaps Mr. Antonelli has a blind spot in his vision of freedom for the children of Massachusetts.

If passed, the bill would make Massachusetts a state where parents have no right to prevent their children from being taught about homosexuality in public school and no right to practice circumcision as a religious ritual. There is in Massachusetts a pattern of second guessing and undermining parental values and judgements when clash with "enlightened " values. Those parents who subscribe to non religious circumcision as being medically desirable would under the Antonelli statute be banned from exercising their medical judgement on behalf of their children. It also creates a legal and psychological precedent of questioning years after the fact parenting decisions made in good faith on behalf of children by their parents and guardians.

I lived in a town that banned fluoridation of the water. Fluoridated water is generally credited with preventing tooth decay. My parents decided that the school system in my town was good enough to outweigh the problems created by non fluoridated water. I have no intention of setting up a web site blaming my parents for the state of my teeth. A recurring theme of the web sites condemning circumcision is a sense of mournful loss for a foreskin that is gone forever. Parents make decisions all the time on behalf of their children. A child might need surgery. The parents take the child to a mediocre doctor who causes the child injury. Is Antonelli going to step in and sue the parents?

I was taught to read using the phonics method in Catholic schools. My sister was taught using the whole word method, in which words are looked at and memorised. With the exception of dyslexic students, phonics works better as a method to teach reading. My sister is still annoyed that she was taught using the whole word method. But she got over it. She got two degrees and makes a good living.

There are many arguments for and against circumcision. Anyone can look them up. There is a theological debate as well. In America we have the right to choose our faith and our expressions of religious faith. We have a right to exercise good faith medical judgment as well.

There is a wellspring of emotion that is evoked by the Antonelli bill, a piece of proposed legislation that knowingly takes aim at a religious practice. It could well be renamed the Edict of Expulsion From the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, because it could well expose Jews who circumcise their children to a fine and up to fourteen years in prison.

I am surprised that the news articles that report on this bill mention that Antonelli is "Delivery Compliance Administrator for IBM Global Services in Boston". It is unfortunate that IBM is saddled with an employee who is working so hard to pass what amounts to hate legislation. I sincerely doubt that the bill will pass. Because if it did, I would look with disfavour upon traveling to Massachusetts, buying products made there or dealing with financial institutions that have their corporate headquarters in Massachusetts.

Those who wonder if there will ever be peace between Jews and Muslims can look at this bill and see a united front forming against the Antonelli bill against the circumcision of minors.

Although this bill seems to affect only Jews and Muslims, its reach is far more insidious, injecting the reach of the state into the lives of families living in Massachusetts. Anyone who wonders if there is not a malignant quality to the philosophy of the nanny state need wonder no longer. Charles A. Antonelli is here to protect us from ourselves, whether we want it or not. Sphere: Related Content

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