ADL Joins In San Francisco Lawsuit Challenging Anti-Circumcision Ballot Initiative

San Francisco, CA, June 22, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today joined with a group of community organizations, doctors and Jewish and Muslim families in San Francisco in a lawsuit challenging a November ballot initiative that seeks to criminalize the circumcision of males under the age of 18.

The lawsuit calls on the state Department of Elections to remove the anti-circumcision proposition from the ballot on the grounds that the City of San Francisco would have no power to enact the ordinance if approved by voters. Under the California Business and Professions Code, municipalities cannot "prohibit a healing arts professional licensed within the state…from engaging in any act or performing any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that license."

The petition urges a judge to intervene before the November 11 election in order to spare the city and its residents from wasting resources debating and voting on an ordinance that cannot become law.

"Existing California law is clear," said Nancy Appel, ADL Associate Director in San Francisco. "Only the state can make rules about medical procedures and this initiative violates that law. Not only does this initiative waste time, energy and expense, but it also offends the notions of parental rights and freedom of religion. It is unconstitutional and, as we allege in this lawsuit, contrary to California law."

ADL joins in the lawsuit with the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, various doctors and Jewish and Muslim individuals whose rights would be adversely harmed if a law criminalizing circumcision were to go into effect. They include: Leo Fuchs, Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe and Yael Frenkel-Jaffe, Jeremy and Jennifer Benjamin, Dr. Eric Tabas, Dr. Brian McBeth, Sheila Bari, Leticia Preza and Kashif Abdullah.

If enacted, the ordinance would outlaw the circumcision of males under the age of 18, making it punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison. Aside from the clear prohibitions of the measure under state law, ADL also maintains that the decision to circumcise boys for religious reasons – as is required in both Judaism and Islam – is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

ADL is a member of the Committee for Parental Choice & Religious Freedom, which is leading the opposition to the proposed ban. More information about the coalition and the proposed ballot measure is available at

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.