The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office has criticized as unconstitutional a proposed ballot measure calling for a ban on male circumcision in the city, because it includes an exemption for cases of medical necessity but not religion.

“San Franciscans cannot be asked to vote on whether to prohibit religious minorities from engaging in a particular religious practice, when the same practice may be performed under nonreligious auspices,” the city attorney said in a brief filed to the Superior Court on Thursday in response to a suit filed by a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups against those proposing the ban.

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“If the court concludes that the measure is preempted as applied to medical professionals, then the remaining application is unconstitutional and the court should remove the measure from the ballot entirely,” the brief continued.

The Jewish and Muslims groups that filed the lawsuit argue that state law prevents local governments from restricting medical procedures, including, they say, circumcision.


In the brief, Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart referred to the Foreskin Man comic book released by campaigners for the ballot proposal, which depicts a superhero battling to stop stereotypical Jewish figures carrying out circumcisions.

“Especially in light of disturbing campaign materials that evoke the ugliest kind of anti- Semitic propaganda, the city has an obligation to petition the court to remove the measure from the ballot in its entirety if it is preempted as applied to medical professionals,” Stewart said.

These materials, the brief said, “portray the battle against circumcision as one between good, represented by a blonde, blue-eyed superhero and his fair-skinned female friend, and evil, represented by four darkhaired, dark-skinned menacing Jewish characters with prominent noses, sinister expressions and sadistic tendencies.”

The case will be heard on July 15.

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