My religion teaches that boys must be circumcised eight days after birth. So someone needs to introduce a bill in the legislature requiring that all male infants be circumcised before they leave the hospital
My religion teaches that boys must be circumcised eight days after birth. So someone needs to introduce a bill in the legislature requiring that all male infants be circumcised before they leave the hospital.
Inappropriate, you say? A violation of separation of church and state? Not at all: there is research suggesting that men who have been circumcised are less likely to get sexually transmitted diseases, and their female partners less likely to get cervical cancer, so there is clearly a secular purpose to my proposed law. And since my bill does not require that eight days elapse, or that the procedure be done by a mohel, or religiously trained “circumciser,” it isn’t a religious observance at all.
You say that you are a member of the Not-me Church, which believes it is a sin to alter body parts in any way, even to pierce your ears? You say that because your religious beliefs are different, you should therefore be exempted from this requirement? Sorry—this will be a “law of general application.” That means it wasn’t targeted at people of the Not-me faith, but passed for health or public safety reasons, so while you are free to believe that circumcision is sinful, you still have to be circumcised. (This is the same issue that was decided by the Supreme Court in the Smith case. Two members of an Indian tribe smoked peyote as part of a tribal religious ritual—they were fired from their jobs for drug use, and when they applied for unemployment benefits, the state refused to pay because they had been fired “for cause.” The Supremes, in their wisdom, said that our drug prohibitions are “laws of general application” and if they interfered with Indian religious observances, that was just too bad.)
If my circumcision scenario seems farfetched, you haven’t been paying attention.
In the ongoing debate over abortion, laws clearly grounded in particular religious doctrines are routinely justified by expressions of pious concern for women’s health, and the “sanctity of life.” Never mind that these concerns don’t seem to translate into funding that might help poor women raise their children. Nor do they prompt these pious folks to establish programs to ensure children’s health and well-being. (Once they are actually born, who cares?)
State and federal legislators are hot to ban gay marriage; never mind that their reasons are all based upon particular religious beliefs. They’ll drum up a “secular” rationale, to avoid that pesky First Amendment (although in this case it is hard—logically, it would actually be easier to justify the circumcision law).
More recently, Congress demonstrated its “compassion” and its concern for the sanctity of life by passing a patently unconstitutional bill to “save” Terri Schiavo. There have been fourteen state trials, at which the testimony of the doctors and nurses who have actually treated her was that she is in a persistent vegetative state, and that her cerebral cortex has liquefied. Those trials also found clear evidence that she had not wanted her body to be kept alive in these circumstances. Fourteen trials—but Congress knows better than those dumb people who actually heard evidence. And besides, the good Congressmen’s religious beliefs require keeping her body alive. (Too bad those beliefs don’t require them to fund stem-cell research that might keep others from suffering her fate.)
In all of these pitched battles over a moral high-ground defined by competing, narrowly religious worldviews, no one seems to have noticed that the state empowered to impose my religion on you today could impose yours on me tomorrow. No one seems willing to stand up for the proposition that sin and salvation are not government’s business.
In the current politically pious environment, I’m sure I can find someone to carry my circumcision bill.