By MIKAELA CONLEY
Lloyd Schofield has come one step closer to achieving his mission to ban circumcision -- the surgical removal of the penile foreskin -- in the City by the Bay.
San Francisco city officials said Wednesday that Schofield had collected enough signatures -- more than 12,000 -- to put the measure on the city ballot in November 2011.
"The foreskin is there for a reason," said Schofield, who is retired from a career in the hotel industry. "It's not a birth defect. It serves an important function in a man's life, and nobody has a right to perform unnecessary surgery on another human being."
Schofield began researching circumcision several years ago and found a local group of "intactivists," people who believe that infant boys have the right to keep their foreskin intact. Together they created an advocacy group called the Prohibition of Genital Cutting of Male Minors. The ban would make it illegal to "circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years."
The group has not only collected thousands of signatures but a fair share of ire from religious groups and the medical community alike.
If San Francisco residents vote for the ban, doctors, mohels and any other person who performs circumcisions would face a misdemeanor charge and have to pay up to a $1,000 fine or serve a maximum of one year in jail.
Circumcision, performed on 8-day-old males, is an important ritual in the Jewish -- and Muslim -- faiths. Marc Stern, associate general counsel for legal advocacy at the American Jewish Committee, said the Jewish community is "clearly appalled" by the proposed ban.
"This is the most direct assault on Jewish religious practice in the United States," said Stern. "It's unprecedented in American Jewish life."
"We would agree with the Jewish religious and legal scholars regarding the practice, and ... to my knowledge, there is no compelling medical reason to ban it," said Ibrahim Ramey, the human civil rights program director at the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. "There are religious sensitivities that are involved and the decision to circumcise ought best be left to the parents of the child, and not a political referendum."
Stern said that the Jewish community has held strategy meetings to diminish the proposal.
"We want to erase the message that anyone else can try to take away a central ritual, practiced for centuries without harm, to make sure no one tries to replicate this," Stern said.
But with the thousands of supporting signatures, San Francisco is one step closer to making the proposal a reality.