I was absolutely aghast to learn of a recent declaration by the Council of Europe urging European Nations to ban practices which are a “violation of the physical integrity of the child” including circumcision which is widely practices by two of the worlds largest religions– Judaism and Islam. I view such a ban as a clear violation of the rights of religious conscience and religious freedom.
In a religious sense, circumcision was of course a command that God gave to Abraham which was a mark of an eternal covenant. For Christians, the importance of the ritual has in some ways been replaced with other rituals has been replaced through baptism, confirmation and other sacred rites. Nevertheless, the ritual remains a way that many individuals set their children apart as members of a covenant or chosen people. Although in my church, children are not baptized until they reach an age of consent where they are able to make such a choice for themselves, I respect the rights of religious individuals to raise their children in faith and according to the dictates of conscience. Indeed, parents have an obligation to teach children and to help them to make correct decision in life. For those that believe in the religious significance of circumcision, such a ritual carries the utmost significance. It is a moral obligation and imperative. If such a ban is passed, individuals will be forced to decide between worshiping God and facing serious consequences or even jail time. Such a dilemma is exactly what religious freedom is meant to protect.
Fortunately. Such a ban would be very unlikely to succeed in the United States. Even under Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court’s dominant case about the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment, such a law would likely be struck down.. This is because such a policy can easily been seen as animated by anti-religious animus (particularly anti-Muslim bias). Moreover, such a law unequally burdens religious individuals as others are unlikely to view the issue as an especially important one. Likewise, I wonder if given the conflicting medical opinions about circumcision that this policy would even be considered a rational government interest under the most discretionary standard of review. If a higher standard applies under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or its state-based progeny, this law would almost certainly fall short.
Nevertheless, religious freedom is still in jeopardy even in America. The Elaine Photography case where a Photography was fined for refusing to photography a gay marriage because of her religious convictions is a striking example of this. As the influence of secularism continues to spread, religious liberty will be at jeopardy. For this reason, I am so proud to belong to a church that speaks out frequently and forcefully on this topic.
I loved the LDS Church’s recently released video about religious freedom, and I recommend that everyone watch and take action…