The New York Times reports this evening that the attempt to force a referendum on criminalizing circumcision in Santa Monica, California is being abandoned by its primary backer:
The woman, Jena Troutman, a mother of two young boys who began the process of trying to get a ban on the Santa Monica municipal ballot in 2012, said the news media had distorted the effort.
“The religious opposition really rose up, and I never intended it to be about that at all,” Ms. Troutman said. “Ninety-five percent of babies who are circumcised have nothing to do with religion — that’s what I was focused on. Once I discovered this bill was not going to open up the conversation but was closing it down, I wanted no part of it.”
Having seen Ms. Troutman’s anti-circumcision website, I believe her when she says her opposition to the procedure has nothing to do with its religious roots. But I think she’s being disingenuous or naive when she claims to be surprised that she got serious push-back. Did she really think Jews and Muslims would just say “Sure, never mind, we’ll do things your way from now on?” (I could go on about white Christian privilege, but I won’t). She also picked the wrong ally in anti-Semitic cartoonist Matthew Hess, and was forced to distance herself from him:
While I do support the human right to bodily integrity and genital autonomy that the MGMbill.org group is working toward, I’m not part of that organization,” Troutman [told the Jewish Journal]. “It’s not a bill that I’m comfortable backing anymore.”
This is the problem with taking on a cause that inherently puts you in opposition to freedom of religion. Even if your activism isn’t motivated by religious bias, if your goals ultimately affect other people’s religious freedom, you’re stuck. Troutman would be better off trying to reduce circumcision through education and advocacy than trying to force her beliefs on their fellow citizens through legislation. San Francisco, however, will still vote on a ban in November.