At the Bris of a newborn boy, Kramer tries to dissuade Stan and Myra from ritually circumcising their little guy according to the Jewish tradition. If Kramer really wanted to it, could he petition a court to stop the mohel from performing the circumcision? Could ritual circumcision be made illegal?
Non-therapeutic circumcision of male children is considered to be legal in every jurisdiction in the United States, so long as consent is given by a parent to perform the procedure. Most states only require that one parent give consent before the cover is taken off the 9-iron, but it is highly unlikely that a doctor would perform a circumcision in opposition to the objection of one parent. Meaning, while the law might only require that one parent actually give consent and that a catered lunch take place, if the other parent does not want it to happen a doctor probably isn’t going to go proceed with the procedure. If a doctor is going to go forward with a circumcision that one parent does not want, the opposing parent’s best legal course of action would be to seek injunction against the procedure. However, the law is somewhat unclear as to what would happen in such a case, and it would likely be a very fact based determination.
While it would be impossible to determine whether a baby actually wants to be have his hat yanked off, courts do take into account the wishes of older children when it comes to circumcision. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a thirteen year old boy, who’s father wanted him to be circumcised but who’s mother opposed the procedure, should be allowed to make that determination for himself. It is clear then, at a certain age, the boy’s consent is necessary before a court will mandate that a circumcision to take place, even if one of the parents wants it to happen. And despite longstanding religious practices, countries outside the United States have proposed total bans on circumcision, outside of medical necessity, until a child is old enough to make that determination for himself.
Even in America now, critics of male circumcision are beginning to challenge the legality of the practice, and some American cities have had to entertain public pressure to ban male circumcision until the boy can make that determination for himself. In San Francisco, such a ballot initiative actually collected enough signatures to be put on the ballot for a public vote. The proposed law would have made it a misdemeanor to circumcise male children. But a lawsuit to have it stricken from the ballot was successful. Soon after, the California legislature passed a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown that prevents local and city governments from outlawing male circumcision.
It should be noted that female genital mutilation is a felony under federal law in the United States, outside of medical necessity, and as Kramer rightly states, it is a barbaric ritual. It is also illegal under many State’s laws, and is considered a human rights violation by many United Nations agencies.
(*** EDITOR’S NOTE: In the days following the publication of this post. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the federal law banning Female Genital Mutilation is unconstitutional. This ruling, however, only strikes down the Federal law, not individual State laws. The Federal government is currently determining whether it will appeal the decision.)
So could Kramer really stop the Bris from taking place? The answer is no. Kramer, alone, could not do anything to prevent Stan and Myra from circumcising their boy. But, as he passionately tries to do with Myra, he could attempt to convince one of the parents from agreeing to the procedure. That could be enough to stop the mohel from going through with the ancient sacred covenant. But then again, it is his business.