European restrictions on religious circumcision (“Circumcision Controversy,” Aug. 3), like the recent ones in Germany, arise from a conflict between religious and sexual freedom. Opponents of the procedure argue that the removal of sensitive nerve endings means diminished sexual pleasure at manhood. Proponents argue that banning religious circumcision amounts to an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” on parents’ religious freedom. Does the boy’s future sexual freedom outweigh his parents’ religious freedom?
One might think that such an intrusion could not happen here in the United States. After all, the “free exercise of religion” is explicitly written into our Constitution, whereas sexual freedom is a court-made doctrine, the outcome of a long sequence of Supreme Court decisions. However, our president’s 2009 nominee to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was a law professor who said, “There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win.”
So far, a proposed referendum to ban circumcision in San Francisco has been ruled unconstitutional, but what happened in Cologne, Germany, may yet happen here. Our Constitution’s guarantee of some people’s religious freedom may yet wind up subordinate to other people’s sexual freedom.