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Humanist Organizations ought to:
Issue a statement that circumcision is not just about religion, but about health, so it should remain in practice. 2
Stay out of the fray on this one. 2
Write a policy paper (white paper) calling for the end of circumcision. 3
Total Votes: 7
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CIRCUMCISON: A Short Humanist History of a Cause
Posted: 13 December 2006 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]
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[b:32d7f1e407]I am not sure that this is the best section for a "health topic" - which is not about alt. med. - but it is a religious (and humanist) issue as well as a health issue, so here goes it.[/b:32d7f1e407]

CIRCUMCISON: A Short Humanist History of a Cause
by James W. Prescott, Ph.D.

It was at the 1986 Annual Convention of the American Humanist Association (AHA), held in Sacramento, CA that I was first introduced to the circumcision issue by Marilyn F. Milos , R.N., Founder and Director, NOCIRC, who had a booth and was showing video clips of a circumcision. I was standing next to her booth in conversation with a humanist colleague when a piercing scream interrupted our conversation.  I turned to her and asked her, ŌWhat was that?”

Marilyn responded, ŌA baby being circumcised.”

This infant scream was unlike anything I have heard beforeŘa scream of tortureŘand set me on a life path to end the genital mutilation of children worldwide.  I immediately formulated a Resolution to end the genital mutilation of children worldwide and submitted it to the next Board Meeting of the AHA for approval. 

Thus began a long journey of submitted Resolutions and rejections by the AHA and other humanist organizations to end the genital mutilation of children worldwide.

The First International Symposium On Circumcision was held on March 1-3, 1989, Anaheim, CA, which was organized by Marilyn Fayre Milos, R.N. Founder and Director, NOCIRC. At this Conference, a Resolution "The Universal Declaration on Circumcision, Incision and Excision" was unanimously passed by the General Assembly.

At the Second International Conference on Circumcision held in San Francisco (1991), Ashley Montagu presented his address "Mutilated Humanity" - http://nocirc.org/symposia/second/montagu.html

The American Humanist Association bestowed upon Ashley Montagu its 1995 Humanist of the Year Award.  As part of its award ceremonies, the AHA/The Humanist negotiated with Marilyn F. Milos, R.N. and Dr. James W. Prescott the publication of "Mutilated Humanity" in its July/August 1995 edition of The Humanist in exchange for the publication of The Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide: A Petition to the World Court, The Hague, which was passed unanimously at the Fourth International Symposium on Circumcision: Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy held in Lausanne, Switzerland, 1996, which the General Assembly unanimously endorsed - http://montagunocircpetition.org/montagu_resolution.pg

Regrettably, the AHA/The Humanist refused to live up to its contractual agreement and refused to publish The Montagu Resolution.  Fred Edwords, Editor, The Humanist and Executive Director, AHA gave no satisfactory response to his refusal to publish The Montagu Resolution. This action was consistent with a long tradition of the refusal by the AHA Board of Directors to endorse The Montagu Resolution, which this writer initiated many times beginning in 1986 and which continues to this day.

During this time period, I submitted The Montagu Resolution to the American Ethical Union for their endorsement.  They refused to act upon The Montagu Resolution despite the historical significance of Rabbi Felix Adler’s opposition to circumcision, the Founder of Ethical Culture.  The American Ethical Union remains to this day unsupportive of The Montagu Resolution.

Professors Paul Kurtz and Rob Tielman were co-Presidents of the IHEU from 1986-1993 (PK) and 1986-1996 (RT). During their tenure I repeatedly requested that they submit The Montagu Resolution to the IHEU for endorsement. They repeatedly blocked the submission of The Montagu Resolution to the IHEU General Assembly. Similarly, appeals to the Council For Democratic Secular Humanism (CODESH) were rejected.

In the Fall 2005, I began a series of email correspondence with Roy Brown, President, IHEU and requested that he submit The Montagu Resolution to the IHEU General Assembly for their consideration and action. After much review he submitted the following Resolution that calls upon all IHEU member organizations to take action opposing non-medical circumcision. The IHEU action follows.

We are all grateful to President Roy Brown and the IHEU for the action taken that opposes all non-medical circumcisions. Although, we believe that the ethical and human rights issues needs greater emphasis this is an important and significant step in protecting and preserving the human rights and integrity of the infant/child body. All member organizations of IHEU are urged to endorse the IHEU Resolution on Circumcision and endorse The Montagu Resolution.

The following names are only a partial list of Humanists, Scientists and Citizens that are opposed to the genital mutilation of children worldwide.

Felix Adler, Ph.D.  Founder of the Ethical Culture Society, New York (1876)

Roy Brown, President, International Humanist and Ethical Union (2003-2006)

Francis H.C. Crick, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine (1962)

Edd Doerr, President, American Humanist Association (1995-2002)

John Hardebeck, M.D. President, First San Diego Chapter of the AHA (1954)

Lester A. Kirdendall, Ph.D. Author and Humanist of the Year (1983)

Gerald A. Larue, Ph.D. Biblical Scholar and Humanist of the Year (1989)

Joseph Lewis, Biblical Scholar, Author "In the Name of Humanity" (1947)

Ashley Montagu, Ph.D.,  Author and Humanist of the Year (1995)

James W. Prescott, Ph.D. Author and Director, Institute of Humanistic Science

Jonas Salk, M.D. Founder, The Salk Institute and Humanist of the Year (1976)

Benjamin Spock, M.D., Author and Humanist of the Year (1968)

Thomas Szaaz, M.D., Author and Humanist of the Year (1973)

George Wald, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine (1967)

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976)

Despite this partial list of distinguished endorsers of The Montagu Resolution, The American Humanist Association, The American Ethical Union, the Council For Secular Humanism, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union have consistently refused to endorse The Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide: A Petition to the World Court, The Hague that was submitted to them by its author.

Letter to Paul Kurtz from James Prescott in 2005: http://www.violence.de/prescott/letters/Lt_Kurtz_9.27.05.html
==============================================

[b:32d7f1e407]Here is a science site on circumcision:  http://www.racp.edu.au/hpu/paed/circumcision/summary.htm[/b:32d7f1e407]

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Posted: 14 December 2006 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I didn’t mutilate my son’s genitals, just like I didn’t mutilate my daughter’s. I was very surprised to find that my educated, atheist friends unquestionably had their sons cut. They had no idea it was a cosmetic (or religious) procedure. One of the most disgusting reasons I heard for people getting their sons cut was that they wanted their son “to look like his father”. Man, I’m glad the father wasn’t missing an arm or a leg…

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Posted: 14 December 2006 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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tom_g

I didn’t mutilate my son’s genitals, just like I didn’t mutilate my daughter’s.

Would you agree that circumcision of males is rather different from that practiced on females?

Do you really believe that circumcision is “mutilation?”  A male’s “genitals” are comprised of more than the foreskin.  Please be specific and less sensational.

If it did not involve reproductive organs who you be as worked up?  What if a practice cut off an earlobe or etched designs in skin on the arm?

As an unnecessary medical procedure I would agree it should not be performed.  As a religious rite it should be not be unlawful.  The state does not have a compelling interest in cessation of the practice.  Many religions have practices that are medically questionable.  Those practices should be allowed under the first amendment.  In an ideal world parents would not be able to cut or brainwash their children nor deny them health services.  But we live in a real world with tribal people who act as if they own their children.  How would you feel if you could not teach your children your values and your culture?

Wes

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Posted: 14 December 2006 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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to look like dad

Tom said: One of the most disgusting reasons I heard for people getting their sons cut was that they wanted their son “to look like his father”. Man, I’m glad the father wasn’t missing an arm or a leg…


LOL

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Posted: 14 December 2006 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]tom_g

I didn’t mutilate my son’s genitals, just like I didn’t mutilate my daughter’s.

Would you agree that circumcision of males is rather different from that practiced on females?

Do you really believe that circumcision is “mutilation?”  A male’s “genitals” are comprised of more than the foreskin.  Please be specific and less sensational.

cute. I’ll agree to everything you just said. I suppose I am somewhat passionate when it comes to things like this.  Why is this? It could be that I live in the U.S., where male circumcision is routine and people have no idea why they do it. They get on their soapbox about people in other cultures cutting/mutilating female genitals against their will, but find that there is *nothing* ironic about their moral stance on the issue. Of course, I’m not saying that cutting a baby’s foreskin off is as bad as removing the clitoris or other grotesque procedures done in some parts of the world. However, it’s still not ok to remove a part of the someone’s genitals without their consent. I did not choose to be cut. My parents did. It’s a cosmetic procedure that has left me without something I’d prefer back.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]If it did not involve reproductive organs who you be as worked up?  What if a practice cut off an earlobe or etched designs in skin on the arm?

Good point. I would completely oppose it. Would you oppose a tattoo on a child that said, “I am shit” across their forehead? How far should we allow parents to permenantly alter the physical features of their children? And related to that, what type of physical pain should be allowed in providing these procedures?

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]
As an unnecessary medical procedure I would agree it should not be performed.  As a religious rite it should be not be unlawful.  The state does not have a compelling interest in cessation of the practice.  Many religions have practices that are medically questionable.  Those practices should be allowed under the first amendment.  In an ideal world parents would not be able to cut or brainwash their children nor deny them health services.  But we live in a real world with tribal people who act as if they own their children.  How would you feel if you could not teach your children your values and your culture?

Wes

While I agree with you to some degree, I’m not sure the state does not have a compelling interest in the cessation of religious practices. My Christian Scientist neighbors (when I was a kid) refused to bring their kids to the doctor. One day, the youngest boy’s leg was run over, and they refused to bring him to the hospital. It was only after days of agony and threats from neighborhood parents that they brought him to get care. Cherished religious practice? Sure. Acceptable? Nope.

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Posted: 14 December 2006 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Circumcison a civil liberties issue?

Wes said: Do you really believe that circumcision is “mutilation?”  A male’s “genitals” are comprised of more than the foreskin.  Please be specific and less sensational.

If it did not involve reproductive organs who you be as worked up?  What if a practice cut off an earlobe or etched designs in skin on the arm?

As an unnecessary medical procedure I would agree it should not be performed.  As a religious rite it should be not be unlawful.  The state does not have a compelling interest in cessation of the practice.  Many religions have practices that are medically questionable.  Those practices should be allowed under the first amendment.  In an ideal world parents would not be able to cut or brainwash their children nor deny them health services.  But we live in a real world with tribal people who act as if they own their children.  How would you feel if you could not teach your children your values and your culture?


Wes.. we are not talking about an earlobe… that is part of the point; but even if we were, THAT would not be good to do to an infant either (even in a hospital under drugs).  But this is far worse because it is not only an unnessary medical procedure (though I’d admit that a Rabbi in a Temple doing the bris milah is by far more barbaric than a doctor at a hospital), it is actualy “doing harm” medically….  This is not about teaching values, it is about mutilation which leaves a penis LESS healthy. This is NOT a civil liberties issue.

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Posted: 14 December 2006 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Barry:

What I was going for was the emotional power of “the genitals.”  Folks seem to get really worked up about that tissue and miss the other “mutilations.”  In the grand scheme of things I can’t get excited about what my father had done to me but his father had not done to him.

The most egregious mutilations are the mental mutilations of religion and other brainwashing all under the heading of “culture.”  I am an advocate of children’s rights.  They should be free from parental assaults both physical and psychological.  But you can imagine where that might go and how it would be enforced.

Operationally, under the bill of rights, people can do many things to their children in the name of religious freedom.  Many horrible assaults have been committed by Christian Scientist as tom_g has noted (Christian Scientists are not scientists, and devalue the title by their use).  People are still much too tribal to allow infringement of their “right” to raise children as they see fit.  Perhaps there should be a children’s bill of rights in the constitution?

Wouldn’t it be grand if we could ask our children whether they want to be conceived?  But alas we bring children into being without thought.  After all it is our right to do so and has been adjudicated.

You wrote:

This is NOT a civil liberties issue.

  I agree idealistically.  But you see it is today, pragmatically, and realistically.  In the future it should be a civil rights issue.

Are “cut” males really disadvantaged in some way?  Is it really so bad?  I am not convinced we should spend much time and effort on it.  There are other more important issues than cutting.

:D Wes

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Posted: 14 December 2006 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]Barry:

What I was going for was the emotional power of “the genitals.”  Folks seem to get really worked up about that tissue and miss the other “mutilations.”  In the grand scheme of things I can’t get excited about what my father had done to me but his father had not done to him.

I’m all for perspective. However, I find that “in the grand scheme of things” talk can lead one to an overall apathy that supports the status quo. For example, U.S. citizens have Iraqi blood on their hands. Yes, we all do. I could say that in that context, bickering about whether god exists or not - or whether it should even be taught in our schools - is rather petty and bougeois. Does that mean that anything short of spending every waking hour opposing my government’s actions abroad is not worth it? Is that *all* that I should care about? No. There are many “little” things that seem rather small “in the grand scheme of things” that, when summed up, make for a rather *large* collection of wrongs that much be corrected.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]
The most egregious mutilations are the mental mutilations of religion and other brainwashing all under the heading of “culture.”  I am an advocate of children’s rights.  They should be free from parental assaults both physical and psychological.  But you can imagine where that might go and how it would be enforced.

It’s a tricky issue. I’m not claiming to have the answers. However, as an atheist and secular humanist, I feel that I have to engage in the difficult task of working out the solution. I certainly don’t propose locking up people tomorrow who perform newborn circumcision. I feel that a proper consiousness-raising would be a move in the right direction. People in the U.S. - even educated non-theists - tend to be completely clueless regarding the scientific issues around circumcision. While we fight to protect science from irrational non-scientific belief systems (evolution, etc), we should not limit it to the hot button issues. Scientific knowledge and progress is good. Especially when the results of scientific ignorance in this area is resulting in *permanent* mutilation of a huge % of males in this country.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]
Operationally, under the bill of rights, people can do many things to their children in the name of religious freedom.  Many horrible assaults have been committed by Christian Scientist as tom_g has noted (Christian Scientists are not scientists, and devalue the title by their use).  People are still much too tribal to allow infringement of their “right” to raise children as they see fit.  Perhaps there should be a children’s bill of rights in the constitution?

I think we should. There is a ton of issues just ready to explode in this country (corporal punishment, access to education, circumcision, vaccinations, etc). I think we need to engage in some serious discussion regarding these issues. They are very complicated, and do touch on civil rights and privacy.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]
Wouldn’t it be grand if we could ask our children whether they want to be conceived?  But alas we bring children into being without thought.  After all it is our right to do so and has been adjudicated.

It would be nice if we could ask our children - except that we can’t. All we can do is provide protection for children that have been conceived without their consent. It’s the least we should do.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]
You wrote:

This is NOT a civil liberties issue.

  I agree idealistically.  But you see it is today, pragmatically, and realistically.  In the future it should be a civil rights issue.

Are “cut” males really disadvantaged in some way?  Is it really so bad?  I am not convinced we should spend much time and effort on it.  There are other more important issues than cutting.

I addressed the concept of “more important issues” (“grand scheme of things” above), and reject the concept.

What exactly are the issues that *are* worthy of our discussion and effort, if the religious, permanent mutilation of infants is not worth our time?
-tom

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Posted: 14 December 2006 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I voted for the 3rd option, though that really more personal opinion. Probably #2 is really best.

BTW, a new report just came out stating that circumcision significantly reduces the chance of catching HIV.

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Posted: 14 December 2006 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]I voted for the 3rd option, though that really more personal opinion. Probably #2 is really best.

BTW, a new report just came out stating that circumcision significantly reduces the chance of catching HIV.

That’s right. Just like removing a woman’s breasts significantly reduces the chance of breast cancer, or amputating one’s feet reduces the chance of stepping on a rusty nail and getting a nasty infection. Or maybe - just maybe - we could address the problem of HIV (in Africa is what the issue really is) by providing access to information about safe sex and condoms. Yes, condoms - those things all of those damn xians hate so much while they do their damn “charity work” in Africa.

Let me make sure I understand. Seriously, maybe I’m missing something.

Unprotected sex is risky because of HIV.
Wearing a condom while engaging in sex significantly reduces the risk of catching HIV.
Removing a part of the penis reduces the risk of catching HIV for people who choose to engage in unprotected sex without condoms.

Removing a part of the penis is the preferred method of reducing HIV?

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Posted: 15 December 2006 01:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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tom_g:

So a circumcision is like removing a breast - come on.  How about a little more thought and less emotion.

Barry:

We are not talking about the holocaust here.  You have elevated the issue to a fantastic and unsustainable level.  Your arguments seem to indicate that everything is the first priority.  If everything is, then nothing is.  I think that the circumcision issue is not the right one for humanist.  Our time and effort should be spent on separation of church and state issues and the immorality of the marketplace ethic to name two.

Thanks for the dialog.

:D Wes

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Posted: 15 December 2006 02:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]tom_g:

So a circumcision is like removing a breast - come on.  How about a little more thought and less emotion.

Hmmm…this is the second attempt to claim that my comments are just emotional. I’ll resist the urge to assume this merely ad hominem attacks. It’s difficult though.

Anyway, the breast analogy (and the foot one) are attempts to apply the same logic to other parts of the body. Sure they may *seem* outrageous. That’s because we are used to circumcision. When things are familiar, they seem normal and reasonable.

I do think that you may be reacting to my argument, rather than addressing what I’m actually saying. You’re also talking about someone who has put years of “thought” and “less emotion” into this topic.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]Barry:

We are not talking about the holocaust here.  You have elevated the issue to a fantastic and unsustainable level.  Your arguments seem to indicate that everything is the first priority.  If everything is, then nothing is.  I think that the circumcision issue is not the right one for humanist.  Our time and effort should be spent on separation of church and state issues and the immorality of the marketplace ethic to name two.

Those 2 issues are your interests - fine. Those are good areas to put effort into.  However, the cutting of *humans* seems to be a humanist issue for me.  Don’t feel you need to put effort into this one. Others will.

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Posted: 15 December 2006 05:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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More on mutilation

tom_g said: That’s right. Just like removing a woman’s breasts significantly reduces the chance of breast cancer, or amputating one’s feet reduces the chance of stepping on a rusty nail and getting a nasty infection.

Very good response, Tom!  And I also agree that your point of view is as much intellectual as emotional ... still, humans are both, and our sense of morality come from both our intellect and feelings. 

Also, we are indeed used to circumcision here in America; clearly other peoples would (and do) see it as horrifying as wanton breast removal, et al.

wesmjohnson said: I think that the circumcision issue is not the right one for humanist. Our time and effort should be spent on separation of church and state issues and the immorality of the marketplace ethic to name two.


I agree with Tom that, of course, this issue is a humanist one.  These forums are not just about church/state issue and others… different points of interests can be discussed.  Humanism covers lots of ground.  By covering and discussing circumcision does not mean folks like Tom or myself are putting it above, say, the war in Iraq or the dangers of the religious Right in America.  There are priorities - things more vital to address with more energy than other things - but I feel we humanists can multitask fairly well, no?

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Posted: 15 December 2006 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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and our sense of morality come from both our intellect and feelings

It might be the other way around, Barry. According to John Rawls, who sees reason and emotion equally important, as opposed to Kant who puts emphasis on reason, and Hume who leans towards emotion, our (moral) intellect and feelings come from our sense of morality.

But this discussion probably doesn’t belong in here.

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Posted: 15 December 2006 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Morality

Goerge said: our (moral) intellect and feelings come from our sense of morality


Well, if God did not provide for us our sense of morality, when did it come from?  Clearly it may have evolved in a sense.. from our intereactions with one another.. but that would include our thinking and feeling, no?

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Posted: 15 December 2006 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[our sense of morality]...evolved…from our interactions with one another.. but that would include our thinking and feeling, no?

Animals also interact with each other, and yet, they don’t have a sense of morality. They certainly follow some kind of morality, but they just don’t know it: they cannot SENSE it! We probably acquired our morality (through evolution) before we became conscious of it. But then ‘morality’ is not the same as ‘sense of morality’. It seems to me that we got our sense of morality when we acquired consciousness. So I guess you’re right: our sense(!) of morality must come from reasoning and feeling. :oops:

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