Mr [Stephen] Evans is chief executive of the National Secular Society, the church militant of atheism. Like all extremist organisations, it’s a coalition of the ignorant and the spiteful. Let me address the ignorant first. I get it: male circumcision sounds weird, even offensive. In the Jewish case, a Mohel removes the foreskin of a baby on the eighth day after his birth, a decision taken by adults that the boy has to carry for the rest of his life whether he believes in the Almighty or not.
It sounds like it contradicts some of the basic tenets of a liberal society: children’s rights, bodily autonomy and choice.
But choice is a complicated thing. As Claire Fox argued on the Maze, parents do stuff to their kids all the time – pierce their ears, feed them McDonald’s –that we don’t ban because we don’t want the state to take on the role of parent. Why?
Because that would subvert another very important kind of choice: the right of mums and dads to raise their children how they wish. Across the world, they make the free choice of male circumcision without controversy. The World Health Organisation estimates that about a third of men aged 15 or over have gone under the knife; it’s probably the vast majority of that demographic in the United States, where it became popular post-war.
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