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NEWS BRIEFS: Circumcision ban struck down

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)--In a victory for religious liberty, a California judge July 28 struck from the ballot a San Francisco initiative that, if passed, would have banned circumcision.


A coalition of circumcision opponents had gathered around 7,700 signatures to place the issue on the November ballot, attempting to prohibit something that is at the heart of Judaism and Islam. It would have had no religious exception.

Judge Loretta M. Giorgi ruled that under California law, the state has regulatory power over medical procedures, the Los Angeles Times reported. She also found that it would violate the free exercise of religion.

"he evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure," she wrote.

The proposal would make it illegal in San Francisco to circumcise males under 18, and would punish violators with a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

A coalition of doctors, community groups and Muslim and Jewish families had sued to try and strike the initiative from the ballot, the Times said.

CALIF. COURT SETS DATE FOR PROP 8 HEARING -- The California Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in a case that will determine the fate of Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The court says it will hear oral arguments Sept. 6 on a technical legal question: Does Prop 8's sponsor,, have the right under federal law to defend Prop 8 in federal court? The question became central in the case after former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Attorney General Jerry Brown (who is now governor) -- who have the legal duty to defend state laws -- chose not to defend Prop 8 in court.


A three-judge panel on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in January asked the California court to answer the question regarding legal standing. The question must be answered before the Ninth Circuit, which is examining Prop 8, even gets to the primary question of whether California -- and other states -- can constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman and prohibit gay "marriage."

CAIN APOLOGIZES TO MUSLIMS -- Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has apologized to Muslims after saying American communities should be able to prohibit the building of mosques.

Southern Baptist religious freedom leader Richard Land disagreed with Cain and urged him to read the First Amendment. Land's response came in a national telecast the day after the candidate expressed his support for bans on Muslim centers.

In a statement released July 27, Cain was not specific about what he was expressing sorrow for, but part of it seemed to refer to his comments about mosques.

"I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it," Cain said. "Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully."

He made the statement after a meeting with the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in the Washington, D.C., area.

On "Fox News Sunday" July 17, Cain said he agrees with residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn., who are opposed to the building of a new mosque in their city.


Asked July 18 on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" television program to respond to Cain, Land said he "would respectfully encourage him to read the First Amendment to the Constitution, where it says that the government shall not interfere with the free exercise of religion."

The First Amendment "is one of those amendments that is too important and protects rights that are too central to our guaranteed rights in this country to be left with a local option," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

"I would say, 'Don't throw out the baby with the bath, Mr. Cain.' Muslims have a right to have places of worship, maybe not places of worship exactly where they want to have them, because that's why we have zoning laws," Land said.

WILLOW CREEK SPLITS FROM EXODUS -- Willow Creek Community Church has ended a decades-long partnership with Exodus International. Exodus is the nation's largest Christian organization dedicated to reaching out to homosexuals. Though the church made the decision in 2009, it was made public in June.

Willow Creek's Scott Vaudrey told Christianity Today decision was not a social or political one but was an indication of "a season of reviewing and clarifying some of our affiliations with outside organizations."

Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, said he believes the separation occurred because Willow Creek gave in to pressure from gay activists. In recent years, Soulforce targeted Willow Creek. Soulforce's mission is to encourage Christian organizations to religious acceptance of homosexuality.


"Willow Creek is a strong church" but he is nonetheless "deeply saddened to see that Willow Creek isn't going to offer strong discipleship for people struggling with same-sex attractions," Chambers said,

Chambers added, "It's a disappointing trend within churches and Christian owned ministries." These ministries are "feeling the pressure to distance themselves from their Christian friends and are afraid to stand in the public market and say 'this is what we believe.' It's a marker of things to come," said Chambers.

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. The Willow Creek brief is from the World News Service.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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