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October 13th, 2012
06:47 PM ET

Rabbis seek to cancel New York City regulation of circumcision ritual

By Erinn Cawthon, CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) - New York City's plan to limit an ultra-Orthodox Jewish form of circumcision is the target of a lawsuit filed in federal District Court in Manhattan.

The regulation, passed in September by the city's Department of Health, requires all rabbis, called "mohels" in the context of the ritual, to get parental consent on a form stating that the procedure can lead to health risks.

The suit, filed by several Jewish groups and three rabbis on October 4, argues that "the government cannot compel the transmission of messages that the speaker does not want to express - especially when the speaker is operating in an area of heightened First Amendment protection, such as a religious ritual."

In the ritual, known as metzitzah b'peh, after removing the foreskin of the penis the mohel places his mouth briefly over the wound, sucking a small amount of blood out and discarding it. Antibacterial ointment is applied and the wound is bandaged.       The Health Department says the procedure is dangerous because the contact with the mouth could transmit diseases such as herpes. Earlier this year, health officials reported 11 babies who underwent the procedure had contracted herpes infections between 2000 and 2011, and two had died.

The health department reported that an estimated 20,493 infants in New York City were exposed to direct oral suction in that period.

"The city's highest obligation is to protect its children; therefore, it is important that parents know the risks associated with the practice," said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, commissioner of the city's health department, in a news release. "The Health Department's written consent requirement is lawful, appropriate and necessary."

"The government is overstepping its boundaries," said Rabbi Levi Y. Heber of International Bris Association, one of the organizations filing suit. "Freedom of religion and speech is at stake here. The fact the health department is concerned when experts have come out with affidavits on these risks, it's all assumptions. They're just trying to regulate a ritual."

Heber said they feel it best to get the truth out and challenge the regulation in court. He said the study is based only on assumptions, regardless of the statistics.

"Over 90% of those cases don't have anything to do with Jewish tradition," Heber said.

Some anti-circumcision groups, however, say the lawsuit's argument for religious liberty is just an excuse to defend old tradition that some frown upon as strange compared with mainstream hospital circumcisions.

"Why are the groups filing suit so afraid of the consent form?" said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America. "With any social change, as any custom starts to change or die out it looks more strange."

Chapin opposes the health department's consent form, saying it cannot validate a procedure that violates a child's rights.

"No amount of information you put in that form makes it valid," she said. "... To say that if a parent signs a consent form, only slice off the penis and suck the blood, that's an extremely corrupt position for the city to take. Terrible ethics. I think it's rather fascinating that ... the city has given a pass to criminal action."

Another rabbi involved in the lawsuit contends more sensible precautions should be taken.

"The city is entitled to enforce whatever rules it enacts, of course," said Rabbi Avi Shafran, who is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. "But we feel that this rule is unfair, uncalled for, and in violation of the religious rights of citizens.

- shirleyhenrycnn

Filed under: Judaism • New York

soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. STOP CATAPULT FLINGING OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu flatulent wombat's of hindu yodel ism, wipers of other peoples' bottoms ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE DOG. hinduism mother was a hamster, and hinduism father smells of elderberries

    hindu makers of grilled cheese sandwich for me at kosher hindu deli flubbed it, put on limberger on rye with head cheese, make me mad, they scream loud-loud for learn me some English. Must be hindu fakirs, fakiring that thems Jews be.

    Some sense! Some sense! My kingdom for some sense!

    October 14, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the Original Hinduism Source.......)

      they should have call 911 and claimed the prize on your head, they were not the smart Hindu Fakirs I guess.

      October 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • OgLikeRock

      Rock say; I clear my nose in your general direction you silly English k ni git!

      October 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  2. How To Know If Your Religion Is Phony In One Easy Step

    If your religion wants to cut off bits of your genitalia, your religion is not only phony; it was invented by a bunch of very pervy old guys who just so happen to be the same ones who want to do the baloney sciling.

    Let's face it, if there actually was a god, would it want foreskins? Would foreskins be what you wanted if you were god? I mean, it's a stupid idea to us, and we are just lowly humans. That means it is incredibly stupid for a god who is much smarter and wiser than we.

    They have no evidence, and they want to cut off part of your Amazing Love Python. Do you really need any more proof?!?!?!

    October 14, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Why would an all-knowing perfect god give men a foreskin just to have it removed? How could a perfect god make mistake that needed correction?

      October 14, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • All-knowing, Perfect God

      I keep running out of chewing gum. It's a great substitute.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  3. End Religion

    Let me get this straight – all parents of orthodox jewish males intentionally submit their children to ritualized molestation? The mohels actually give blowjobs to every male baby in the church? How fucked up is that?

    October 14, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  4. McVicker

    Aw come on, bro, why so primitive?

    October 13, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • creepy suzette

      I know, plus when little johnny is young he needs a safe place to run hide – like when the water is cold. Don't take little johnny's hiding place away.

      October 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  5. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    goddam (test)

    October 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  6. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    Circu mcision is one condition of agreement between Abraham and truth absolute GOD, reason being, hindu's ignorant's of the time cleanliness was a taboo , and never took shower in life time, such is the case today with hindu's pagans of hindered gutter of hinduism, illegality called india, and was strictly observed in Europe before black plague and cause of death of millions of people for hinduism, filthiness. Ci cu mcision helps to avoid sickness and it is good for health but sucking of blood is hinduism, absurdity of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, secular s and an innovation justified not by the agreement but hindu Judaism, criminal secularism, denial of truth absolute. For more visit limitisthetruth.com

    October 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  7. LinCA

    The "cum" in circumcision wil trip the filters.

    October 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  8. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    Why the hell they do it. Ya, part of agreement between Abraham and his GOD, truth absolute. but not blood sucking.

    October 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • OgLikeRock

      Rock propose scenario;
      Abraham: Hey Sarah, god says we gotta cut that thing off Isaac, and then suck it!
      Sarah: well, that sounds reasonable
      Joseph Smith: I gotta hat I want to sell ya!

      October 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • OgLikeRock

      Rock smart enough not to believe abraham. Rock say "what wrong with those people?" Og like rock, could give lessons in smart....

      October 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  9. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    Hard time posting any thing.

    October 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  10. Very Strong Blog Screening by CNN Moderators Is On

    if you are So concerned CNN, why the fvk put in the first place?

    October 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Very Strong Blog Screening by CNN Moderators Is On

      You said, "if you are So concerned CNN, why the fvk put in the first place?"
      Having trouble getting your posts to show? CNN uses WordPress blogs for their opinion pieces, and they use automated censoring that looks for words, or fragments of words, that are considered offensive. If your post doesn't show up, it most likely had a forbidden word in it.

      On the Belief Blog, repeat posts, even those that were previously censored and not displayed, will show a message stating that you posted it before.

      The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
            arse             as in Arsenal
            bastard
            bitch
            cock           as in cockatiel
            coon           as in cocoon
            cum             as in circumstance
            cunt
            douche
            effing
            fag
            ftw
            fuck
            homo         as in homosexual
            hooters
            horny
            hump
            jackass
            jap
            jism
            kinky
            kooch
            nipple
            orgy
            pis
            porn
            poo           as in spooked
            prick
            queer
            rape         as in grape
            sex           as in homosexual
            shit
            slut
            smut
            snatch
            spic         as in despicable
            tit               as in constitution or title
            twat
            vag           as in vague
            whore
            wonderful us
            wtf

      To circumvent the filters you can break up the words by putting an extra character in, like: consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").

      October 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Poulterygiesting

      Test if this post will fall in the void as well.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Suspect

      I imagine that many are having a problem getting the word "circ-umcisions" to post.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @LinCA,

      clit
      wop
      necrophilia

      and of course the "n" word (Niger, with the extra g) too.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @LinCA,

      I tripped up over the homo in sophomore. It's tricky. And smut in transmute.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • LinCA

      @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Thanks. I will update my list.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      LinCA,

      It's p-oon (as in sp-oon) and sp-ook that are flagged, not poo.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      poo (test)

      October 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And

      cracker
      Goddamn

      too

      October 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • LinCA

      Thanks guys!

      October 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  11. Little Feat

    You're a dream, and that's all that I ask for
    So well now, I'm wonderin' just how I'm gonna tell it to you
    Skin it back (skin it back)

    October 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  12. mudhut

    It's a barbaric practice that should be outlawed.

    October 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • roger

      Agreed

      October 13, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  13. LinCA

    It's past time to abandon these barbaric practices altogether. Circumcision without medical necessity is abuse. There is plenty of time to do it after the child reaches adulthood, and can give informed consent.

    October 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      My parents had this done for me when I was born, and I'm happy for it.. 51 years ago, and no regrets. I had a friend who had it done at 18, nearly killed the guy.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • LinCA

      @thecollegeadmissionsguru

      You said, "My parents had this done for me when I was born, and I'm happy for it.. 51 years ago, and no regrets."
      Good for you, but how is this relevant? Any guy that doesn't want it done will still have to live with the consequences of his parents delusions.

      You said, "I had a friend who had it done at 18, nearly killed the guy."
      Again, how is this relevant? If the surgery was elective, he unnecessarily took the risk associated with it. Assuming there was no medical malpractice in his case, he was probably informed of the risks involved.

      While the risk may be less when it is done to newborns, there is still a significant risk. And it is the child that gets to take that risk.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      It's not abuse, they are too young to remember and your making a big deal out of nothing since no one is sitting around obsessing about getting their foreskin back.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This is the crux of the issue here:

      "Earlier this year, health officials reported 11 babies who underwent the procedure had contracted herpes infections between 2000 and 2011, and two had died."

      If this statement is accurate, I certainly wouldn't want to get herpes from a mohel right after birth.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • julie

      Wrong answer, "Poltergeist". A lot of people obsess about that – only later. It is becoming more and more not only socially accepted, but expected to leave that junk as-is. People only seem to think about it from the perspective of the person getting the procedure. But these days, that person will most likely find out that the people that want to engage in relations with them would prefer them to be au-naturale.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Poltergeist

      You said, "It's not abuse, they are too young to remember"
      So, if a guy drugs a girl and rapes her, it isn't abuse since she won't remember it?

      You said, "no one is sitting around obsessing about getting their foreskin back."
      Accepting something you can't change isn't the same as not caring about it.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • julie

      Plus as someone else pointed out – it is much easier to put back on than to take off, so it is best left for the individual to decide later in life. I'm guessing based on trends that they will leave as-is.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @lin, how is my opinion relevant? Because I had it done and do not feel as if I were abused. MY opinion is as relevant as yours. The second point was that some people ELECT to have it done, and when done later in life, it is painful.

      You are apparently one who has issues with other's who have a different opinion than you. So be it.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • LinCA

      @thecollegeadmissionsguru

      You said, "how is my opinion relevant? Because I had it done and do not feel as if I were abused."
      So, just because you don't mind, it's OK for everyone else to be subjected to it too? There are lots of people who like getting tattoos or to puncture their earlobes for earrings. That doesn't make it acceptable to force it on anyone else.

      You said, "MY opinion is as relevant as yours."
      Your opinion is relevant for your situation. But your situation doesn't apply to everyone.

      You said, "The second point was that some people ELECT to have it done, and when done later in life, it is painful."
      Pain isn't the main concern. If the foreskin is still present when someone reaches adulthood, at least he has the opportunity to decide for himself whether he wants to have it removed, or not.

      You said, "You are apparently one who has issues with other's who have a different opinion than you. So be it."
      No, I have no issue with people having different opinions. I have issue with people forcing their opinions on others, especially if they have irreversible consequences. Circumsicion of newborns isn't in the best interest of the child. Having it done because of the parents' delusion is abuse.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Lin, Well said. Now do you think that forcing religion on Children is similarly Child Abuse..?

      October 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • LinCA

      @thecollegeadmissionsguru

      You said, "Now do you think that forcing religion on Children is similarly Child Abuse..?"
      It's actually far worse. Most guys seem to function pretty well (or about as well as can be expected) with their foreskin removed. The effects of religious indoctrination seems to be far worse, and not limited to the abused individual.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Also at Lin, Is it possible that my "irrelevant opinion" is as relevant as your "irrelevant opinion"? There are those who see your opinion as wrong as you find mine. My parents had mine done for medical reasons, one was a nurse the other a doctor.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @LIN, then YOU and I have a lot more in common than one might think.. I too find religion to be far worse than the removal of a foreskin. Thanks for the conversation, Boxing is on... gotta run.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • LinCA

      @thecollegeadmissionsguru

      You said, "Also at Lin, Is it possible that my "irrelevant opinion" is as relevant as your "irrelevant opinion"? There are those who see your opinion as wrong as you find mine."
      I figure that anyone who still clings to their belief in their imaginary friend will consider my opinion wrong. But my opinion, if followed, wouldn't cause irreversible damage to the bodies of innocent children. It leaves all options open for the individual involved.

      You said, "My parents had mine done for medical reasons, one was a nurse the other a doctor."
      I realize that there are sometimes medical reasons to perform circumcision, but for that reason, I excluded that from my original post (see above).

      There is some research that shows that there may be a medical benefit to having the foreskin removed, but that is also the case for removal of the appendix. I don't see many preventive appendectomies.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Poulterygiesting

      LinCA, that's word loading. And it belittles those victims that suffered in those situations. It simply is not the great crime your trying to make this out to be.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Poulterygiesting

      You said, "It simply is not the great crime your trying to make this out to be."
      It may not be the greatest crime there is, but it is one that is inflicted upon millions of innocent victims. It is also one that is entirely preventable.

      October 13, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Please someone forbid that we should regulate religious atavists. Partial penile amputation is no more troubling than docking their tails.

    October 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @TTTOO,

      I think it's the penis sucking afterwards by the mohel that's the concern.

      October 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Quite, not-GOPer. But who could have a problem with that? In pre-Diaspora New Orleans it was always accepted: eat the tails and suck the heads.

      October 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @TTTOO,

      Based on my understanding of New Orleans eatin' da tail and suckin' da head is still the order of the day, diaspora or not.

      For crawdads at least, 'long with some Voodoo Lager.

      Laissez les bons temps rouler

      Who dat?

      October 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  15. Boulderdash Gentile

    Quit already with aforementionings of skin and keep it in one's pants!

    October 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  16. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    What are they trying to hide?

    October 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    October 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but everything you have ever asserted regarding atheism and prayer is unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      October 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the original hinduism source.....)

      Luck changes things.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

    Why do jewish "people" have such big noses? Because air is free!!

    October 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  19. Rational Libertarian

    Why do Jews have glassy eyes?

    October 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  20. Random Blogger

    Why are Rabbis so fat? Because they eat all of the foreskins.

    October 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • .o.

      omg – think i'll pass next time I see "pork" rinds on sale in south florida

      October 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.