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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. YoozYerBrain

    If you use your brain, you'll see that this is genital mutilation of children, nothing else. Like Hitchens says, you wouldn't do these things on your own, ONLY religion and the weird fear it inspires could drive you to do immoral behaviors like these and have them accepted as "normal". SIckos!!! YoozYerBrain, please!

    Watch "Betty Bowers Explains Abortion" or " ....explains Marriage" on you tube for some great bible lessons....

    October 15, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  2. ME II

    Any religious ritual that may entails risk without any appreciable benefit, should be subject to regulation for anyone under the age of consent/majority.

    In other words, I don't think parents should be able to put their children at risk for purely religious reasons. If adults want to take the risk, fine. Parents are free to teach their children their religion, but putting them in harm's way for religious reasons, is another matter.
    Admittedly, sometimes it is a judgement call as to the amount of risk and the nature of the benefit, if any.

    October 15, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  3. Og Like Rock

    Rock say gen it al muti lators are bad for children. Religion sick!!!! And per ver t priest/rabbi think it their right to mutilate children! People, rock smarter than religion! Only religion would have you do this per= vert ed thing. You'd never do it on your own without that non sense. Rock smart. Og like rock. Religion should be regulated like alcohol, no one under 21 allowed to partake. Sickos!

    October 15, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  4. Akmed

    Do babies give support of their murder in abortion?

    October 15, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • CTEd

      Yeah cause that's even remotley the same. You have a right to keep your body intact and nobody not even a parent has the right to cut off a piece.

      A woman however, has a right to kick you out of HER uterus. If you can survive without her, kudos

      October 15, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things
    Proven

    October 15, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • 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 15, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~..

      October 15, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • truth be turd

      Jesus, child of the One True God, Our Father and Savior, molested disabled children. He also, in His wisdom, had a Satanic, lustful poster of Farrah Fawcett with perky nipples hanging up in his bedroom. Proven. Amen.

      October 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  6. Laurence Ringo

    Hmmm...As a Christian,naturally I'm all for religious freedom within wise and common-sense guidelines;this Rabbi Heber's non-reasoning so egregious,so mind-bogglingly asinine,that frankly I'm of the opinion that New York should bring the hammer down on this bizarre practice;"freedom of religion"doesn't mean the freedom to do what you will,especially against helpless,non-consenting children or infants,something states should be looking at far more closely than they do.

    October 14, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  7. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    Al Qaeda mean's nothing else but way of truth absolute ALLAH, AL, the, LA, limited, H, height, no one has problem with it, only kafirs denier of Al Qaeda, goons, Fat Mullah, or Thin Mullahs, crooks of Mecca, Madonna rock garden of j.a.p.a.n p.o.r.n.o.denier of GAWD.

    October 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  8. Uhhhhhhhhhh

    "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."
    No need to get the child's consent, of course...........
    Religious people are stupid selfish assholes.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  9. FYI

    The word, "circ-umcision" will be flagged by the automatic word filter in posts here because it has the word fragment "c-um" in it. Break it up (or use html tactics) if your post is not appearing.

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

    I fail to understand why Belief blog attracts el Qaeda operatives like Hindu blah blah blah terrorist!!!

    October 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

      Al Qaeda mean's nothing else but way of truth absolute GOD, no one has problem with it but hindu's, deniers of truth absolute, existing by hinduism, illegality, deserving to be 6 feet under or be locked up for good, hindu, ignorant.

      October 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • AvdBergism source of filthyRanierBraenleinism

      To wit, NO DOGS!

      October 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Hey Achmed Jr, meet your Dog Dad, singing ":Jingle Bombs"

      Hey Achmed, if you love Al Qaeda so much, join them, what'r you waiting for? and remember, Al Qaeda hunting season is not over yet.

      October 15, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  11. Arvoasitis

    From the time of King Hammurabi, it has been understood that the primary function of law is to protect the weak against the oppression by the strong. From the time of Aristotle, it has been understood that the primary role of government is to protect the people, and that good government protects everyone, not just segments of society. That should be the starting point of the debate.

    October 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

      Word law is hinduism, corruption of truth absolute word La. meaning limit absolute 360*, every one has to follow, La. truth absolute GOD, to have peace, Islam among humanity.

      October 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  12. Eh What

    This is a Hasidic Penis-Sucking Ritual. Let's call it what it really is. And it is disgusting beyond words.

    October 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • saggyroy

      They are really closet catholics.....

      October 15, 2012 at 6:13 am |
  13. Nathan

    "He said the study is based only on assumptions, regardless of the statistics. "

    Wah? A religious leader ignoring scientifically gathered statistics? AND accusing others who listen to the statistics of making assumptions?

    I'm all for defending freedom of religion, but no one is curtailing the ceremony. They are saying that there IS risk here and people should be informed of that risk. That the religious leaders are so adamant that people shouldn't be is what should be suspect.

    October 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  14. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    Judaism is hinduism, denial of truth absolute, just another label for hindu atheism, criminal self center ism,way of hindu Magi's, criminal tricksters to practice hindu pig ism, secular ism filthy self centered hinduism, criminality by labeling hinduism, illegality a religion. To know truth of hinduism, criminality of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, please visit limitisthetruth.com.

    October 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the Original Hinduism Source.......)

      TERRORIST ALERT! ALERT!

      October 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  15. waitasec

    i think it is absolutely stupid to keep this tradition alive knowing the chances of a child getting herpes is out there.
    what happened to common sense....oh yea, were talking about religion where common sense is thrown out the window.

    October 14, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  16. snowboarder

    these religious rituals are bazaar, but i guess it is not much worse than the christian ritual of mock cannibalization.

    October 14, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    October 14, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • 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 14, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayer-bot...

      October 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • truth be turd

      You must understand that only I hold the Truth and know the only True path of Prayer. All other Prayers must get in the back of the Prayer line because they are not formed correctly. Again my Prayers are answered while yours dissipate like a fart in the wind. Proven. Amen.

      October 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  18. Bootyfunk

    circ.umcision is genital mutilation. it needs to stop. i want my foreskin back.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • cristopher hitchens

      There is no way to tell where to reattach it as you are all pr ick

      October 14, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • === o ===

      @"christopher hitchens"

      The only kind of "trickle-down" that actually works:

      "christopher hitcens" (odd name for this Evangelical) degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" or "...."
      and many other names, but of course I prefer to refer to this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      October 14, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  19. Religion is weird, sick, disgusting, oppressive, narrow-minded, and divisive. There's also a negative side.

    They gave 11 babies herpes, and killed two more? And now they are standing up for their right to do it again?

    Interesting that we atheists don't run into things like, oh, say, freakish bearded men sucking our babies dicks giving them herpes or killing them. And the reason our priests don't molest our children? We don't have priests!

    October 14, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  20. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    Physical mutilation of anyone's parts without their consent should be banned.

    October 14, 2012 at 2:12 am |
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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.