Friday, September 14, 2012

NYC votes to Regulate MBP Circumcision Rite

Tablet Magazine  The New York City board of health has unanimously passed a regulation requiring that parents sign a consent form before the circumcision practice known as metzitzah b’peh can be carried out by a mohel. The rite, in which the mohel uses his mouth to remove blood from the incision, is a prevalent custom in some ultra-Orthodox communities.  

In recent months, rabbis, citing infringement on religious practice, have threatened to sue the city if measures against the rite are enacted. On the other side of the issue, a number of medical professionals have spoken out heatedly against the practice being allowed at all. After the measure passed (which has seemingly toothless penalties), one of the panel members, Dr. Joel A. Forman said that “it’s crazy that we allow this to go on.”

In many ways, this measure is a happy medium between allowing a controversial religious custom to continue unfettered and banishing the practice altogether. As expected, neither side is happy though.

1 comment :

  1. The New York City Board of Health voted yesterday to regulate Bris Milah and specifically Metzitza B'Peh. And like the Jewish community has been warning (and the apologist were until now denying), this is only a first step in the government attempting to outright ban this vital part of Bris Milah. Joel A. Forman, professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai, one of the nine members of the NYC BOH who voted to regulate Bris Milah specifically said after the vote yesterday that he wants the government to outright ban MBP. He is quoted in the N.Y. Times as saying "It’s crazy that we allow this to go on."

    The new NYC BOH regulation will be widely ignored, in any event. As the N.Y. Times reported today, more than 200 Orthodox Rabbis have ordered their adherents not to comply with the regulation because they believe it is a mandatory part of the practice of the Jewish religion.

    And it is utterly uneforceable, as the BOH doesn't have the legal ability to station inspectors in shuls to witness Bris Milahs. And no one from the Chareidi and Chasidic community will maaser anyone. So the BOH won't even know 1) who the mohel was and 2) whether or not MBP was performed.

    1. The BOH regulation isn't even a law. It is merely a regulation passed by the local directors of the city health board. Even if it is violated, it is not breaking the law. It will result in getting a "ticket" with a monetary fine. It is similar to getting a parking ticket or a restaurant getting a health violation fine. Except the city can tow the car or take away a restaurant's license if it doesn't pay the fine. Here the city cannot stop a Mohel from continuing to perform his religious function even if he doesn't pay the fine(s).

    As the N.Y. Times is reporting today, "failure to comply merely may result in warning letters or fines to the mohelim. Enforcement, though, will be based on investigation of specific complaints and herpes cases, not spot checks or raids, and there are no mandatory punishments, said Dr. Jay K. Varma, the city’s deputy commissioner for disease control."

    2. It is illegal as it is unconstitutional. The government is constitutionally prohibited from regulating a religious ritual. And the Agudas Yisroel and the Central Rabbinical Congress are preparing a lawsuit to overturn the regulation.

    3. It is unenforceable. The government cannot place department of health inspectors in synagogues to observe if the mohel performs MBP or not. At most, they need to ask the parents or mohel. And they generally won't even know who the mohel was. And even if they ask, neither the parent nor the mohel have to answer or even talk to the DOH or any government officials (it is called the Fifth Amendment) unless the city bothers to get a court subpoena every time they want to investigate. And they need to demonstrate to a judge they have good reason; they cannot simply subpoena hundreds of mohelim.

    This gezeira is a Shaas Shmad and we must be willing and ready to fight it with our lives or anything else, if necessary. The fact that the reshoyim behind this shmad couch their words in excuses other than anti-Judaism is meaningless, as they are obviously embarassed that stating upfront their hatred of Torah Judaism will sink their attempts to uproot the Torah.


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