Three rabbis and several Jewish organizations fired back at city Department of Health circumcision regulations set to take effect later this month with a lawsuit claiming that there isn’t “any definitive proof” that the ritual practices are a health risk, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Last month, the New York City Board of Health passed a regulation requiring consent from parents before an infant can undergo a special circumcision ritual known as “metzitzah b’peh” in which the rabbi performing the procedure uses his mouth to remove blood from the incision wound.
The regulation is set to take effect on Oct. 21, and will require consent forms signed by the parents of the child accepting that the ritual “exposes the infant to risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection and other infectious diseases.” The mohelim would be required to retain copies of the forms for at least a year and make the records available upon request from DOH officials.
The Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada, Agudath Israel of America, International Bris Association and three rabbis filed suit in Manhattan federal court this week, charging that the new rules will force people to convey information they do not believe.
“Not only is the Department of Health wrong about metzitzah b’peh, it is trying to enforce erroneous opinions on the people of New York City,” Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman representing those filing the lawsuit, told the Journal. “By essentially starting a public intimidation campaign that forces private citizens to spread the government’s beliefs, they are shaking the core of our democracy. We believe the courts will stop this overzealous government overreach and keep them out of our speech and religion.”
According to the DOH, between 2004 and 2011, there were 11 confirmed cases of infants contracting herpes simplex virus infection after direct oral suction during a circumcision. Two of the children died, and at least two others suffered brain damage, according to the paper.