Rabbis oppose a proposed law requiring parental consent for circumcision practice

The city of New York is proposing legislation that would require parents to sign a form giving consent to a specific circumcision practice that is unhygienic and runs the risk of infecting the infant with genital herpes that can lead to serious illness and even possibly death.

That should be fairly uncontroversial, right? After all, who could object to parental consent before having what is essentially elective surgery performed on their infants?

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis, that’s who. They are threatening to defy the law if passed and not give the forms to parents because they feel that it (surprise!) violates their freedom of religion. The real reason seems to be that they don’t like the fact that it alerts parents to the possible health dangers of the practice.

The rabbis have even found that the Torah, a remarkably prescient document, more than two thousand years ago anticipated this move by the New York City health authorities and explicitly supports their opposition. According to the rabbis’ statement:

We are decreeing that according to our opinion, it is forbidden according to the Torah to participate in the evil plans of the NYC Health Dept. in any form that it may be whether it be the Moihilim, or the parents – with agreements or signatures.

Isn’t it amazing how their holy books can support any stance that religious leaders want to take?


  1. rq says

    I’m sorry, but the idea of an adult man performing ‘suction by mouth’ on the penis of an infant just turns my stomach, no matter what reason they give for it. And the fact that they’re resisting so ardently… Well, it just doesn’t sit right at all. To put it very mildly.

  2. Corvus illustris says

    We are decreeing that according to our opinion, it is forbidden according to the Torah …

    Ah, but you see the escape hatch here (in added italics)? Stay tuned for subtle theological argument.

  3. says

    I can’t believe how much these ultra-orthodox wingnuts are doing to validate and reinforce nearly every form of anti-Jewish bigotry that ever existed.

    People used to accuse Jews of sacrificing babies to their idols — and here are some real Jews demanding the right to mutilate babies, according to their religious rules, whether or not their parents consent!

    People used to accuse Jews of conspiring to manipualte and control governments all over the world — and here are some real Jews conspiring to do what they want regardless of our laws or values!

    People used to accuse Jews of trying to make America subordinate to Israel, regardless of our own legitimate interests — and now there’s plenty of real Jews explicitly demanding US compliance with everything Israel’s radical reich-wing government wants, even up to attacking larger countries without provocation just to make Israel feel safer. I can almost hear about five centuries of bigots laughing and shouting “WE TOLD YOU SO!!!”

    Seriously, have the entire Jewish community gone insane? Do they even CARE how they’ve made themselves look? They couldn’t do a better job of making the Nazis look sensible if they tried!

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    because they feel that it (surprise!) violates their freedom of religion.

    And why should their freedom of religion take precedence over the rights of the child, the rights of the parents, and the health and safety of the child?

  5. David Marjanović says

    Seriously, have the entire Jewish community gone insane?

    Dude, ultra-orthodox wingnuts are not “the entire Jewish community”. I can’t see a reason why you even brought Israel up.

    They couldn’t do a better job of making the Nazis look sensible if they tried!

    Are you out of your mind?

  6. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Seriously, have the entire Jewish community gone insane?

    Nope, just the Ultraorthodox.

  7. Don Quijote says

    Unless these Rabbis are kidnapping babies to perform this disgusting ritual, aren’t the parents giving their consent anyway?

  8. Mano Singham says

    Yes, they are but it may not be informed consent. The form they sign will inform them of the risks involved in the procedure and the rabbis are concerned that becoming aware of these risks will dissuade some parents from going through with it.

  9. Jeff Johnson says

    I guess those Rabbis really are attached to sucking baby dicks; they just can’t give it up.

    The mayor should propose two laws:

    1. All moyels must be licensed by the city, and to obtain the license they must eat a pound of bacon. 🙂
    2. Parent’s need to give signed consent before a moyel can perform metzitzah b’peh.

    Or maybe #1 should just be to threaten to outlaw the practice of circumcision altogether. Then they’ll be grateful they only need parental consent before practicing their barbaric satanic ritual.

  10. Jeff Johnson says

    I agree raging bee went a bit over the top, but then there is reason for anger about Israeli policies in the West Bank, and also the American right-wing’s manipulation of apocalyptic Christians to shift our politics to the right on Israel. The propaganda has credulous right wingers actually scared that Obama plans to lead some kind of Muslim war against Israel or something. Now that Mubarak is gone, people who didn’t even used to know who he was are calling him our “trusted ally” that Obama helped get rid of as part of a plot. This kind of crap comes from people like Glenn Beck and some of the outrageous Muslim hating right wing bloggers like Pam Gellar and Robert Spencer and David Horowitz. This is why a Jewish newspaper editor in Atlanta could be so panicked that he would write and publish an editorial suggesting that maybe the Mossad should assassinate President Obama. The paranoia and the dishonesty on the part of right wing leaders is incredible.

    The truth is that Israel is shifting toward right wing extremism because of the rising influence of the ultra orthodox. It isn’t quite the same social democracy that was founded by David Ben-Gurion. I think Israel is becoming a distressing problem for the US, though we are largely still trusted allies. For example, Republicans used a choreographed media event with Netanyahu to try to publicly shame our President, with the underlying motivation of shifting the Jewish vote from Democrats to Republicans. I regard Netanyahu’s meddling in American politics as an act of hostility against the United States. The Israeli right and the American right are locked into a kind of mutually destructive deadly embrace, where each is using the other to it’s purposes, although the Christian and Jewish intentions for the long run are not really in alignment. The Christians of course want all the Jews to convert to Christianity when their messiah returns, and making Israel Arab-rein seems to be part of the preparation for the messiah. This is why you had Newt Gingrich sending a signal during the Republican primary by saying that “the Palestinians are an invented people”. There is a conscious propaganda effort to pretend that Palestinians have no historic rights in mandatory Palestine, and that they should all move to Jordan. This is the radical departure from US policy. Obama is staying the course and using reason. The right wing is flipping out. And Romney has been playing the same game.

    In other words, religion is totally screwing up Israel and American political approaches toward Israel.

    Meanwhile Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak are saying to anyone who will listen that under Obama the military cooperation between the US and Israel has been at an unprecedented positive level. Obama’s policies, in word and deed, are consistent with US policy under Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes. This is perhaps why Israel was brought up. There is a connection between militant fundamentalism rising here and in Israel.

  11. says

    Wait, what?! Where does that come from? Is that part of the circumcision procedure or something? ‘Cause if it is, then it’s an even more vile practice than I thought 48 hours ago.

  12. says

    Wait, so you’re saying you didn’t even bother to read the linked article before going off on your ignorant rant about how the entire Jewish community is making the Nazis look reasonable?

    Color me utterly surprised!

  13. says

    This is absolutely terrible. Seriously, freedom of religion needs to *end* when your freedom of religion is risking the lives and health of bystanders, including (why does this even need to be stated) your own kids.

  14. Jeff Johnson says

    When you say “freedom of religion must end” I hope you mean that it must have limits. Freedom of religion is a subset of freedom of conscience and belief and thought, which is essential to our democracy and our freedom, and for atheists as well as any religious believer.

    But clearly you are right that religious freedom should not enable believers to cause harm and suffering to others, regardless of what their dogma says. Nobody would support Aztec human sacrifice under “freedom of religion”, and this infection of babies because some literal minded Rabbi thinks God won’t bless the child unless the Rabbi takes its dick into his mouth is crossing that same line, sometimes even unto the child’s death.

    I would like to outlaw circumcision entirely unless performed on individuals who voluntarily undergo the procedure after reaching some reasonable age of consent. But at the very least, parental consent for all the details of the procedure is the minimum Rabbis should expect to concede, without first amendment rights to complain.

    After all, they are protesting because they are afraid that if parents are made aware in advance, they parents might refuse. This means that the Rabbis are trying to usurp parental authority and attempting to keep parents in the dark in order to perform this crude and disgusting fellatio. It is hideously barbaric, and has nothing to do with their personal religious freedom, but rather their self-proclaimed right to dominate and control others in the name of their deity.

  15. says

    Specifics, please? I find it hard to believe these loonies would overtly defend such a barbaric practice if they found most of their own fellow Jews ganging up to stop it.

  16. says

    From the second article cited:

    New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Simcha Felder, a deputy comptroller for budget and accounting of the City of New York, spoke about metzitzah b’peh on Hikind’s radio show last night. They were indignant that the city – and especially Mayor Bloomberg – would have the “chutzpah” to interfere with the free practice of religion. Both men advocated breaking the law requiring informed consent if it is adopted…

    So far I doh’t see a heckuva lot of moderate backlash here — there isn’t even enough outrage to force local elected officials to waffle on the issue, let alone take a stand against it.

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