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Penis-Sucking Rabbis Infect Two More Babies

Lee Phillips
April 8, 2013

While New York City’s mayor is fixated upon such pressing public health issues as soft-drink size, his administration has failed to stop the bizarre practice of metzitzah b’peh, a variety of ritual circumcision where the rabbi sucks the blood from the infant’s freshly cut penis with his mouth.

This primitive and unsanitary practice, which is officially opposed by the Israeli Pediatric Associationand the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, has led to brain damage and death in infants from herpes infections, which, while little more than an inconvenience in adults, can be devastating in newborns.

The entire response of the Bloomberg administration to this brutal form of child abuse, faced with the Rabbis’ flat refusal to modify the ritual, is to have the Health Department require that a consent form be provided to parents. Even this timid requirement is unacceptable to the ritual’s defenders however, who have sued to have the rule invalidated on the grounds that it interferes with a religious practice. Note that the rule does not mandate any modification of the unhealthy procedure whatsoever, but merely requires that parents be informed what it entails and something about its concomitant medical risks. In at least one of the recent cases, the mohel failed to provide the consent form, but the Health Department has decided not to take legal action.

Mayor Bloomberg, who has vowed to fight for his court-squashed soft-drink regulation, is so passionately concerned about public health and safety that he has pushed through a series of rules and laws that have earned him the nickname “Nanny Bloomberg.” I happen to think that many of these ordinances genuinely advance public health; for example, banning trans fats in restaurants and indoor smoking. But I also think the overabundance of petty rules deserved the scorn and ridicule on display in this 2004 article by the late Christopher Hitchens, who spent a day trying to violate as many as he could.

Why does the mayor have the spine to take on the powerful restaurant, entertainment, and food industries, and the political courage to ignore widespread ridicule and trudge ahead with his project of regulatory minutiae, but suddenly become timid and powerless in the face of a small community of extremist rabbis who openly defy the law? It is clearly because, to borrow another point from the recently departed journalist, that religious entities seem, still, to be able to get away with anything, and are immune not only to criticism but can explicitly claim to be above the law, and prove it. As I said the last time I wrote about this particular issue, “Under what circumstances would it be perfectly legal to suck on a baby’s penis with your herpes-infected mouth? When it’s part of your religion.”

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