A lawsuit filed Thursday by Jewish organizations and three rabbis argues that a new NY City rule requiring parental consent for metzitzah b’peh, a post-circumcision ritual that involves oral suction in order to stimulate blood flow in the traumatized organ, violates the First Amendment, the NY Daily News reports.
The new rule, which take effect Oct. 21, requires mohels who perform the metzitzah b’peh to provide parents with a document they must sign, containing information about the health risks involved.
City officials say babies may contract herpes from the practice, and they cite 11 cases between 2004 and 2011, including two fatalities.
The lawsuit argues that the new rule violates the constitutional freedom of religion.
“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,” the lawsuit argues.
City officials said they are planning to fight the suit “vigorously.”
“The city’s highest obligation is to protect its children; therefore, it is important that parents know the risks associated with the practice,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.
It has been argued that the city is yet to prove that the herpes contracted by the babies was the same virus carried by the mohel. Another argument made regarding this issue, is that babies whose mothers are carriers of herpes receive immunity to the virus in the womb, and that only babies born to uninfected mothers are in danger from metzitzah b’peh.
Those two arguments are crucial to understanding the current law suit, because it is possible that the babies who received metzitzah b’peh from a mohel contracted their herpes from a third person and not via the genitalia.
It is estimated that about 80 percent of American adults are carriers of oral herpes (cold sores).