Sep 12, 2012

Agudath Israel Blowing Hot Air On Metzitza B'Peh

I don't have much of an opinion on the metzitza b'peh issue. That is because I don't really understand it, I don't know how much of it is halacha, how much tradition, how much made up, and how strong each factor is.

This announcement, however, bothers me. Agudath Israel of America is preparing to sue the City of new York if it should pass a law later this week (tomorrow?) that would require a parental consent form to be signed for a mohel to be allowed to perform metzitza b'peh at a circumcision.

In a silly part of the statement, they say they are looking for a lawyer to work pro-bono on the case. Don't they have their own team of lawyers that can do this? And if not, why announce you are lookign for a lawyer to take such a major case pro-bono? Don't they have people they can approach quietly either to donate to the cause or to be the lawyers on the case and donate their time?

To the case itself though, Agudath Israel says this requirement would be a breach of freedom of religion and of freedom of speech.

I am no lawyer, but I don't know how making someone sign a form of consent is a breach in freedom of religion or speech. It is not likely that parents will sign such a form without asking the mohel first if he is carrying any disease before he performs the metzitza, so presumably forcing the mohel to disclose such medical information is the breach in freedom of speech. That does not sound like a problem of freedom fo speech to me, but more like an issue of disclosing private medical concerns, but when sucking an open wound, parents should be allowed to know if there is any reason for medical concern, and that should be so regardless of what you think of metzitza b'peh.

Even if I think metzitza b'peh is important and the circumcision is invalid without it, I would want to choose the mohel with the knowledge that my child will be safe when the mohel does the metzitza. Why would I allow the metzitza to be done by a mohel who wont tell me if he has herpes or some other infection? A mohel who refuses to disclose that info should not be used. he is not being forced to say anythign he does not want to - he has the option of not performing the circumcision. That is not a breach in freedom of speech, but is protecting the baby from a possible medical issue.

I also don't see how freedom of religion is being curtailed by this form of consent. You want to continue doing metzitza and the City is going to continue allowing you to. You just have to say that you want it and sign your name to it. All it means is that you are taking responsibility for your decision.

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  1. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  2. They are claiming it violates freedom of speech because it requires the mohel to inform the parents that MBP poses a risk of transmission of diseases and could lead to brain damage and death. They are actually challenging the accuracy of that statement.

    The law does not require the mohel to disclose his own herpes status. For one thing you could have oral herpes and not know it, or even test negative for it.

  3. If you're exhaling, you're doing it wrong.

  4. It could be they are following the dictum that if the government can create a law that its necessary to sign a consent form, the next move is to ban it outright. Im not sure how that applies to the US governments who doesn't seem to be against religion in this case, but maybe once bitten... with all decrees against the Jews, they all started with small little inroads and regulations changing into a monster. I personally agree that this law is good and the yekke's have used a glass tube for many years for Metziza - which is surely kosher... Im not sure why being realistic and practical is such a crime and why we need to fight for seemingly pointless reasons... however - does the Agudah know something we dont???


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