Judge Denies Injunction Against NYC Bris Rules


New York City’s requirement that a mohel must obtain written consent from parents to peform oral suction during a bris will not be suspended because of a court challenge, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

“As enacted, the regulation does no more than ensure that parents can make an informed decision whether to grant or deny such consent,” wrote Judge Nami Reice Buchwald of U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

She rejected claims by the plaintiffs that the restriction measure imposes a standard for regulation against a religious practice that is not applied to non-religious practices. “Under established Supreme Court precedent, a law burdening the exercise of religion is nonetheless presumed constitutional if it is neutral and generally applicable,” wrote the judge. “Here, plaintiffs’ vague and unsupported speculation about other types of regulation or education defendants could theoretically have pursued is insufficient to establish that the regulation is underinclusive.” She noted that the regulation dies not ban the procedure, motzetza b’peh, in which blood is drawn way from the wound by mouth, which many physicians say put the baby at risk for herpes infection .

The case, which is not directly impacted by the ruling, was brought by Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada; Agudath Israel Of America; the International Bris Association; and three mohelim, Rabbis Samuel Blum; Aharon Leiman and Shloime Eichenstein.

The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene last October voted to require that mohelim ask the infant’s parent or legal guardian for permission to perform. Parents must sign a form stating that they are aware of the risk. Failing to do could result in a fine of up to $2,000 or a warning letter, but only if there are complaints. The city said it has no plan to monitor brisses.