App. I (cont) – Vaccine exemptions used to save Metzitza B’peh in NY City


In January 2005, when contracting herpes became linked to metzitza b’peh, the New York City Health Department Commissioner wanted to end the ritual. An article in the Jewish Observer disclosed the behind the scenes discussions when noted rabbis and doctors from the frum community defended the right to continue metzitza b’peh based on the religious exemption allowed for vaccines.

“… the law makes an exception for children whose parents refuse to inoculate them on religious grounds. Thus, despite the generally accepted medical consensus that immunizations help protect a child’s health and that of
his classmates, society recognizes that even those weighty
considerations must yield to the child’s parents’ right to raise the child
in accordance with their religious beliefs. Certainly, the same principle
should hold true, … in the context of metzitza b’peh, where the level of
medical risk is presumably far smaller than that associated with

“… On February 3, 2005, Councilman Felder and I again met with
Commissioner Frieden and his staff and were assured that the Department
would not seek to regulate metzitza b’peh. They were prepared to make
this commitment, the Commissioner said, not because they regarded
oral suction as a safe practice, but because they understood that it
was widely seen in many Jewish communities as an essential part of the
religious ritual.”

Are we willing to give up our right to religious exemptions for any reason and risk, ch”v, losing the right to metizitza b’peh, bris milah (per Paul Offit) or any other religious ritual?