Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Informing parents about the grave risks associated with this procedure is critical to safeguarding infants' health"

Judge won't block New York City circumcision law

* Preliminary injunction request denied

* Rule angered some people in Orthodox Jewish community

* "Direct oral suction" linked to herpes risk (Adds paragraphs 3-14, case citation, byline)

NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge refused to block a New York City regulation requiring people who perform circumcisions and use their mouths to draw away blood from the wound on a baby's penis to first obtain written consent from the parents.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald on Thursday refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the change to the city's health code, which some members of the city's Orthodox Jewish communities called an unwarranted government intrusion on religious freedom.

In September, the New York City Board of Health voted to require mohels, who perform circumcisions, to obtain advance consent that tells parents about the risk of a potentially fatal herpes infection linked to the ritual of metzitzah b'peh, or MBP, involving direct oral suction of the penis.

Enforcement of the regulation was put on hold until Buchwald could rule on the request by the Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada, the International Bris Association and some rabbis for a preliminary injunction.

In court papers filed in October, they said the regulation improperly singled out an exclusively religious ritual, and violated the free speech and free exercise protections within the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

But in a 93-page decision, Buchwald refused to halt enforcement of the regulation, and said the plaintiffs' claims were likely to be found without merit.

"There is ample medical evidence that direct oral suction places infants at a serious risk of herpes infection, as well as evidence that parents are sometimes unaware in advance of a circumcision that MBP will occur, and the regulation plainly addresses these legitimate societal concerns," Buchwald wrote.

"As enacted, the regulation does no more than ensure that parents can make an informed decision" whether to consent, she added.

Shay Dvoretzky, a partner at Jones Day representing the plaintiffs, was not immediately available for comment.

The city welcomed the decision. "Informing parents about the grave risks associated with this procedure is critical to safeguarding infants' health," Michelle Goldberg-Cahn, a senior lawyer for the city, said in a statement.

New York City said it plans to begin enforcing the consent requirement even if litigation continues.

City health officials on Thursday said at least 11 infant boys have in the last several years contracted a potentially fatal form of herpes following circumcision with direct oral suction, and that two of the boys died.

Opponents of the regulation have said the health department had not proven a higher incidence of neonatal herpes among boys who had received direct oral suction.

The case is Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada et al v. New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-07590. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


I Call On Rabbi Lamm To Open Up The Report To The Public!

The public does not have the stomach for what may even appear as a coverup! Let the chips fall where they may -- All of us will be better off! I am seriously puzzled why this investigation is not being done by a totally independent investigative body.



Will Yeshiva University Make Abuse Report Public?

Alleged Victims Worry About Probe's Scope and Transparency

Yeshiva University has declined to say if it will make public the results of an investigation into sexual abuse allegations at its Manhattan high school despite former students’ fears about the scope, openness and motivation behind the probe.

In a statement to the Forward, released January 8, a Y.U. representative promised “a full and completely independent investigation,” but declined to say what will happen to the work now being conducted by an international law firm hired by the university. In a follow-up statement issued the next morning, the representative said that after the investigation was complete, the board expected that it “will be in further communication with the public.” He declined to explain what that means.

Y.U. launched its investigation after the Forward published allegations by three former students that they had been abused by Rabbi George Finkelstein, who served at Y.U.’s High School for Boys from 1968 to 1995, where he rose to become principal. Another student said that he had been abused by a Talmud teacher, Rabbi Macy Gordon, who taught at the school from 1956 to 1984.

Immediately following the story, Finkelstein resigned from his executive position at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, and Gordon was placed on indefinite leave from his teaching position in Jerusalem.

In the weeks that followed, more than a dozen former students contacted the Forward to say that they had been sexually, emotionally or physically abused by Gordon or Finkelstein. Y.U.’s board of trustees hired a top international law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, to investigate the allegations, and within days investigators began calling former students to invite them in for an interview.

But former students and legal experts who are experienced in abuse cases have raised concerns about Y.U.’s refusal to tell victims whether the report will ever be publicly released. Some fear it is a public relations ploy or intended to guard against potential lawsuits rather than to investigate how Y.U. staff members may have physically, emotionally and sexually abused boys over almost three decades, despite complaints from students and their families.


In Sects, Children Have Few, If Any, Rights

We all need other people.

 Belonging to a group is a great way for us to connect with others. Psychology researchers have found that religious groups can be very positive for people’s health. However, not all religious groups are good for peoples' well-being and some can be downright harmful to some of their members, especially children.

Some groups may offer a mixture of both positive and harmful elements. Groups can change, with a minority of them turning into what are commonly known as sects or high-demand groups, characterized, amongst other things, by control. That said, any group can become oppressive and controlling and any belief system can be taken and used as a tool to control others. For example, therapy and political groups can become sect-like in such a way that they begin to resemble religious sects.

The practices and structure of some sects mean that children are growing up in an environment where they may be at risk of medical, physical, emotional or educational neglect, psychological maltreatment, and sometimes abuse in every sense of that word, even death. However, every sect is different and the experiences of children in sects differ.

All children, by reason of their physical size and developmental maturity, are vulnerable. The checks and balances that protect children and which we might expect to be present in most groups are usually absent from sects, as is compassion in general.

Children who leave sects are moving into a culture that they are usually completely unprepared for, from education to socialization.

Many, if not most children raised in sects eventually leave, either with their parents, on their own or they may be kicked out. Understandably, young people exiting sects may feel overwhelmed. They are moving into a culture that they are usually completely unprepared for. They may have educational gaps, or lack socialization experiences and support. They have often just experienced the loss of all they have known.

Extended family can be pivotal in providing support to those raised in these groups, although this is often lacking, particularly if extended family still belong to the sect. A safe place to stay, a little financial assistance, or a listening accepting ear can make a great deal of difference in the life of a young person exiting a sect. For a child in a sect, even just knowing that he has relatives outside of his group who are willing to provide assistance can act as a psychological life-line. As Truman Oler, who grew up in Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints group, which he left at age 19, stated:

“One of the biggest factors in my leaving was my Grandma Lorna," who had left the group years earlier. "Grandma Lorna told me no matter what I did I was always going to have a place to come back to. That meant so much to me because I just didn't know where I'd go if I left.”

But many young people aren't so lucky.

Perhaps the following words, written by a former sect member some years ago, might provide some inspiration: “Sometimes an ordinary life is an extraordinary achievement."

Lois Kendall lives in England. She was raised in a sect that she left when she was 17. She is now writing a book, based on her Ph.D., which seeks to help others who grew up in sects know that they are not alone. She runs special events for the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).