The Religion News Service reports on the metzitza b'peh controversy. Oral-to-genital-contact during circumcision has been determined to be a vehicle for disease transmission, including the common herpes virus, which, when found in infants is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe brain damage and even death. However, haredim refuse to believe the evidence and view the whole controversy as an attack on their religious "freedom." A case is point is the founder and chairman of the new haredi circumcision board, Rabbi Romi Cohn:
Some rabbis, however, do not believe that the circumcision ritual puts infants at risk and said that the health department shouldn't interfere.
"I think it has no basis," said Rabbi Romi Cohn, a Staten Island- and Brooklyn-based rabbi who said he has not seen a single infection among the 15,000 circumcisions he has performed in the region.
Could it be that Rabbi Cohn is not at this time a herpes carrier? Of course. But that does not mean he will not be one tomorrow. Why? Because the virus is very easily transmitted, even through tiny breaks in the skin. But ignoring epidemiological evidence is not enough for Rabbi Cohn – he has to misrepresent Jewish law and tradition, as well:
According to tradition, he said, whoever does the circumcision must use sterilized equipment, undergo routine blood tests and be healthy and clean. The rabbi said metzitzah b'peh is an integral part of circumcision, a ritual that is thousands of years old.
Blood tests? Sterile? Tradition? Please.
Perhaps Rabbi Cohen was referring to the "standards" of the new haredi circumcision board, which claims to mandate twice-yearly blood tests. The problem is, twice-yearly blod tests is not nearly enough to have real impact on transmission and, because of the nature of disease transmission, the only real way to stop it is to stop MBP.
And, it seems, the only real way to do that is to make it illegal. As this sorry episode makes clear, the experiment of haredi "self-governance" has failed.