Appeals Court Issues Ruling in Milah Case


In a decision hailed by leading Jewish organizations, a federal appeals court found on Friday that a NYC Health Department regulation regarding metzitzah b’peh (MBP) is not neutral or generally applicable, and it targets a religious practice for special burdens. In a unanimous decision, the appeals court panel overturned a lower court’s ruling in a lawsuit against the city by Agudath Israel of America, the Satmar-affiliated Central Rabbinical Congress, and the Chabad-affiliated International Bris Association and three mohalim.

The legal battle revolved around a regulation requiring mohalim to ask parents to sign a consent form espousing the NYC Department of Health’s view associating MBP with serious health risks, a position rejected by leading medical experts and veteran mohalim.

In their decision, the appeals court found that “the regulation pertains to religious conduct associated with a small percentage of HSV infection cases among infants, while leaving secular conduct associated with a larger percentage of such infection unaddressed.”

The appeals court vacated the district court’s order denying plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded the case back to the district court to consider whether plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits.