The First Amendment, sucking baby penis, and a suggestion for how to handle circumcision laws

I find the whole idea of mutilating a baby’s genitals to be pretty fucked up.

Doing it because you think your imaginary friend wants you too is majorly fucked up. I don’t think too much of any supernatural being who actually cares about baby dick, but the Abrahamic notion of “God” is a being with serious psychological disorders.

Some “ultra-Orthodox” sects of Judaism think that baby-dick-mutilation should come with an added garnish of crazy: They believe that when you hack off a piece of a little boy’s penis, you should then immediately suck his dick.

Of course, anyone outside of this little sub-group of wackos probably finds the practice to be utterly insane. If you follow any Abrahamic religion, hold your outrage, buddy. You have no room to judge.
But, it seems that it is also at least arguably medically dangerous — since a couple of babies a year (in New York City alone) wind up with herpes from the post-slicing baby-dick-sucking. According to the New York Times, 11 babies caught herpes from this practice from 2004 to 2011, with two dying and two suffering brain damage.(source)

Responding to the health issues, New York City required the baby-dick-sucker guy to give the parents a consent form, warning them about the dangers of having a piece of their baby’s dick sliced off, and then having an old bearded guy suck their baby’s dick.

Seems reasonable, I guess. I mean, it might be more reasonable to say that genital mutilation should be banned altogether, and failing that, you ought to have to do it in a medically sterile manner — you know, clean the blood off with something other than an old bearded guy’s mouth.

But New York City’s government knows better than to challenge bizzarro desert cults’ superstitions. So they went with trying to warn parents that if you let an old guy suck a freshly mutilated penis, his mouth just might not be the most sterile cleaning rag you can find.

The baby-dick-suckers were not amused.

[Attorney] Shay Dvoretzky, said the practice, which is prevalent in parts of the ultra-Orthodox community, is a constitutionally protected religious activity. He said that requiring ritual circumcisers, known collectively as mohelim, to be involved in conveying the city’s perspective on the procedure would infringe upon their rights of free speech.

“That lies at the heart of First Amendment protection,” Mr. Dvoretzky said. (source)

And (don’t hate me) I just might have to side with the baby dick suckers on this one.

Under Miami Herald v. Tornillo, the government can not compel you to speak any more than it can stop you from speaking. Requiring a shaman from any cult to convey the government’s message runs afoul of that principle.

So what, if anything, can be done?

I suppose that the City could try to simply say “no more baby dick sucking around these parts.” I can not imagine that sucking a baby’s dick would be acceptable in any other context. But, if the cult members say that this is, indeed, part of a sincerely-held religious belief (which I can’t challenge them on) then where would the government get off saying that the practice should be banned? Is saving two lives every 7 years, and 11 cases of herpes infection enough of a governmental interest to warrant infringement upon this group’s sincerely held religious beliefs?

On the other hand, how about banning baby genital mutilation altogether? A two-second-suck of the baby penis is icky, but I can’t imagine that it causes all that much harm (unless there’s been fresh mutilation). On the other hand, genital mutilation of millions of defenseless boys a year just might be something that we could ban.

Denmark is investigating whether it should under the nation’s health code. A little movement in California to ban the practice got kicked in the nuts. And, I think any effort to actually ban circumcision would be doomed to failure. Facts are irrelevant when confronted with the shrill cries of “anti-Semitism.” (I think we all need to remember that circumcision is not exclusively a Jewish thing, not by a long shot – but that if you have an issue with circumcision because you have an issue with Jews, then you’re a fucking asshole).

So what should be done?

I say balance the interests. Let’s not burn political capital by having to argue with irrational fuckheads who believe in some seriously-deranged space man, who are capable of hijacking any rational discussion. Lets not risk running afoul of the First Amendment either.

Let’s privatize the issue.

I suggest that any child who gets genitally mutilated as a minor should have a private cause of action against any and all individuals involved, for say 10 years after reaching the age of majority. That way, if you’re raised in some stupid cult, you have an adequate period of time in which to free your mind, or choose an adulthood of slavery to superstition. If, in that 10 year period, you figure out that you’re not pleased about having part of your dick cut off, you should be able to bring a claim against the doctor or mohel. Further, if you’re going to perform circumcisions as a doctor or mohel, you ought to have to carry insurance or a bond to cover any future damages brought by disgruntled victims in the future (as there’s a damn good chance that the mutilator will be dead by the time the case ripens).

Of course, this will lead to a slight burden on the practice. I don’t know what bonding companies or insurance companies will want to charge for such a risk. But, that’s just our beloved free market in action. I’m sure that no matter what it costs, there will be someone who actually believes that this magic space man wants baby dicks mutilated. There will still be parents who think so too. Therefore, lets say it costs a shitton of money to buy the dick-mutilator insurance. So what? If you’re a dick-mutilating parent, I sure as shit hope that it means a lot to you, and you’re not slicing up kid’s dick lightly. So if it winds up costing a grand or so to slice up your boy’s pecker, so what? I mean, is it really a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, if you really do believe in god, and you think that he’s such a fucking weirdo that he wants your boy’s dick cut up?

Circumcision still allowed, but there is some avenue for justice for its victims. But, if you get circumcised as, for example, a Muslim baby and then you grow up to fully believe that Allah was good to want you to be hacked up, then no harm, no foul.

I’d imagine that non-religious circumcision would drop to almost nothing, but so what? I’m concerned about protecting a Jewish parents’ right to practice their religion, as much as I may mock it. I’m not concerned with the parents who say “lets cut up his dick because, umm, just because.”

There, problem solved. Religion respected. No anti-Semitism. No First Amendment problem.

39 Responses to The First Amendment, sucking baby penis, and a suggestion for how to handle circumcision laws

  1. Charles Platt says:

    I’m puzzled that it’s illegal for a Catholic priest to suck a boy’s penis, but legal for a mohel to do it. Are there more Jewish lawyers than Catholic lawyers? Is that how the mohelim have escaped being prosecuted for child molestation? I mean, how is it not sodomy? The fact that the baby doesn’t even enjoy it (an understatement, there) just seems to add insult to injury. A choir boy may at least derive some momentary pleasure. The law seems the wrong way around on this.

    Incidentally the infant is not the only one who can suffer damage from circumcision. A female friend was telling me recently that she was persuaded to allow circumcision of her baby, with homilies such as “it only hurts for a short while.” She then watched in horror as the screaming baby was STRAPPED DOWN and the foreskin was hacked off–without any anesthetic, of course. The baby was then in evident pain for more than 48 hours, and she was the one left changing the bloody dressings and trying to provide comfort. Judging from her tone of voice when she describes the event (now 6 years in the past) I would say she was significantly traumatized. Can she sue, or is the obstetrician who performed the mutilation protected by its being a “standard medical procedure”?

    Incidentally Marc I have been in a state of anticipation for years, now, waiting for one of your posts to offend my particular set of values. No luck so far.

    • Well, I’d say that no Catholic priest has yet had the audacity to claim that his boy-dick-sucking was a religious ritual. And,as much as we might find the mohel’s baby-dick-sucking to be offensive, I think we can both agree that none of the moehls do it as a matter of sexual gratification. I at least accept that this practice is part of a sincerely-held religious belief.

      Ultimately, the Catholic priests were committing clear sexual abuse. The mohel’s just happen to be sucking baby dicks while practicing their religion.

      That doesn’t make it any better, in my eyes. But, I think that at least colors the Constitutional dimension to the discussion.

  2. The next time I rob someone, I’ll be sure to point out that I’m only “balancing our interests.”

  3. dan says:

    I like the idea of privatizing and balancing interests but I think the implementation well….sucks. 10 years after, everyone gets a free pass to complain? so who is NOT going to complain? Especially someone that age trying to pay for college, or a car or beer money? I’d do it.
    anyone got a better idea?

    • I’d imagine that someone from a religious community, who wouldn’t want to be ostracized, would not complain. I’d also imagine that any guy who thought he might want to continue the tradition with his son would refrain.

      I suggest 10 years for the “college and beer money” reason. If you only have 1 year after you turn 18, yes, you’d likely immediately run to file a claim.

      • dan says:

        you may be right on the first part. one the second, I can’t see someone thinking “I think I’ll wait 10 years for my beer”.

        • Heck, then make it 5 years, 2 years, 1 year. Whatever the time frame, it should be after the kid turns 18, and give him at least some time to consider the claim. Perhaps whatever the statute of limitations is, in his jurisdiction, for battery – with the clock beginning to run the day he turns 18.

          But, I think it’s wrong to say that we shouldn’t provide an avenue for redress because 18 year old boys want money for beer. We don’t concern ourselves with what the plaintiff will do with the money in any other tort claim, why this one?

    • Mark Scholes says:

      In my new world order anyone who’s been circumcised, or any other attack whilst as a minor, get the right to kick the person who did it in the balls, or equivalent

  4. Or… (and here’s the clever bit), ignore the camel-herding lunatic’s cult and it’s phantasmagorical implications, and charge anyone who cuts, sucks, licks, or fucks a baby’s dick or clitoris without a clear medical need, with aggravated assault. Bingo. No first amendment issue – touching a baby’s anything has nothing anyone can associate with free speech if the speech is based on a non-existent entity – and it becomes a process of the cult fanatics’ need to publically excuse each and every attempt to perform the ritual savagery.

    Religions will stay religions only as long as clear-headed people allow them. This is not anti-Semitic, it’s anti-religion.

    I think Christopher Hitchens was more correct than we knew. Talk about “Religion poisons everything”… Who knew he meant herpes?

    • G Thompson says:

      Couldn’t agree more though its highly interesting, and smacks of hypocrisy, how Female Circumcision is illegal (USA and Australia) whereas doing the same to males (babies or otherwise) isn’t. BOTH should be illegal under equitable laws.

      This coursework master thesis from UNI of Tasmania http://eprints.utas.edu.au/11729/ delves into why we need reform in this matter within Australia and certainly a lot of it could also apply equally to America

      Also there has been an interesting development recently whereas a symposium in Helsinki held in October 2012 [ The Twelfth International Symposium on Law, Genital Autonomy and Human Rights - http://www.nocirc.org/symposia ] that included speakers from speakers from Australia, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Sweden, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States issued a declaration that declared inter alia the existence of a fundamental right of each human being[,] a Right of Genital Autonomy, that is the right to: – personal control of their own genital and reproductive organs; [this supports Marc's private cause of action idea] …

      Personally if I saw or knew of anyone whether for religious purposes or otherwise performing a “metzitzah b’peh” which involved placing the penis in their mouth I would have them charged under sect 61J or at minimum 61I of NSW Crimes Act [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s61h.html] since sexual intercourse is defined as also ” sexual connection occasioned by the introduction of any part of the penis of a person into the mouth of another person” and where ‘religion’ is no defense. But that’s just me

  5. MKC says:

    I think the compelled speech passes constitutional muster.

    Mohels generally charge for their services–they will not decide not to perform their services if someone cannot pay, but people customarily do pay. For many mohels, this is a primary source of income. Also, this kind of bloody stuff is like other things traditionally regulated by government–doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, pharmaceuticals, etc. Accordingly, I’d say this can fit in the “commercial speech” box. The compelled speech doesn’t seem to have to do with religious doctrine–it’s about protecting a consumer of a service.

    It’s the same as compelling Advil to put some health warning shit on its box. Yes, it touches on a First Amendment interest, but I think permissibly so–at least under current jurispridence.

    So we’re using Central Hudson. The interest is important. The waiver directly advances that interest. The state doesn’t have to use the least restrictive/infringing alternative. Is a waiver of some kind no more broad than necessary to serve to adequately advance the interest, considering children can die and get herpes and we’re talking about cutting and sucking dicks? I think most courts would say so.

    That aside, although the idea of privitization appeals to me, and not just in a tounge in cheek way, I’m not so sure on some practical concerns, like evidentiary issues, people dying, and so on. I wonder what other causes of action have such a long statute of limitations?

  6. I didn’t know that believing sincerely in a religion plus parental approval made baby dick-sucking acceptable. What other felonies are to be excused under the same pattern?

    Ritualized human sacrifice?
    “Honor rape”?
    “Honor killing”?
    Female circumcision?
    Eating the brains of your clan rivals?
    Killing deformed babies?
    Cranial shape modification of infants?

    I am fairly sure all infractions in the books have, at one time or another, been justified by a religious belief, including cattle burglary, tax evasion, and illegal parking.

  7. Jay Wolman says:

    Metzitzah b’peh, as the practice is known, is not fellatio. The purpose is to engender blood flow via suction. The glans is not brought into the mouth. Originally, it was felt that the fresh wound, in order to properly heal, required that there be proper circulation to the area. For centuries, the only surefire way to provide that suction was orally. Whether such bloodflow to the wound is therapeutically indicated is uncertain; not much has been published by way of peer reviewed studies.
    Nowadays, many mohelim (ritual circumcisers), use a glass tube in order ensure the suction but avoid direct contact between the mouth and the wound, to avoid risk of infection. There are some, however, who believe that the old way of direct contact is best.
    Now, I can understand the opposition to circumcision and the desire to maintain a cause of action for those who had no choice, with the accompanying insurance requirement. Of course, let’s make sure we aren’t targeting such actions simply because there is a religious basis. Every minor girl (or boy) whose ears are pierced should be able to maintain such a cause of action. Every child born with ambiguous genitalia, whose parents opt for surgery to ensure the genitalia match the genetic or other hormonal basis for gender determination, should have the right to sue because they didn’t get to choose to be a hermaphrodite. Every deaf child who receives a cochlear implant. Every child who is affixed with braces. Every child born with hypopituitary dwarfism who is treated hormonally, who can now never be cast in a remake of the Wizard of Oz. All of these, and more, have been modified physically based on the whims of their parents. They all should have the same rights as those who have been circumcised.

    • So, cutting a piece of penis and sucking on is equivalent to ear piercings (which close anyway if you stop using earrings). Amazing.

    • Mike says:

      Personally I’d say a lot of these cases are a little different in that they have an objective third party involved, Doctor’s take an oath to do no harm do they not? A reputable doctor isn’t going to be dispensing growth hormones unless the decision is medically sound, and if it isn’t the same terms Mr. Randazza lays out seems perfectly acceptable. Of the above only ear piercing doesn’t require a doctor. On that note I always found it a bit odd to see pierced ears on an infant. With my daughters I intentionally waited until they were old enough to ask for it themselves. So they may not have been old enough to sign the waiver for the ear piercing but, I feel a little more confident that if they decide to sue me, a jury would be swayed by the home video of them begging to get their ears pierced.

      Why not delay that Metzitzah b’peh until the child is old enough to at least to be a willing accomplice? I’m not a jew or a christian, and it seems troubling body modification is required and required at such an early age that there is no chance of consent.

      • Jay Wolman says:

        To clarify, metitza b’peh is the drawing of the blood via suction. Brit milah, or circumcision, is the overall practice of removing the foreskin.
        Circumcision is a bit of an odd way for a group of people to express their belief in a particular creator of the universe. There are medical and ethical arguments for and against it, and I am not going to argue them here. But your question as to whether the child should be old enough to consent is an interesting one. In answering the question, let’s not forget that the belief is that it should be done on the 8th day (or as soon thereafter as medically indicated). Thus, in weighing the matter, one cannot simply focus on those who might have said “no” but also those who emphatically would want “yes”. Imagine the distress of a child or young adult knowing that he was not truly a part of his community or in communion with the creator of the universe because his parents did not circumcise him years ago (and knowing he went all that time without it). Given the practice has survived for centuries (and that muslims do it at a later age), it is likely there are far more who would want circumcision than who regret it.
        Also, let us not forget that the recovery period is smaller and less of an interference with routine life for an 8 day old than an 8 year old or 18 year old. So, if we are going to consider the wellbeing of those who would not have wanted circumcision, we must also consider the wellbeing of those who would have wanted it done at 8 days. There is no win-win solution.

        • Mike says:

          Seemed like the 8th day thing is just tradition, or is that actually written down in the Torah/Bible. If it is it seems like one of those literal things that most people would say to ignore by now, like say polygamy or slavery. Honestly I can buy into the fact that some people believe in a divine being who created us all and does stuff to us after we die. Certainly we don’t know for sure what happens. However when it comes to something as specific as this divine being wants you to cut open your childs penis by the 8th day of his life. Well then that seems over the top and just as farfetched as any other work of fiction.

      • Mike, if the sick and twisted practice wasn’t defended by a politically powerful religion, we’d have outlawed it a long time ago.

    • Whatever it is, fellatio or using 4,000 year old medical procedures, it is still a bit odd. Nevertheless, if a cult wants to suck baby dick as part of some ritual, I can live with that. There is no harm to the baby, so I say that its fine to fellate or whatever they want to call it.

      As far as genital mutilation as a religious practice goes, I don’t care why someone mutilates genitalia. If you mutilate it for a religious reason, then you damn well better hope that the kid grows up to share that superstition.

      Ear piercing is neither permanent, nor really all that painful. If a girl decides that her ears were pierced against her will, she can reverse the procedure by not wearing earrings for a few weeks. Comparing sadistic genital mutilation to curing conditions is a bit silly.

      There is absolutely no reason to mutilate normal healthy genitals. Personally, I think that anyone who participates in such an activity should be tossed off of a 100 foot cliff, and only allowed to go free if they survive the fall. But, I recognize the impact that might have on religious practices. So, I’m willing to compromise. You cut it, then you pay for it later unless the kid grows up to ratify the sick and twisted decision.

      • Jay Wolman says:

        Mark, I understand your opinion. I think mutilation is a bit of a strong word–modification is better. Given that Jewish and Muslim men do reproduce and seem to enjoy the process, and the aesthetic approval of many women and the porn industry, to call it mutilation is inapt.
        My last response addressed both sides of your compromise. What compensation will boys and men who were not circumcised at 8 days receive for the years they were denied circumcision and the difficulties a later age circumcision imposes?

        • Jay Wolman says:

          “Marc”, rather. Sorry.

        • You’re suggesting a cause of action for failure to circumcise?

          It is mutilation. If you cut off a piece of someone’s body, you’ve mutilated it. Just because we’re sorta used to seeing this common mutilation doesn’t change it from “mutilation” to “modification.” Its not an “upgrade.”

          • Charles Platt says:

            Doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t considered desirable by the adults involved. The baby is obviously too young to make a choice. Adults can, and sometimes do, get themselves circumcized. I knew a guy who did so. Therefore, the procedure can be delayed until the child is over 18 and informed consent is possible. Why is this such a problem? It is, after all, an elective procedure.

          • Jay Wolman says:

            Well, you’re suggesting changing the law of consent vis a vis a parent’s right to consent to circumcision, so I figured why not even things out a bit.
            Call it what you will, but for many it is an upgrade.

        • MKC says:

          The difference between “modification” and “mutilation” is subjective to the viewer. It’s not an absolute. I think Marc’s characterization is more accurate. You seem to object to the inflamatory nature of the rhetoric, although not the substance of his position.

  8. markkernes says:

    Thanks for putting me onto Miami Herald v. Tornillo; seems to me it might have some application to the Measure B case.

  9. Melody says:

    Interesting concept; however, with all the infomation of the internet, it may be in the parents’ best interest to research it. I did before I knew of the internet and my 23 year old son was not circumcized. It was already arranged with my hospital – but I was caught off-guard and out of state when the moment happened. It was quite a battle with the hospital with the “routine procedure” and all, and because it was, I refused to allow my son out of my sight until we checked out.

    “A female friend was telling me recently that she was persuaded to allow circumcision of her baby, with homilies such as “it only hurts for a short while.” She then watched in horror as the screaming baby was STRAPPED DOWN and the foreskin was hacked off–without any anesthetic, of course. The baby was then in evident pain for more than 48 hours, and she was the one left changing the bloody dressings and trying to provide comfort.”

  10. [...] The First Amendment, sucking baby penis, and a suggestion for how to handle circumcision laws (randazza.wordpress.com) [...]

  11. Tamburlaine says:

    I think the right of the baby to not have part of his dick hacked off trumps the “rights” of the parents to do the hacking. Your religious rights end where someone else’s bodily autonomy begins. This isn’t the parents practicing their religion, it is them forcing it on a child incapable of consenting to the action. If a kid decides he wants a circumcision after a certain age, by all means go for it. But parents claiming it is their right to mutilate their child’s penis is ridiculous.

    • Ok, but lets not set aside the fact that as much as I abhor the practice, it is a firmly and sincerely held religious belief. And, whether we like the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause or not, it is there.

      So… what to do?

      If you’re Jewish, the covenant you made with the magic space man is that you’ll have your dick chopped at 8 days old. If you have to wait til you’re 18 to go get it chopped, then I reckon you’re pissing off your imaginary friend for 18 years. If you die as an uncut child, I guess that the magic boogeyman won’t let you into the VIP section of the afterlife.

      So, I’m willing to reluctantly bend here — let the parents do the dick cutting, but let them and the actual surgeon/mohel worry for 18 years+ that the mutilated boy might not grow up to adopt their particular superstition.

      • Tamburlaine says:

        How do you differentiate between circumcision and the cases where Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Science parents get charged with manslaughter for praying over their kids when the kid gets appendicitis and dies? Those are also sincerely held religious beliefs. The individual’s bodily autonomy should come before the beliefs of anyone else, in my mind.

        If one person wants to decide for themselves what they are going to do with their body, great, I’m all for that and not trying to limit their freedom in that aspect. I just do not think you should decide for your child and make unalterable decisions for them based on beliefs your child may not share when they reach majority. The right to a cause of action is great, but I’d bet most guys would rather have their dick intact rather than a bit of cash.

      • Dan says:

        ok two more thoughts on the issue:
        1) this kinda sorta enforces the imposition of these strongly-held belief on said child for the parents there will be no middle ground of giving the child any room for thought their LDF depends on it
        2) what about the non-Jews who practice circucision on their kids? (for whatever beliefs or medical ideas held rightly or wrongly)

        • I’m not even really comfortable giving Jews and Muslims a pass on the general rule that “thou shalt not slice up a baby’s genitals.” Nevertheless, I’m willing to leave some flexibility in my position in the name of religious tolerance. I don’t want to advocate for a law that winds up effectively knocking the shit out of two religions that sometimes get the shitty end of the stick. (Jews historically, Muslims recently).

          I don’t think there’s any justification to give a pass to those who slice baby dicks up for cosmetic reasons. Nevertheless, I suppose that under my proposed idea, it wouldn’t matter. You can slice up baby dicks for whatever reason you like — no religious test. You can do it just because you like it better… but the surgeon better have a bond.

    • CPlatt says:

      The Christian Scientists have been fighting this kind of battle for a long time. Often they have won the right to deprive their children of medical care. But sometimes, when a child has died, they have lost. It’s worth reading the Wikipedia entry.

  12. Melody says:

    Other than my son, I have only known ONE person who wasn’t circumcised at birth. Somewhere in the bible (I’m not very familiar) God said all adult males will do this, and from there they will do this to their male children. I CHOSE to let my son decide, as an adult, on whether he felt God wanted him to do this. There are some cleanliness issues, no doubt. It’s a challenge to explain to your son you have to lift, clean, when you bathe (thankfully daily here) then replace to prevent infections. He even went through basic training and Army without one single infection so I guess I did my job. He’s 23, has no intention on going this procedure. His choice. I have no regrets on NOT forcing this mutilation on him and instead, chose to teach him to clean properly. Maybe people didn’t have adequate cleanliness laws in place way back then and this was a solution.

    • CPlatt says:

      If indeed lack of hygiene under the foreskin promotes the risk of cancer (as is claimed), I doubt that the cancer would become a significant risk until after the age at which most people died in primitive times. Since hygiene was generally almost nonexistent, I have a hard time believing that this is what it is really all about.

      I firmly believe that circumcision is a ritual act of sadism by the older male generation toward the young. Similar to the age-old practice of older men sending younger men out to fight wars and get killed. Seniority and all that.

      While women are traditionally responsible for nurturing an infant, it is a man who removes the foreskin. Not a coincidence.

  13. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of the comments here (mine excepted, of course).

    I think this is the longest rational discussion of dick-chopping that hasn’t degenerated into a screaming match.

    Oh, and I like my velvety knob cover – despite strong convictions, my über-religious parents decided to let me decide. Of course, by the time they got me (I was adopted), I was nearly two months old, but they still resisted a lot of pressure to hack my knob. I’m so glad they didn’t go the chop.

  14. Jay Wolman says:

    Update: Parental notification regulation upheld. http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2013/01_-_January/Judge_won_t_block_New_York_City_circumcision_law/ On this issue, I see no problem. Parental notice and consent is certainly reasonable and appropriate.

  15. As a researcher of religious child maltreatment (and author of a book on the subject), I can say without question that children suffer an uneven playing field if they are born into very pious homes and communities. Too often, the law favors the rights of religious fanatics and powerful institutions, whose main goal is to continue religious rituals, despite the fact that they are abusive and neglectful. Meanwhile, those of us on the outside wave our hands in the air asking, what about the rights of the children? Many years ago, the Supreme Court deemed that children could not be made to be religious martyrs, but then later, a less progressive Supreme Court deemed that Amish children could be taken out of high school. Why should non-Amish children be guaranteed a high education but Amish children be denied that right? Why should the law protect only certain babies from having their penises sucked against their will? Child abuse and neglect remains child abuse and neglect, regardless of whether it is justified with religious doctrine. And, as a side note (as my book points out), this country made female genital cutting illegal only after it was associated with the unfamiliar religion of Islam. It used to be legal when fanatical Christian doctors thought it was the answer to stop girls from masturbating. Blue Cross covered clitoradectomies until the 1970s. The same reasoning — steeped in Christian ideas about sexual purity and fears about touching oneself — led to high rates of male circumcision in this country. In other words, the religious roots behind most male circumcision in the U.S. have been Christian, not Jewish.

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