New York – New York City Council Members David G. Greenfield and Lew Fidler voted against the reappointment of a mayoral appointee to the New York City Board of Health in response to the board’s decision to blatantly infringe on the rights of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community and restrict their ability to freely engage in the 3,700-year-old mitzvah of Bris Milah. Council Members Greenfield and Fidler voted ‘no’ on this reappointment to send a clear message that the recent behavior of the New York City Board of Health has gone far beyond the realm of a government agency’s proper authority.
At last Thursday’s City Council Stated meeting, Councilman Greenfield and Councilman Fidler – both of whom represent large Jewish communities in southern Brooklyn – voted against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed reappointment of Dr. Lynne D. Richardson for a new term on the NYC Board of Health. Specifically, Council Members Greenfield and Fidler voted ‘no’ in order to once again express their strong opposition to a Board of Health regulation approved last September requiring parents to sign a consent form provided to them by a mohel before an infant can undergo the ancient ritual of metzitzah b’peh after a Bris Milah.
“As I stated following last September’s misguided Board of Health vote, it was inappropriate for this mayoral administration and his appointees to overstep their authority and violate the constitutionally-protected rights of Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers. My vote against Dr. Richardson’s reappointment was simply an affirmation of my strong belief that the entire Board of Health trampled on the rights of religious Jews and all New Yorkers who value religious freedom by regulating for the first time a deeply-held religious belief,” said Councilman Greenfield.
“In the end, I knew she would be reappointed no matter what I did, but someone needed to stand up for a community whose religious rights were trampled on. That’s what I felt I had to do as a matter of right and wrong, so that’s what I did,” said Councilman Fidler.
Council Members Greenfield and Fidler are continuing to support community leaders who filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Board of Health’s regulation on account of it being unconstitutional. In January, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the requirement from going into effect before the lawsuit filed by community leaders is resolved. That lawsuit is still ongoing.
“Every New Yorker who appreciates the importance of our Constitution should join us in sending a clear message that New York City has no right to regulate religion in clear violation of the First Amendment. I will continue to speak out against this blatant example of government intrusion on religious practices and beliefs until this regulation is overturned,” added Councilman Greenfield.