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CRC v NYC 10-12

CRC v NYC 10-12

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Published by Howard Friedman

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Published by: Howard Friedman on Oct 12, 2012
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11/08/2012

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1
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTSOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK 
 CENTRAL RABBINICAL CONGRESS OFTHE USA & CANADA;AGUDATH ISRAEL OF AMERICA;INTERNATIONAL BRIS ASSOCIATION;RABBI SAMUEL BLUM;RABBI AHARON LEIMAN; andRABBI SHLOIME EICHENSTEIN,
 Plaintiffs
,v. NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OFHEALTH & MENTAL HYGIENE; NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF HEALTH;andDR. THOMAS FARLEY, in his officialcapacity as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health & MentalHygiene,
 Defendants.
))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) No.: 12 CV 7590 (NRB)
ECF CASECOMPLAINT
1.
 
The ritual of 
bris milah
, or circumcision, is one of the most basic, important, andwidely practiced Jewish traditions. For thousands of years, Jews have adhered to the religiouscommandment to circumcise every male child on the eighth day after his birth.
2.
 
Defendants have adopted a new regulation that, if it goes into effect as scheduledon October 21, 2012, threatens this venerable and sacred ritual. In particular, Defendants haveintentionally targeted for unique burdens a practice that is viewed in many Jewish circles as a
Case 1:12-cv-07590-NRB Document 1 Filed 10/11/12 Page 1 of 14
 
2critical aspect of the
bris milah
, known as
metzitzah b’peh
(“MBP”), attempting to conscript theindividuals who perform this religious procedure (known as “
mohelim
”) into advocates for Defendants’ ill-founded opposition to the practice. In the absence of 
any
definitive proof thatMBP poses health risks of any kind, and in the face of a millenia-long track record for safety, theregulation would require the
mohelim
to transmit the Department’s subjective opinion that MBP“should not be performed.” That opinion is based on limited study, inaccurate assumptions, anddeficient data, all of which remain actively debated within medical and scientific communities.
3.
 
This lawsuit is a challenge to the constitutional validity of Defendants’ novel—and,indeed, unprecedented—regulation, under the First Amendment to the United States Constitutionand the Free Exercise Clause of the New York Constitution. In particular, by forcing
mohelim
totransmit to parents an inherently subjective and value-laden judgment about whether to adhere tothe religious dictate of MBP, the regulation violates the basic constitutional principle that thegovernment cannot compel speech. Under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, theDepartment simply cannot force dissenting individuals to undermine the tenets of their faith anddiscourage compliance with religious law by transmitting Defendants’ opinion. Moreover, bysingling out for unique burdens a practice that is motivated exclusively by religious belief, andrequiring its practitioners to advise against those beliefs, the regulation also violates the FreeExercise Clauses of the Federal and New York Constitutions.
4.
 
Accordingly, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that § 181.21 of the New York City Health Code is unconstitutional, and injunctive relief barring its enforcement.
I.
 
JURISDICTION, VENUE, AND OTHER PRELIMINARY MATTERS
5.
 
Because this action arises under the Constitution (
viz.
, the First Amendment) andlaws (
viz.
, 42 U.S.C. § 1983) of the United States, this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to thefederal-question jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Case 1:12-cv-07590-NRB Document 1 Filed 10/11/12 Page 2 of 14
 
3
6.
 
The court also has supplemental jurisdiction over all state law claims that form part of the same case or controversy under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
7.
 
Plaintiffs also seek declaratory and injunctive relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-02,Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 57, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65.
8.
 
Venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(l) and (b)(3) because Defendants reside within the State of New York and at least one of them resides withinthis judicial district. Venue is also proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in this District.
II.
 
THE PARTIES
9.
 
Plaintiff Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada (“CRC”) isa non-profit organization, incorporated in New York, with headquarters at 85 Division Ave.,Brooklyn, NY 11249. The CRC was founded in 1953 by the late Grand Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar to renew and strengthen the strict adherence, without deviation, to the Orthodox andHasidic traditions within the Jewish communities in the United States and Canada. Itsmembership consists of close to 300 leading Orthodox Jewish Grand Rabbis and communalleaders, including
mohelim
who adhere strictly to the practice of MBP. The CRC serves as acentral rabbinical body to rule on all religious issues and laws.
10.
 
Plaintiff Agudath Israel of America (“AIA”) is a non-profit organization,incorporated in New York, with headquarters at 42 Broadway, New York, NY 10004. AIA wasfounded ninety years ago to unite a broad array of Orthodox Jews, and to serve and advocate theinterests of Orthodox Jewry. It sponsors numerous educational, social, and religious programs for needy persons from all backgrounds. Included among AIA’s constituents are a substantial number of rabbis who teach, and
mohelim
and families that follow the teaching, that MBP is an integral,indispensable part of the religious commandment of Jewish ritual circumcision.
Case 1:12-cv-07590-NRB Document 1 Filed 10/11/12 Page 3 of 14

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