Throughout this election season, almost all the major mayoral candidates have weighed in on the controversial circumcision consent forms that require Orthodox Jewish parents to sign a waiver before their infant can undergo the "metzitzah b’peh" ritual. Considering how strong the Hasidic voting block is, it's no surprise that candidates as disparate as Bill Thompson and Erick Salgado have tried to appeal to community leaders. Now that we're down to just Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, both men are vying for those votes—and both have been willing to contradict and compromise themselves in pursuit of that.
The "metzitzah b’peh" ritual is the circumcision practice in which a mohel sucks the blood from a freshly snipped foreskin. Back in early May, Lhota said the signed consent forms were “a reasonable approach” to inform parents what the risks are. “If you understand the risks, and you sign it that you understand the risks, then the burden is on you,” he said. “It’s a good thing to do. That’s what government should do.”
But as the Times points out, Lhota changed his tune last month, calling consent forms absolutely wrong: “I don’t believe that you need to be given a piece of paper and you must sign it on the dotted line,” he said. He added that he wouldn't require the person who performs a circumcision to obtain a signed consent form from parents. Last week, as you can see in the video below, he met with Hasidic leaders to awkwardly reiterate that he is in favor of getting rid of the snip-n-suck consent forms.
When asked about this a few days ago, Lhota retorted, “My position hasn’t changed.” His spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, expanded upon that: “Mr. Lhota has been consistent in his position that the role of government is to educate, not mandate. After speaking with Jewish leaders early on in his campaign, he gained a better understanding of their concerns and slightly evolved his position so that new parents would receive the information, but not have to sign anything.”
De Blasio's stance on the consent forms has been just as slippery. Back in the spring, he gave a guarded but positive response, criticizing the administration for not reaching out to the community, but not saying he was against the forms. At a forum in late May, he basically used it as another chance to separate himself from Bloomberg: "I think the mayor approached this the wrong way...I would start over and change the policy to find a way to protect all of our children but also respect religious tradition.”
Then this past month, members of the Anronite sect of Satmars endorsed de Blasio (see video below), noting that "he's the only candidate who recommitted himself now to guarantee that we as orthodox Jews can practice the metzitzah b’peh without compromise."
But while those constituents were under the impression that de Blasio would change the rule "right away" if he is elected, spokesman Dan Levitan told the Times that those comments did not accurately reflect his position—he said de Blasio would keep the consent form policy in place until a better solution was found.
Just to summarize: Lhota was pro-consent forms, then he wasn't, because he believes government shouldn't mandate health regulations, except when it has to. And de Blasio was also in favor of the forms, except he doesn't like how Bloomberg introduced them, and then he wanted to get rid of them and start over, but now he probably will just keep them in place. Considering how slippery all of this is, it's a good thing we can at least understand their stances on pasta.