By Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
What’s going on in New York? Between spending untold millions to host the head of a conservative, retrograde hierarchy, letting old men cut and suck blood from infants’ penises, and allowing the mass slaughter of 50,000 chickens in the streets (to atone for the sins of the chickens killers), NYC and its new mayor, Bill de Blasio, seem to have forgotten about the separation of state and church.
Pope-mania costs the tax-payers millions; impact on businesses “worse than Hurricane Sandy”
The pope’s recent visit will cost the taxpayers dearly. We don’t know how much yet. Philadelphia is reportedly spending about $12 million on the visit. Some of this will supposedly be covered by Catholic affiliates and the church because the World Meeting of Families was held there; no word yet on whether D.C. and NYC will also receive help covering the costs of the visit.
Jillian Jorgensen over at the New York Observer has some interesting numbers about the pope’s NYC visit, including:
About 6,000 NYPD officers worked the papal visit/UN meeting using 1,173 police cars.
The city secured pope/UN areas using 818 tons of concrete barriers.
The NYPD rolled out 39 miles of traditional metal barrier fences.
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At this point, we can only imagine what that costs the city in lost revenue, overtime, and man hours. But I think Jorgensen’s most interesting numbers also show how overblown the coverage and fawning of the pope’s visit truly is: “80,000 people will gather to see Pope Francis move through Central Park Friday afternoon. And another 100,000 people will gather in Central Park the next day—to see Beyonce.”
According to Jorgensen, Mayor de Blasio would not comment on (or had no idea about) the total cost to the city. The mayor said that number wouldn’t be available “until we are in the middle of it, or even at the end of it. But I think every dollar will be worth it. I think it’ll be an inspiring and uplifting moment for this city.”
Government officials are not elected to inspire religious zeal. They are elected by “We the people,” not “We the papal servants.” And it’s worth remembering that these additional costs are often illegal. When the pope visited Philly in 1979, the city built and paid for the “pope’s platform” upon which John Paul II celebrated mass. The ACLU sued over the $205,569 stage and won. That’s why FFRF challenged the Philadelphia prison systems misuse of prisoners to carve and upholster a special chair Pope Francis used to celebrate Mass in a prison.
We should also be skeptical of any claims about the income the papal visit generated. Now that it’s over, we know those claims were highly exaggerated and, according to the Wall Street Journal, they didn’t account the financial impact on business like UPS, Fedex and even the railroads that rely on open delivery routes. The New York Post highlighted some Philadelphia restauranteurs’ reactions. Celebrity Chef Marc Vetri criticized city leaders who “decided to roll out the red carpet for everyone making the pilgrimage, and roll us [local businesses] up in the carpet to place in storage until Monday.” Another restauranteur echoed that sentiment: “All the time our mayor was saying a million and a half people, and nothing. Wasted.” Prominent restauranteur Stephen Starr said the pope’s visit “affected business worse tha[n] Hurricane Sandy.”
Adult-mouth to infant-penis circumcisions
Earlier this month, New York City Board of Health last week recklessly decided to abandon the only restriction–inadequate though it was–on ritual Jewish circumcision. The board, fulfilling a so-called priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio, voted last week to repeal its requirement of informed consent for circumcisions during which the circumciser sucks blood from the newly cut penis with his mouth.
This ritual can expose infants to herpes simplex virus, which can lead to fatal encephalitis and other complications. In at least two instances, this practice has resulted in the newborn’s death. Two other infants have suffered brain damage. Others deal with a chronic, lifelong infection that causes painful lesions. To put the seriousness of this infection in perspective, the reported cases show that a newborn infected with HSV by a mohel is 7 times more likely to die than a climber attempting to summit Everest or a U.S. soldier fighting in WWI.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation in February 2014 wrote the board, calling the informed consent requirement inadequate, asking the NYC Board of Health instead to prohibit this child abuse. We asked the board to place the health, safety, and lives of defenseless infants above adult imposition of religion.
The free exercise of religion protected by our Constitution does not include the right to endanger the health and life of helpless infants. The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament occasionally required parents to sacrifice their children in the name of their god, but obviously our secular law does not allow such sacrifice, anymore than our laws allow parents to practice Old Testament customs such as selling daughters into slavery.
No person’s religious rights would be hindered by prohibiting this criminal act. Adults can consent to undergo this ritual circumcision, but adults should not have a right to expose their children to disease and death in the name of religion. Religion is not an excuse for an adult to sexually touch a minor, let alone an infant. Religion is not an excuse to infect an infant with a possibly fatal and definitely incurable disease.
Society must protect its most vulnerable citizens. Current New York laws ban remarkably similar behavior: knowingly transmitting an infectious venereal disease, endangering the welfare of the child, and reckless endangerment. The exceptions carved out for religion could be amended or these laws could actually be enforced.
Turning neighborhood streets into slaughterhouses, the ritual sacrifice of 50,000+ chickens
I’ve already written about this ritual slaughter and its similarities to Christianity. Hasidic Jews grab a chicken by the wings and swing it around their heads three times to transfer their sins to the bird. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, while swinging the birds, the soon-to-be-redeemed supplicants chant, “This be my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement. This cock [or hen] shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace!” If you know religion, you should know what comes next. The bird is ritually slaughtered. The slaughterer is vicariously redeemed—cleansed of all sins.
Vicarious redemption is a morally bankrupt solution to our personal guilt. Christianity is vicarious redemption writ large.
NYC allows this “carnival like atmosphere of bloody violence” to occur every year and does not enforce any health, agricultural, traffic, or animal cruelty rules against the practice. As the video in the previous post shows, most of the slaughtered chickens, if they are indeed killed all the way, are thrown out.
That’s not all that’s wrong with NYC. City schools are closing for Muslim holy days, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The latter celebrates a father’s willingness to murder his own son. Why would a father murder his son? God said so. The state is also pursuing a neo-voucher scheme that would support religious schools.
All in all, something is rotten in New York City. If you’d like to contact Mayor de Blasio and politely register your disapproval of these acts and urge him to uphold state-church separation, you can do so here:
Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York, NY 10007
If you’d like to politely contact the NYC board of health and ask them to protect infants who can’t protect themselves from religious predators and ignorant parents, you can do so here:
Dr. Mary Bassett
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
125 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013
[Thanks for FFRF member Dennis Middlebrooks for pointing out a few of these violations.]
 Admittedly, exact numbers on this practice are difficult to come by, but of the 14 past cases involving HSV infection, 2 infants have died. That is a 1 in 7 chance or 14% of death. Climbing Mount Everest of fighting for the United States during World War I carried less than 2% risk of death. See Graeme Wood, “Death at the Summit” Pacific Standard: The Science of Society, (Nov. 4, 2013) available at http://www.psmag.com/navigation/business-economics/death-summit-67326/.
 Exodus 13:2, though God allows for a sheep and ass to substitute for the first born child. See also Jephthah sacrifices his daughter on God’s command (Judges 11:29-40); Abraham tries to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18); and even in the New Testament, the Jewish God sacrifices his alleged son, Jesus.
FFRF is a national nonprofit dedicated to keeping state and church separate and educating about nontheism. For more information and a copy of our paper, Freethought Today, please click here.