A constitutional law expert contends religious freedom is no justification for upholding the genital mutilation of young girls.
Three people, including a doctor, face charges in Detroit federal court for performing the mutilations. All three are members of the Shia Muslim sect Dawoodi Bohra. Well-known liberal civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz will represent them, claiming constitutional protections for free exercise of religion.
But attorney Rob Muise of the American Freedom Law Center says not all religious practices are protected by the Constitution. In addition in 1995 Congress passed a law banning the practice.
"Under the First Amendment – under the Free Exercise Clause, in particular – the law that's being applied, in this case the federal criminal law that prohibits female genital mutilation, is a neutral law of general applicability," he explains, "meaning that it applies to all persons. It doesn't focus on any one particular religion. So then, you don't have a free-exercise claim to begin with."
Defense attorneys will also claim the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993, requires an overwhelming government interest in order to violate religious freedom.
"I certainly think that the criminal law will prevail," Muise tells OneNewsNow, "because the government has a compelling interest to prohibit this practice, which injures these young girls for life."
According to The Detroit News, the doctor is accused of mutilating the genitalia of two seven-year-old girls. The thinking behind the brutal practice is to help girls remain pure until marriage, and to give them no interest in straying once they are married.