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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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German Court Criminalizes Religious Circumcision

Religious Circumcision

Religious circumcision appears to be safe in Denmark following a government report declaring it is not dangerous
Photo Credit: Serge Attal/Flash90

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A Cologne district court ruled on Tuesday that parents may not have their sons circumcised for religious reasons. The ruling has angered Muslims and Jews.

Non-medical circumcision is a “serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” the court declared, essentially criminalizing religious circumcisions performed by Jews and Muslims, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper reported.

The court now considers circumcision a crime of bodily harm.

The court decided that a legal guardian’s authority over a child does not allow them to subject the child to the procedure.

Also, the court rejected the notion that religious freedom, which is protected by law in Germany, should permit a guardian to make such decisions for the children in their care.

German doctors performing circumcisions that are not medically necessary could claim, until this ruling, that they were unaware that performing a circumcision is a crime, writes the Financial Times Deutschland. This is no longer the case, said.

Before the Cologne district court was a case against a Muslim doctor, who performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy at his parents’ request. Two days later the child started to bleed and was taken to hospital.

German authorities launched a criminal investigation against the doctor. The original court trial ruled in favor of the doctor, but the local prosecutor appealed to the Cologne district court.

Tuesday’s decision sets a precedent, which may affect medical and religious practice across Germany.

Because of the involvement of religious rights in the case, experts have suggested the case will be further appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court.

Holm Putzke of the University of Passau, who has been advocating for years against circumcisions, told the Financial Times Deutschland that “the court has, in contrast to many politicians, not allowed itself to be scared by the fear of being criticized as anti-Semitic or opposed to religion.”

He added: “This decision could not only affect future legal rulings but in the best case it could lead to a change of consciousness among the affected religions when it comes to respecting the basic rights of children.”

The possibility of a legal ban on circumcisions is causing outrage among Jewish and Muslim organizations in Germany.

“The Court’s decision is unacceptable and gravely violates religious freedom,” says Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, vice president of the Rabbinical Center of Europe. “The decision is contrary to human rights charter of the European Union, to which the German legal system is committed, and undermines the basic right to worship in the German Constitution.”

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226 Responses to “German Court Criminalizes Religious Circumcision”

  1. Sam Gordon says:

    As Jews we will always circumcise our children even if the Germans don't approve. And so many will have to be incarcerated that once again you'll have to set up Koncentration Lagers to put us all in.

  2. How long have the Jews been doing this? Long enough to know how….and it’s prescribed by G-d for a reason as were all of His laws. Anyone with clue about the law would understand that.

  3. What about Freedom of Religion?

  4. Step 1 toward genital equality. Change happens through legislation. God likes human rights. Thank you Germany.

  5. Dee Resnick Forlano says:

    If you don't do all of the other 613 mitzvah, you have no right to do this one in particular – the one that harms another person – why is this the one that even non observant Jews cling to? Maybe because it's no skin off their genitals?

  6. John Wallach says:

    Catholics brand the minds of the young, Jews brand the mind and the body. Simply being human isn't good enough for either camp. Fanatical, belligerent loyalty one's tribe or political party will eventually destroy this planet.

  7. John Wallach says:

    Catholics brand the minds of the young, Jews brand the mind and the body. Simply being human isn't good enough for either camp. Fanatical, belligerent loyalty to one's tribe or political party will eventually destroy this planet.

  8. Dee Resnick Forlano says:

    Thank you for allowing children to have the freedom of religion and not be scarred by their parents belief system. Religious freedom ends where another person's human rights begin. If this is allowed to continue under religious freedom than female genital mutilation and honor killings should also be legal.

  9. Jewish? If you are Jewish, know that you religion is transmitted by birth. Every child born to a Jewish mother is considered Jewish There is no need to circumcise for your son to be Jewish! Consider a peaceful bris shalom ceremony instead of a bloody bris milah. Please see these resources for more on the topic: http://www.jewishcircumcision.org/;.

  10. Actually, if you are Catholic, you MUST NOT circumcise!
    To find out more about what the Bible really says about circumcision for Christians, please check this out: http://www.udonet.com/circumcision/christian.html. If you are Catholic, the Catholic Church is notoriously AGAINST GENITAL MUTILATION of any kind. The new (1994) Catechism of the Catholic Church at paragraph 2297 states in part:"Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."

  11. Yori Yanover says:

    Are you saying there isn't a religious Jewish obligation to circumcise? How long have you been on our planet? Are you carbon based?

  12. Yori Yanover says:

    As described so clearly in Lord of the Flies. Children don't get religious freedom, they only do when they grow up. And until they do it is the parents' and the community's duty to imbue them with as much moral uprightness and religious competence as is humanly possible. It's called civilized society and we've been doing it this way to various degrees of success for a really long time.

  13. Yori Yanover says:

    You can be whatever you wish. But why must a German court tell me how to follow MY faith? It was an activist decision that does not belong in a court. If a legislator, representing the public will, wants to outlaw a religious act, they do it through a complex process which the public is able to influence. When a judge decrees it, it's tyrany, pure and simple.

  14. Did anyone thought that Germans like Jews?

  15. Dee Resnick Forlano says:

    I don't really care about Lord f the Flies – I care about children's rights to decide for themselves whether they wish to be mutilated in the name of some deity that they or or may not believe in as an adult. They can always choose to make the sacrifice fr their religion as an adult.

  16. Not one national medical organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision. NOT ONE. There is no REASON to cut healthy, living tissue off a newborn. The foreskin has a function, which is why GOD or NATURE (whichever you believe) put it there.

    God does not make mistakes. And evolution does not make mistakes either (for every single male to be BORN with a foreskin, there is a reason. He was "BORN THIS WAY"!)

  17. You can get circumcised when you are 18 and DECIDE to do it, instead of having it imposed on you. By then, it will have a much greater value if CHOSEN by the young man, than forced upon him.

    Judaism is transmitted by birth; your son will STILL be Jewish, even if he is not circumcised! Because circumcision irrevocably alters the penis and its functions, the penis owner should choose if he wants it done of not.

  18. Yori Yanover You can get circumcised when you are 18 and DECIDE to do it, instead of having it imposed on you. By then, it will have a much greater value if CHOSEN by the young man, than forced upon him.

    Judaism is transmitted by birth; your son will STILL be Jewish, even if he is not circumcised! Because circumcision irrevocably alters the penis and its functions, the penis owner should choose if he wants it done of not.

  19. It is the parents' duty to "brainwash"

  20. Yori Yanover My point is that Judaism is transmitted by BIRTH, via themother. You are STILL Jewish, even if you are not circumcised!

    When the young man becomes 18, he can CHOOSE to get circumcised, if he so wishes. At that point, he will be able to have full anesthesia. It will be his decision, his choice, and will have that much more weight, because he will have consciously DECIDED to be circumcised. It is something that forever, irrevocably, alters the penis and its functions. The penis owner should decide!

  21. Joseph Lewis says:

    So then, Yori, you agree that parents should be free to circumcise their daughters in accordance with their beliefs? Or is this "different?"

  22. Joseph Lewis says:

    What do you think of the German court condemning female circumcision in the name of Islam? Or is that "different?"

    Special pleading; this circumcision, and the circumcision of others has ended in tragedy, either botched circumcision for the child, or his death.

    I think it's good that courts are finally willing to call a spade a spade and not walk around eggshells because it might piss off some religious community.

  23. Jason Maas says:

    Yori Yanover are you a carbon based life form? Do you have any compassion or feeling at all for the pain and suffering of children? Jewish law is specifically written to minimise suffering, even of animals. Our children deserve at least as much regard. We have changed and adapted Judaism constantly throughout the thousands of years of our faith. we no longer sacrifice animals and perform burn offerings. We no longer treat women as chattel (well, *most* of us don't). We can change enough to alllow grown Jewish men to decide whether or not to have our foreskins cut off in the name of "god."

  24. Jason Maas says:

    Yori, so you are in favour of female circumcision? Look at some of these photos of religious madness, some of them involving children. I think you misread Lord of the Flies. It's NOT about keeping children on a short leash because they don't know any better. The children are a metaphor for US, ALL of us. That book is about the insanity that ALL tribes perpetrate on the weak and vulnerable. Only when our vicious, tribal abuses are stopped does civility prevail:

  25. Bella Kat says:

    Jews need to come out and march against this. No surprise it is happening in Germany!

  26. Dee Resnick Forlano says:

    If you've ever worn mixed fabrics, ever read your horoscope, trimmed your sideburns, shaved your beard, stayed in your own home during Sukkot, waited until payday to pay someone or waited for a bill to come in the mail for services rendered, lent someone money without charging interest, are against the death penalty, were ever rebellious to your parents, – don't chop up your son's penis – it's pretty simple math

  27. Joel Keller says:

    False comparison. And false by a mile (or kilometer).

  28. Judaism as you know is transmitted by birth. As long as the mother is Jewish, her offspring is considered Jewish. No need to alter them in any way, boys or girls!

    Circumcision is extremely painful, unnecessary, cosmetic surgery, which can have dire consequences. In extreme cases, the baby can DIE. In others, suffer complications like this infant:

    "Nothing in life is 100% safe, but circumcision is 100% avoidable."

    If you are interested in learning whether foreskin has any purpose from a medical perspective, you may watch that video here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1482347046642439341.
    Mercifully, circumcision is slowly but surely becoming unfashionable across North America.

  29. Yori Yanover That is strange. Why is it that my comments seem to be disappearing? That is twice now! I wrote that as we all know, Judaism is transmitted by birth. As long as your mother is Jewish, YOU are Jewish. There is no need to force circumcision upon a hapless infant, who may renounce his Jewish identity down the line anyway!

    Much better to wait until the young man is 18, can get proper pain relief, and CHOOSES to get circumcised, rather than being forcibly subjected to mutilation against his wishes. Ten out of ten babies OPPOSE CIRCUMCISION!

  30. Lynn Reed says:

    First of all Yori, our religious freedoms are not being taken away..you are free to do whatever you wish to YOUR body, but to alter a baby boy for life is where his HUMAN RIGHTS trump your religious RITES. Radical circumcision, which is performed today. Jews of antiquity knew the difference and the word mohel means…rather a clipping like you would a finger nail…removal has a different Hebrew root word.
    I am very pleased to see this “This decision could not only affect future legal rulings but in the best case it could lead to a change of consciousness among the affected religions when it comes to respecting the basic rights of children.” There is hope that the barbaric practice will stop and all chiildren, male & female, will be protected from this form of religious abuse.
    I also understand that most Jewish parents cannot sort out that this is harmful, since this Minchag has been established many years ago, but we have to evolve and see this as what it is & every mother knows as painful and completely unnecessary.

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