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Germany pledges 'right to circumcise'

The Local · 14 Jul 2012, 09:36

Published: 14 Jul 2012 09:36 GMT+02:00

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Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters it was "concerned" about the judgement published by a Cologne regional court last month calling the religious rite of circumcision a criminal act.

"It is absolutely clear to the federal government that we want Jewish, we want Muslim religious life in Germany. Circumcisions carried out in a responsible way must not be subject to prosecution in this country," he said.

He said that aides from Merkel's office would now discuss with the relevant government ministries ways to put the "ancient rite" on firm legal footing.

"It is clear this cannot be put on the back burner. Freedom to practise religion is a cherished legal principle," he said.

A spokeswoman for the justice ministry said that there were three options for new draft laws to protect circumcisions on religious grounds that were under "intensive" review.

The leader of Merkel's conservative parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, called for a cross-party resolution to this effect to be passed in the Bundestag during a session next Thursday, in an interview to be published Saturday in the daily Die Welt.

The Cologne ruling said religious circumcision of male infants was tantamount to grievous bodily harm, a criminal act subject to prosecution.

It concerned a case brought against a doctor who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy in line with his parents' wishes.

When, a few days after the operation, the boy suffered heavy bleeding, prosecutors charged the doctor.

The court later acquitted the doctor himself of causing harm but judged that "the right of a child to keep his physical integrity trumps the rights of parents" to observe their religion, potentially setting a legal precedent.

German diplomats admit that the ruling has proved "disastrous" to the country's image abroad, particularly in light of its Nazi past, following uproar from officials in Israel as well as Muslim countries.

European Muslim and Jewish groups banded together this week to criticise the ruling and called on German MPs to pass legislation protecting the practice.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, who organised an "emergency" meeting in Berlin of around 40 Orthodox Jewish clerics Thursday on the judgement, called it "perhaps one of the gravest attacks on Jewish life in the post-Holocaust world."

Goldschmidt, also head of the rabbinical court of the former Soviet states, said if other judges went along with the Cologne ruling "it would mean that a large part of the (Jewish) community does not have a future in Germany."

Opposition leaders said Friday they would back a new law, with the head of the Social Democrats Sigmar Gabriel calling for "legal clarity" on the matter and Renate Künast of the Greens welcoming the fact that a "storm of outrage" had "finally led the government to see reason".

Story continues below…

Legal experts, however, note that drafting legislation could prove tricky in balancing religious freedom on the one hand against "physical integrity" on the other.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger noted this week that even with a new law, a federal court would likely have the last word on the issue.

The Cologne judges' ruling is final and cannot be appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court.

But although it only applied to the case at hand, as long as no other judgement contradicts it and no new law is passed, attorneys say that doctors and parents run the risk of prosecution under the status quo.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:28 July 14, 2012 by Repatriated
Never underestimate the Jewish influence in Germany
11:10 July 14, 2012 by realist1961
'' European Muslim and Jewish groups banded together this week... ''

May I suggest to Merkel to call a summit on this, inviting both Jews and Muslims to present their ideas. They could form into inter-religious small groups brainstorming ideas and potential wordings for the new law. In a larger group, Jews could present the Muslim ideas and Muslims the Jewish ideas. Merkel could orchestrate the discussion and eventually put forward a law with their combined ideas. Afterwards, she could host a two day party, for both Jews and Muslims, celebrating their hard fought victory. There could be song and food from every culture. It would be a win-win-win situation and, as someone else commented in an earlier article, a potential Nobel Peace Prize for Germany.
12:07 July 14, 2012 by Raydoggy
OK, let me see if I get this right, it seems that religious beliefs trump secular law, so this creates a precedent where if sometime in the future Scientology decides that all female babies should have their labia cut off, the government will have to buckle, or they will be seen as discriminating against a particular religion in favor of another. It's like Jehovah's Witnesses not accepting blood transfusions that could save a life, where does this madness end when we keep creating precedents allowing misinformed so called religious dogma to over ride the law of the land. Maybe we are heading for another period similar to the Spanish Inquisition, wouldn't that be grand. Religious rules should be granted approval, only if they don't harm the body or life of anyone. This is total stupidity.
13:01 July 14, 2012 by Alanm
If a circumcision of boys is a "religious right", so some people can claim that the circumsision of girls also a "religious right" which is practiced widely in many Islamic countries, or stoning women to death for adultry also a "religious right" which is practiced under the Shariia law in Iran, Afganistan, and many other Islamic ruled coutries! The problem comes from the religion that is not respecting LIFE, we have to put an end of these Barbaric practices. We have to respect the human body, before we respect his ideas and relegions! Human body first, not human thoughts and ideas!
13:08 July 14, 2012 by Simon_Kellett
Without religious backing would it not count as child abuse?
13:09 July 14, 2012 by ITAMAR

If I am not mistaken in Germany there are about 125,ooo Jews.

I do not think they have so much influence ,they are small minority among 60 millions Germans.

I have nothing to say to the Germans their court made its decision by that law.

I just want to say to the Jews -there is a Jewish state were you can live your Jewish life if you wish it.

We will wellcome you as brothers.

14:48 July 14, 2012 by Omufu
Comparing male circumcision to female circumcision is disingenuous. Really, it's not even close to the same thing. If they were cutting off penises then it would be similar enough to compare.

Also, remember that circumcision for Jews isn't just religious, it's also deeply cultural (not to mention literally many thousands of years old). There are many Jews who don't live in Israel, don't believe in God, and still proudly practice Jewish cultural traditions. Just as a very large number of Christians are baptised and even confirmed more as a cultural norm than based on actual belief.

And I'm still confused about freaking out over circumcision but allowing abortion. Totally weird.
15:31 July 14, 2012 by xapplex
Great photo! So much for the "international outcry". Even among Jews, support for the practice is by no means unanimous:

15:41 July 14, 2012 by antistar
Why the confusion, Omufu? In Germany you aren't allowed to have an abortion in the last two trimesters without good medical reason. So it follows that after the child is born you are not allowed to harm it without good medical reason also. That's completely logical.

To argue that you can't harm a child before it is born AT ALL, no matter what the reason, but after it is born to harm it in the name of religion is absolutely fine, now THAT is "totally weird".

Seems like the argument is that an unborn child is sacred, but a real child is the property of the parents to do what they want with as long as it is part of (my) religion (screw those of other religions).
15:55 July 14, 2012 by freagan
More hack reporting by The Local. If it aint Nazis, its Jooz. Or some other hotbutton issue to get you the big clickz. You guys really are the Daily Fail of continental journalism.

17:48 July 14, 2012 by ITAMAR

yes there is in Israel a small group of Jews who oppose circumcision , they appeal against it in to the Suprime Court in Jerusalem in 1998,with the complain that the circumcision offend the basic law of "honour of the human being and his freedom"

the appeal was rejected .
03:33 July 15, 2012 by cheeba
The traditional Jewish religious ceremony provides for the Mohel to put his mouth on the baby's penis ans suck out blood. This is how it was done for thousands of years, the practice of having circumcisions performed in hospitals is quite recent. The traditional ceremony is still widely practiced in Orthodox Jewish circles. we are now learning that babies have contracted diseases, including herpes from the Mohels. if you google search the two words mohel and herpes together, you will fling many articles, including in the most reputable media, such as the New York Times about this issue. herpes and circumcision have both been around for thousands of years, one can only guess how many babies died this way over the centuries.
08:46 July 15, 2012 by Hicham1st
@Alanm Number 4: I see that you are only talking nonsense, it's much better for you to keep quite than overgeneralizing, don't put all countries in one pot. You seem to me that you don't know about the real Islam, but you rather digest only what get from the media. Islam is one thing and Iran is one another, culture and social traditions are another big thing. And yeah you are right, we have to respect the human body, and so if circumcision is a crime then so is tattooing and the piercing of the ear, nose, vagina or penis or whatsoever, other examples are plentiful.
09:24 July 15, 2012 by puisoh
It appears to me (I could be wrong of course) that the outcry comes mostly from the Jewish community whereas the Muslims are quite quiet about it, can it be that the Muslims just ignore the law and conitnue with their practices?
11:04 July 15, 2012 by cheeba
@Hsham. #13, I agree that tattooing or piercing genitals of children should be illegal as well, but let the people be free to make the choice themselves if they want to participate Incultural traditions. the Jews circumcise babies, the Muslims do it later when the boy is around 6 or 7, is it asking too much of these groups that they adjust the timing, say to 16 years old, so the boy can give his own concent? That is when you are old enough to make the decision to dring beer or wine in Germany. Certainly a decision to have your body altered for a lifetime is more significant than whether to stop in a pub and order a beer. no one seems to suggest criminalizing it outright, it's more a question of consent.
04:37 July 16, 2012 by pjnt
Stunning. The German courts take a bold step forward and to save votes the government tries to legalize the now illegal.

There are still religous "ancient rite" that put woman in pits and have men throw rocks at them. Or just kill them for the smallest infraction. There are religons that don't allow for woman to vote. Should all these become the norm too? No, of course not, that would be absurd.
08:52 July 16, 2012 by cheeba
So some of the same politicians who have passed laws making it a crime for a pious school teacher to wear a scarf on her head in the class room are now preparing a law to make it legal again to sharpen your knives and go after baby boys. I'm not sure what this says about consistency or proportionality, so I must suppose it is really be about cynical pandering for votes.
09:59 July 16, 2012 by BobbyBaxter
Fundamentally, anyone who agrees with this judgement agrees that a child can have its genatalia mutilated - there is no other description, however you try and put it. As many of the early comments have said, this sets a very dangerous precedent. Personally I think religion is for the weak minded and by the looks of it the courts have taken the EASY option of keeping the Jewish and Isalm lobbyists happy.
17:34 July 16, 2012 by ITAMAR
The tentative to stop circumcision from millions of Jews and Moslem ,coming from people who do not believe in these religions will fail, you can not force millions of moslems and jews all over the world to stop their practice,maybe will it be better that those who oppose that act will meet with the religious leaders of that religion to hear what they have to say to their accusation.

At least in 4000 years of exsistence of the Jewish people laws did not stop them to believe and to practice their tradition,even if you stop it in Germany you will not stop it in other countries
15:22 September 8, 2012 by LeslieAnne
Over here in America we stand with you, Germany, for protecting individual rights to bodily integrity and making a stand against brutal mutilation.

I find it maddening that this law is perceived as Nazis punishing Jews all over again. It's not about ww2. It's about the dangers of circumcision, bodily integrity, the right to make a choice!! Why are human rights second to religion? There is and will never be a sufficient reason to put religious freedom above the right to make your choice. Religious freedom is a choice -- so babies should not be forced into something that is not their choice!!!!
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