German lawmakers show support for religious circumcision

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German lawmakers passed a resolution supporting the practice of religious circumcision Thursday, vowing to protect it after a regional court deemed it a crime, upsetting Jewish and Muslim groups.

The resolution urges Chancellor Angela Merkel to usher in a new law ensuring that Germans are not punished for circumcising their children, provided the procedure is carried out under medical expertise and without unnecessary pain. Merkel had earlier lamented that the court ruling would make Germany a laughing stock for obstructing a Jewish religious ritual.


The court case that sparked the debate this year centered on a Muslim boy who suffered complications after circumcision. Though his doctor was cleared, the Cologne court ruled that circumcising a child without his consent was a grievous form of bodily harm, even if parents agreed to the procedure.

Jewish and Muslim groups argued that the ruling was an assault on their religious freedom. Under Jewish tradition, boys are to be circumcised eight days after birth, making it problematic to wait until a child can give consent, as the court ruling said.

The German Medical Assn., which recommended that doctors stop performing religious circumcisions until the law was clarified, said the decision was actually dangerous for children, because parents might turn instead to amateurs who could perform the procedure under unhygienic conditions.

But the court decision was applauded by circumcision opponents, such as the Secular Medical Forum based in Britain, which wrote to Merkel urging her not to undercut the ruling, saying it “correctly places the welfare of vulnerable children above the unrestrained expression of adult beliefs.”

The Thursday resolution calls for a new law to be drafted by fall.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Members of the German parliament vote on a resolution on religious circumcision during a special session Thursday in Berlin. Credit: Maurizio Gambarin / European Pressphoto Agency