German Government Promises to Protect Circumcision

The German government pledges quick action to protect the right of Jews and Muslims to circumcise baby boys.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel

The German government on Friday pledged quick action to protect the right of Jews and Muslims to circumcise baby boys on religious grounds, AFP reported.  

A controversial ruling by a court in Cologne has sparked international outcry. The court ruled that non-medical circumcision, practiced by most Jews and Muslims, causes bodily harm and therefore is a crime.

The practice is a “serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” the court decided.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Friday she was “concerned” about the court’s ruling.

“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, according to AFP.  

“It is urgently necessary that we establish legal certainty,” added Seibert.

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 practice religion is a cherished legal principle,” he said.  

The remarks echoed those of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who emphasized two weeks ago that the country protected religious freedom and traditions. 

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

The report noted that 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.

The court ruling 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.  

Muslims and Jews banded together this week to ask the German parliament to overrule the court ban on circumcision. There are approximately four million Muslims and 150,000 Jews living in Germany.

"Circumcision flies in the face of persecution of Jews, such as the Holocaust – which is why it makes it even more shocking that it is a German court inflicting the ban,” Rabbinical Center of Europe Rabbi Yitzhak Shochet said at the meeting. 

Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, who organized an emergency meeting in Berlin of around 40 rabbis Thursday on the judgment, called it “perhaps one of the gravest attacks on Jewish life in the post-Holocaust world,” according to AFP.

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.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)