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June 26, 2012 2:38 pm

German Court Outlaws Ritual Circumcision

avatar by Ezriel Gelbfish

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Minor protest in front of Washington Convention Center in connection with the American Association of Pediatricians annual meeting. Photo: dbking.

The district court of Cologne ruled this week that religious circumcision of a child is harmful and that a parent’s jurisdiction over his child does not extend to the practice of circumcision.

Recent years have seen the legality of circumcision called into question, with lobbying wars ensuing between the practice’s proponents and detractors. Jews and Muslims, who consider circumcision an integral part of religion, have fought the increasing onslaught of anti-circumcision activists, who call the religious practice genital mutilation and immoral.

The Cologne ruling, which outlaws circumcision practiced for religious reasons, is a notable beachhead for the anti-circumcision camp. The ruling was sparked by a Muslim doctor’s botched circumcision of a four-year-old boy, who was brought to the emergency room days later, leading the authorities to press charges on the legality of the procedure. The doctor who performed the circumcision was subsequently acquitted because he had acted with the parents’ consent.

After a lower court rejected the suit, Cologne’s district court took up the case, eventually ruling that “The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision” which “contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.” According to the ruling, the rights of a parents to provide for children, and the rights of religious freedom, do not sufficiently justify circumcision, which the court characterized as “minor bodily harm.”

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University of Passau’s Holm Putzke, who has opposed circumcision for years, told the Financial Times of Deutschland that the ruling is “enormously important above all for doctors, because it’s the first time that they have legal certainty.” Putzke was referring to the fact that until now, nebulous legislation and numerous legal loopholes have allowed doctors to circumcise children and later claim ignorance of the procedure’s questionable legality.

For their part, Jewish leaders have been outraged, harshly criticizing the landmark ruling and calling it a violation of religious freedom.

Circumcision’s potentially thorny ethics have not dissuaded a large percentage of parents worldwide from circumcising their children immediately after birth. Estimates of the worldwide percentage of males that are circumcised vary, with a World Health Organization survey pegging the number as high as 30%. Though the majority of those are religiously motivated Muslims, a significant minority circumcises for the procedure’s potential health benefits. Strong evidence cited in the World Journal of Urology and other publications has suggested that circumcision in certain cases reduces the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, though a general consensus about this has been at best mixed.

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  • Osiris

    Actually now I feel dumb for writing that because I thought Muslims were told to get it done when they become men so they understand their pact with Allah, but apparently, Muslim babies are getting it too. So maybe don’t accept that other comment from me because it’s a lie.

  • Osiris

    notice this has nothing to do with Muslims who are encouraged to circumcise when they are older and able to make an informed decision.

  • Osiris

    this is great. Circumcision is barbaric old ritual part of the old covenant and Jews need to wake up and realize the new covenant that has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ and stop bashing Christians for their beliefs. I bet the courts were Christian and doing the right thing.

  • Jesse

    Is it 1933 again?

  • Braham Finestone

    Being Jewish, I have often wondered in my mid-life crisis of 1990s, why am I so different to other Gay Men – in the UK it was never really a big issue but after spending time in New York and Miami and meeting many American Jewish gay men and not gay men, one realised that most men welcomed the fact the I was ritually circumcised.. Far be it for me to pontificate but I wanted my piece back in the UK because everyone told me how odd it was to be forced but after being in New York and talking to many catholic gay men, they too had been ‘Malled’ and said it was much cleaner and healthier. In fact 60% of gay men in USA are and at least half of those used either a Rabbi or a registered Mohel.
    As for Cologne they can take their anti-semitic ideas with them back to the bunker wonder the world hates the Germans.. If they think Jews or Muslims are going to be insulted by this, just remind ourselves of the words of the ‘Fuerer’, Perfectes deutsche mit alles…blond, blue eyes and a foreskin…
    What hypocrites….

  • Leah

    Nothing new under the sun. Same old anti-Semitic protocols from Germany. Just mutilating our bodies in the camps was okay, but not allowing our covenant.

  • salvage

    Good. What a stupid thing to do to a child and for the stupidest of reasons.

    • Anonymous

      You’re a dope!! Loser!!

    • mendel

      Rashi (b. 1040- d. 1105):
      This is the statute of the Torah (numbers 19:1): Because Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel, saying, ” What is this commandment, and what purpose does it have?” Therefore, the Torah uses the term “statute.” I have decreed it; You have no right to challenge it. — [Yoma 67b]

  • Mel

    The USA is about the only western country where circumcision has not almost entirely disappeared after being near universal in the 1950s. Its long past time for people to put the child’s rights ahead of the parents, rabbis , imans etc.

  • Esther Sarah Evans

    b”H
    Millions of amorous Jews – and not just Orhodox Jews either – are alive and well and showing no signs of mutilation from their ritual circumcision. Before them many were also alive and functioning very well – to the consternation of those of less prowess in marriage; many fell victims to pogroms, the Shoah. On the contrary, you see, that little cut gives them the upper edge; so they are envied – sometimes without those envying knowing exactly why. The same applies to Moslems, who practise the rite.
    Germany has always been and probably will always be the prime enemy of anyone doing anything a little different, especially if that difference is something they do not want to emulate.
    If this type of incident – the botched circumcision described – were to happen in a large population of Jews and Moslems, the victim of any botched work like that would be delivered immediately into the hands of a Jewish or Moslem doctor at what would probably be a primarily Jewish hospital, and the one who botched would suffer no discrimination; he might get a growl about his sloppy work, and the parents of the child would choose someone else for their next in line. No muss, no fuss, and contrary to all the Lashon hara about our relations, you can be sure that the Moslems would be living close to or together with us Jews as they do in every major centre in the diaspora. It’s not just because of the food. Where we are, so are they.
    The Schande is that neither of us – Jews or Moslems – have really learned from the Shoah. Guys, with a country like Israel for Jews and those Moslems who choose to be with us – and for Moslems also other countries in the Near- and Middle East where they can feel more at home, please why choose to live davka in the heart of intolerance, where millions of other and sometimes assimilated persuasion were sent to their deaths. If you really believe things have changed there, just try them out when their police are not on your side. No, this is a terrible insult to all those who were murdered. In Berlin of today – and Berlin was always a little more liberal, yes – even thousands of Israelis believe they have Parnassa, if they happen to be of the more artistic type. Yes, there is more of a market there – especially for decadent art. Surely Germany is one of the biggest porno-pots of the world, but with a little more class perhaps than elsewhere. Prostitution is legal,and the ladies are required to have regular check-ups. That’s what they call safe sex…Don’t blow up at me yet. Yes, there is also more of a market there for art of all kinds, but there is no necessity to live in that den of iniquity just to get some appreciation for “kosher style” bla, bla and food and get a little pat on the back for being an Israeli who has something to offer all mankind. You can live here – even on a Moshav – and still market there, if you so desire.
    Attention to detail, de-tail is important, but take care of that here – regardless of what kind is meant…
    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist this. May HaShem pardon me and understand that although this sounds a little risque, it allows me to say with some humour what is otherwise just too hard to take. Amongst them are a few normal souls, who wouldn’t give anybody trouble, but believe me they are few enough to stand out from them all.

    • A. Metzger

      Amongst your rambling, which makes little sense, are you postulating that normal, intact men are somehow inferior lovers and jealous of the followers of mythology who are circumcised? Jealous of having a partial penis removal, even if they’re not sure what they are jealous of? I assure you this atheist is not envious of your mutilated penis or your fervent belief that jews are better lovers. Religion is truly the hobgoblin of those whose mind is too small to think logically.

  • sarah

    So this means the hymen belonging to female minors will be equally protected in Germany, and that men who pierce the hymens of females will imprisoned? After all, the hymen is an integral part of the female body, so destroying that of a minor girl should be equally punishable. Oh, and ear-piercing for earrings will be abolished for minors also, right?

    • Genital piercing of children is already illegal.

      Don’t know about the hymen, but the clitoral prepuce is the closest analogue of the male prepuce/foreskin and it is protected, absolutely, throughout the developed world. In 2010, the AAP’s “Bioethetics” committee proposed to allow a token ritual nick to girls “much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting” but it was howled down within a month. Allowing MGC is a pure double standard.

  • A message to those of us who stayed in, or went back to, Germany. “Leave” You are not wanted and this is the first step in seeing our people disappear. To all of you chriwstian morons who don’t realize that Emmanuel was an Orthodox and circumsized Jew who believed that not one bit of the Old testament should be abandoned; F off. We are and will always be around. The only thing funny part iof this is that the leader of this movement is named Putzke.

  • kevobx

    Heritage is tribal, and culture is worldly like art. The state of Israel was never in bondage to Egypt, reading (Hebrews 8:9 equals Jeremiah 31:32). What ever happen to circumcision of the heart? The old covenant, reading *Acts 7:8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: (Genesis 9:15). *Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (Jeremiah 31:31). *Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

  • A. Metzger

    It is high time that all people cease mutilating their male children. How is it that female mutilation is viewed as criminal, but it is fine to remove a portion if a newborn male’s penis? The practice is simply barbaric at best, whether performed by a jew or muslim or sane person who doesn’t believe in fairy tales. Enough already with the damaging, unnecessary surgery!

  • A.Franklin

    Crafty move by Cologne to get rid of Jews & Moslems.

  • Lori Lowenthal Marcus

    I don’t know the judicial system in Germany, but I assume the Cologne district court is a lower court ruling. For how large a district does this have precedential value? Will the issue now be taken up in the legislature? Looking forward to a follow-up article.

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