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German Court Outlaws Bris Milah

The district court of Cologne, Germany 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.”

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 STDs, though a general consensus about this has been at best mixed.

20 Comments

  • 2. moti wrote:

    This was one of the first laws passed in Nurenberg… I am surprised Germany can do this. Whilst I understand it doesn’t mean they are about to start another Shoah r”l it does suggest they are not aware of historical context

  • 3. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

    Haven’t alot of European countries outlawed shechita too, including importing kosher meat?

  • 4. Avrohom wrote:

    A Bris is terrible child abuse and it should be outlawed in the US too.

  • 5. Just me-- wrote:

    But did anyone notice the unfortunate name of the “professor” in this story?

  • 7. yehuda wrote:

    obviously dont agree with the ruling but i can see how a non-jewish court will put out such a ruling since all the facts are true

  • 9. Murderers and Sons of Murderers wrote:

    The Germans are the most immoral people in history, and here they go again.

  • 10. anon wrote:

    How appropo that the professor’s name reflects his position… shtick —ke fleish!”

  • 11. Issac wrote:

    Does this law also apply to Muslims who circumcise their boys at age 13

  • 12. Milhouse wrote:

    #1, No, there is no country in Europe that bans the importation of kosher meat. And only a handful that ban local shechita.

    #10, moti, that is not true. Check the Nuremberg laws; there is nothing about circumcision.

  • 13. m schonfeld wrote:

    האשם להסיר את השם לנצח

  • 15. Thinkster wrote:

    Yavol Herr Commandant!
    Next they’ll say Jews can’t go to universities and aren’t allowed in cinemas.
    Bunch of Putzkers.

  • 17. GOOD OLE GERMANY wrote:

    WHAT A SAD JOKE! THESE MURDERERS OF MILLIONS IN THE MOST CRUEL AND HINEOUS WAYS HAVE AN ISSUE WITH BRIS MILAH?!!!! IT JUST PROVES THAT THEIR DESPICABLE HATRED IS VERY MUCH STILL ALIVE AND HEALTHY!!!!!!!! FOR ANYONE TO TRY TO EXCUSE THEM BY SAYING THIS IS A NEW GENERATION WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE (OR THE HATRED)…

  • 18. Anon wrote:

    The ruling isn’t based on hatred. You cannot compare the murder of millions of people to a ban on removing part of a newborn’s flesh. I have no problem with the Bris but technically, yes, it is genital mutilation.

    How was my previous comment removed but yet people are allowed to say putz? Ch.info has some bizarre rules. Medical and technical terminology is forbidden but coarse language is okay?

    A simple google search will show cases where babies have become sick and died because the mohel had herpes. Frankly, oral suction is not okay. That really should be stopped. There are other ways, that does not need to be one of them.

  • 19. Moshiach Now! This is great. wrote:

    BS’’D
    Nazis, they are still nazis and they’ll never change,
    never trust anyone but yidden.

    blech.
    FEH.

    Moshiach NOW!

  • 20. Milhouse wrote:

    #18, milah has always carried a certain amount of danger, and we are commanded by Hashem to do it anyway. Babies have always occasionally died from milah; nowadays the risk is LESS THAN EVER, even WITH the added risk of herpes from metzitzah. We have no right to seek perfect safety; we do what Hashem wants from us, and trust to Him to protect us. If we are harmed, we accept that too. Metzitzah is part of the mitzvah of milah, and it’s wrong to change it except in a specific case where there’s a reason why the risk is significantly higher than usual.

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