(photo credit: REUTERS)
Chief Rabbi of Denmark Yair Melchior on Wednesday night clarified that legislation to ban brit mila (Jewish ritual circumcision) was not on the table, following media reports that the Danish Medical Association was pushing for legislation against the practice on anyone under the age of 18.
The chief rabbi released a statement emphasizing that while the Medical Association had issued a statement claiming that it was ethically wrong to circumcise a person without his consent as an adult, it also made clear that it would not pursue legislation on the matter.
The association said last week that circumcision should be “an informed, personal choice” that young men should make for themselves.
“It is most consistent with the individual’s right to self-determination that parents not be allowed to make this decision but that it is left up to the individual when he has come of age,” said Lise Moller, chairwoman of the doctors’ association’s ethics board, adding that male circumcision carries a risk of complications and should only be performed on children when there is a documented medical need.
However, the association also noted a ban could have serious implications, “both for the involved boys, who could for example face bullying or unauthorized procedures with complications, and for the cultural and religious groups they belong to.”
Melchior said that just as the Jewish community spoke out strongly against the statement, Gorm Greisen, chairman of Denmark’s Ethical Council, had also said on national television that there was no ethical issue involved in the matter or with parents making the decision for their child.
Denmark’s leading newspaper, Politiken, last week published the article which led to the controversy. Melchior explained to The Jerusalem Post that there is an ongoing intensive debate on the matter which likely led to the misinterpretation that a ban was in the works. “There are groups working for a ban, or at least for an age limit to be set,” he noted, but added that this is nothing new. He stressed that he believes the ethical statement issued to be wrong, and is fighting against it.
Melchior is a member of the Council of European Rabbis, which has spent the past 10 years fending off attacks against brit mila and shechita (kosher slaughter) in various European countries, in line with the council’s mission to maintain and defend the religious rights of Jews in Europe.