Germany passes new law to protect circumcision

After a court ruling against circumcision, German parliament passes law providing legal protection for brit mila in the country.

Baby undergoes circumcision R 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Baby undergoes circumcision R 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The German parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of a law that will provide legal protection for religious circumcision in the country.
The vote passed with a large majority, with 434 parliamentarians of the 580-member Bundestag (Germany’s lower house) who were present for the vote voting in favor, 100 against, and 46 abstaining.
Back in June, a regional court in the city of Cologne ruled that circumcision was a form of bodily harm and subject to criminal penalties, creating uncertainty as to the future legality of the practice in Germany for Jewish and Muslim communities who conduct religious circumcision.
Following the court ruling, a private individual filed a criminal complaint in August against Rabbi David Goldberg, a mohel based in Hof Saale, Bavaria, for performing Jewish circumcision, brit mila, although Bavarian authorities had previously said that they would not enforce the Cologne decision in their state.
Another complaint was filed against Rabbi Yitshak Ehrenberg of Berlin in July for causing bodily harm while performing circumcisions.
Although both complaints were ultimately dismissed, Interior Minister Eli Yishai publicly called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene against any measures that might criminalize circumcision in the country.
The Cologne case involved complications surrounding the religious circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy.
The World Jewish Congress welcomed Wednesday’s vote but said that it was “saddening” that such an acrimonious debate had erupted “in Germany, of all countries.”
“The efforts to ban, outlaw, define, limit or otherwise curtail circumcision were an affront to freedom and morality, even though they were sometimes motivated by good intentions,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.
“Today, representatives of all major parties made it clear that the renaissance of Jewish life in Germany can and should continue,” continued Lauder, thanking the German government and calling for “the rights of Jews and other minorities” to be protected around Europe.
“The bitter debate that followed the Cologne court ruling on circumcision has irritated and unsettled many Jews around the world, and we hope that a clear legal basis has now been put in place that will prevent the criminalization of religious circumcision in the future.”
The German bill states that circumcision is to be conducted according to established medical standards, but adds that in the first six month after birth persons authorized by a religious community and with adequate training may perform the procedure.
According to the European Jewish Congress, there are 105,000 registered members of the Jewish community living in Germany and approximately the same amount of unaffiliated members.
The overwhelming majority are Jews, or their descendants, from the former Soviet Union.
It is the third-largest Jewish community in Europe after France and the UK.