Support for Religious Traditions Politicians Welcome German Circumcision Motion

Germany's parliament approved a resolution on Thursday that called on Berlin to create legislation that would ensure that circumcision of boys remain legal in the country. The move is intended to quiet international outrage over a recent German court ruling that criminalizes the tradition.

Germany has been intensely criticized abroad over a court decision that criminalizes circumcision.

Germany has been intensely criticized abroad over a court decision that criminalizes circumcision.

Responding to intense international pressure from Jewish and Muslim groups alike, Germany on Thursday moved to send a signal that the country will continue to allow the tradition of circumcision for boys despite a court ruling that critics said could make Jewish life in Germany impossible.

In recent days, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany would become a laughing stock for the rest of the world if it allowed any ban on the circumcision of boys to stand. During a special session of parliament convened on Thursday to provide German approval for a European Union bailout of Spain's banks, the Bundestag also passed a resolution endorsing the right of Muslim and Jewish parents to have their sons circumcised.

The resolution is not legally binding, but it was passed to send a message to religious communities in Germany and abroad that a controversial June court ruling would not be allowed to stand.

Three weeks ago, a Cologne regional court ruled in a case involving a Muslim boy that the child's circumcision had been tantamount to bodily injury and was therefore a punishable crime. The decision drew immediate criticism from Muslim and Jewish groups in Germany. One prominent rabbi described the ruling as the worst attack on Jewish culture in Germany since the Holocaust and warned that Jewish life would no longer be possible in Germany if the ruling became a precedent.

Government Expected to Draft Law in Fall

In light of the country's World War II history, politicians in Berlin on Thursday sought to calm the growing storm. In the resolution, they demanded that the "government present a draft law in the autumn that guarantees that the circumcision of boys, carried out with medical expertise and without unnecessary pain, is permitted."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) welcomed the vote, saying it would be difficult for him to defend abroad any incursion into the religious right to circumcision.

Günter Krings, a senior member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in parliament, said the vote sent a clear message that Germany would not make life unnecessarily complicated for Jews or Muslims living in the country.

The co-head of Germany's opposition Green Party also supported the measure. "A circumcision ban would disregard and ostracize long cultural and religious traditions that are part of Jewish and Muslim life," said Claudia Roth, who called for expedited legislation ensuring that circumcision remains legal.

Child Rights Groups Oppose Quick Law

But not all were pleased by the decision, including the Federation of German Criminal Police (BDK). "Our constitution cannot be limited by a simple law, as parliament is currently trying to do in panic," BDK chief André Schulz told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper. "The freedom of parents to practice religion will nevertheless be limited by a child's more important right to physical integrity."

Meanwhile, a group of child-protective organizations has also issued a petition calling for a two-year delay on any new law on circumcision so that the issue could be debated more intensely by experts. The groups include the BDK as well as Deutsche Kinderhilfe (German Children's Aid) and the German Association of Physicians in Child and Adolescent Medicine. In the petition, they warn that a working group should be created before taking any legal steps that could permit the "serious and irreparable intrusion on the physical integrity of a child." The petition claims that complications arise in 10 percent of circumcision cases.

In Germany, public opinion is mixed over circumcision. A survey conducted this week by pollster YouGov for the German news agency DPA found that 45 percent of Germans support a ban on circumcision of boys, whereas 42 percent were opposed to it and 13 percent undecided. Fifty-five percent said they did not believe a national ban on circumcision would damage Germany's image abroad, compared to 33 percent who thought it would.

dsl -- with wires


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Real Ale 07/20/2012
1. Circumcision is wrong
Circumcision is wrong; it is a savage ancient practice that has no place in modern civilisation. The issue is not about religious freedom, of which there is ample, but about the protection of children. Indeed, true freedom will allow people to decide their own religious beliefs and practices at a time they are ready; not having religion and its practices imposed on them from an early age. The government's reaction is kneejerk; the court is wholly correct and just. If the ban on circumcision is upheld, Germany will definitely not be a laughing stock but an upholder of esteemed moral principles.
JoeOvercoat 07/20/2012
2. Medical Benefit
Circumcision reduces the transmission of AIDS...what more does anyone need to know? I find it amazing, and sad, that this issue is cast solely in a religious light.
Real Ale 07/24/2012
3. Circumcision does not prevent AIDS
Circumcision preventing the spread of AIDS & HIV is a fallacy; there are very few in the scientific community who believe it and the evidence is firmly weighted against such a belief. The issue is solely about the protection of children from harm by zealots and medical malpractice. Furthermore, a mature, intelligent, and most importantly, secular society must have the courage to question and curb antiquated religious practices that are contrary to its ethics. Lastly, the stigma of past sins should not be allowed to cloud an issue which is, as I have clearly stated, about the protection of children.
geborgen 07/27/2012
4. Recognize medical progress
Those who support the Merkel administration's instant pandering on the circumcision question cry out that it's unfathomable and unfair that circumcision is suddenly coming under fire after 4,000 years of evidence that it's fine. The real reason for this climate of hostility must be a surge of disgust toward the religious! Actually, it's probably not. For those too blind to see, the science of the foreskin has been moving forward for the past two decades. In 1996 the first comprehensive histological and neurological analysis of the foreskin was published in the British Journal of Urology. Until that time, it was unknown that the foreskin contains specialized muscle tissue, thousands and thousands of fine-touch receptors, and retains antiviral and antibacterial secretions. Could this be one reason that the USA has the highest HIV rate among OECD countries? Sensitivity studies have also been completed. The foreskin is dramatically more innervated than the glans and far more anatomically complex, and the structures are designed to complement one another. Judaism itself stresses that it is open to change with new discoveries and understanding. Well, we now know that the foreskin is functional and valuable. We've always known that it can be enormously pleasurable. More than ever, it is understood that the foreskin is integral to the male urogenital tract and its damage or removal represents a significant loss. For thousands of years, Jews and Muslims have severed foreskins without the slightest idea about the anatomy or functionality of this piece of the body. Now science is telling us, and the religious leaders want us all to stick our heads back in the sand. It is selfish, it is unreasonable, and their ultimatums are blackmail. The Bundestag, most of whose members intuitively know the value of being intact and now can read the science, should let the court ruling stand.
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