Promise on religious practice after court ruling
Germany’s foreign minister has offered assurances that his country will protect religious traditions after a court ruled last week that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to bodily harm even if parents consent.
The state court in Cologne ruled that the child’s right to physical integrity over-rides freedom of religion and parents’ rights. The ruling was strongly criticised by the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, who urged parliament to clarify the legal situation to protect religious freedom. Muslim leaders also expressed concern.
Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle yesterday said that a legal debate “must not lead to doubts arising internationally about religious tolerance in Germany.”
“The free exercise of religion is protected in Germany. That includes religious traditions,” Mr Westerwelle said.
Volker Beck, a senior MP with the opposition Greens, left open whether a “correction” of the Cologne ruling should be sought through the court system or through new legislation, but he said the result should be clarity that circumcision on religious grounds is justified so long as hygienic and medical standards are kept to.
Mr Graumann has pointed out that the circumcision of newborn Jews has been carried out for thousands of years. Muslims also circumcise young boys, while many parents request it on health grounds.
The case in Cologne involved a doctor accused of carrying out a circumcision on a four-year-old, approved by his Muslim parents, that led to medical complications. The doctor was acquitted, however.
Unlike female circumcision, there is no law prohibiting the practice.
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