German Cabinet Approves Law Allowing Circumcision

Move Should End Uncertainty After Controversial Court Ruling

By Reuters

Published October 10, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Germany’s cabinet approved a draft law on Wednesday protecting the right to circumcise infant boys, which it says will end months of legal uncertainty after a local court banned the practice, causing outrage among Muslims and Jews.

The June ruling by a Cologne district court that circumcision constitutes “bodily harm” sparked an emotional national debate about religious freedom and the procedure itself.

An embarrassed German government pledged to bring in new legislation by the autumn to safeguard the right of parents to have their sons circumcised.

“It was always our intention to lift this ruling,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.

Parliament must still approve the bill for it to become law.

The speed with which national lawmakers agreed to draw up a new law underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country risked becoming a laughing stock if Jews were not allowed to practise their rituals.

The bill states that the operation should take place with the most effective pain relief possible and only if parents have been fully informed about the nature of the procedure. It makes no mention of religious motivations for circumcision.

The court ban had applied only to the Cologne region but doctors across the country refused to carry out operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action.

“It was very important that our government reacted so quickly and responsibly. The proposal is balanced and suitable for lifting the legal uncertainty,” said Charlotte Knobloch, a German Jewish leader.

She expressed her relief that “Germany would not become the one country in the world where Jewish people cannot practise their religion” and added she hoped the damaging public debate about circumcision would end.

About 120,000 Jews are registered as living in Germany along with around 4 million Muslims, many of them from Turkey.

The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicted bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, although it could be performed on older males with their consent.

Anticipating the government bill, Berlin city authorities announced last month that parents were free to have their sons circumcised without fear of prosecution and the operations resumed in the German capital.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.