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Austrians Back Right to Circumcision

Religious groups in Austria called on the government to reaffirm its commitment to religious freedom and the legality of male circumcision.

The Austrian Jewish Community, the Islamic Community of Austria, and Catholic and Lutheran bishops in a July 27 statement called on Vienna to “issue a clear commitment to religious freedom and to the legality of male circumcision.”

The call came days after Gov. Markus Wallner of the Vorarlberg province in Austria ordered doctors to stop performing infant circumcision for religious reasons until the legal status of the procedure is clarified.

“This is a subject that has to be regulated countrywide,” he said.

Wallner was acting in reaction to a ruling by a court in Cologne, Germany last month which ruled against non-medical circumcision on the grounds that circumcision causes grievous bodily harm. Germany’s lawmakers passed a pro-circumcision resolution this month that protects the right to religious-based circumcision of boys as long as it is done by a medically qualified practitioner who avoids inflicting pain.

Governor Gerhard Doerfler of the Austrian state of Carinthia called for a nation-wide legal prohibition against male circumcision, according to the Associated Press.

Two hospitals in Switzerland also announced that they would stop male circumcision following the decision.

“I see no need to act,” Austrian Justice Minister Beatrix Karl said on Friday, according to the South African Press Association. “In Austria circumcision is not an illegal act. There also exists the fundamental right to religious freedom.”

The Conference of European Rabbis announced it will lobby against recent circumcision bans by advocating legislation supporting the practice.

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