When not performed out of medical necessity, circumcisions constitute a ‘severe and irreversible interference into physical integrity,’ Cologne judges rule
By Raphael Ahren June 26, 2012
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Parents having their sons circumcised can be brought before a judge for causing bodily injury, even if they did so for religious reasons, a regional court in Germany has ruled.
The recent landmark decision will likely draw the condemnation of Jewish and Muslim communities, although official representatives have refrained from commenting so far, saying they first want to study the reasons given for the judgment.
Following the judgment by the District Court of Cologne, neither the rights of parents nor the constitutional freedom of religion can justify interventions such as circumcision, according to Financial Times Deutschland, which first reported the story.
Jewish community officials in Cologne said they have yet to study the court decision but have already contacted the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “The Central Council will try immediately to receive a written version of the judgment. Only then will it be possible to comment,” a statement read. “We understand the disquiet and we noticed the numerous phone calls and emails of our community members. We will stay involved and keep you updated.”
University of Passau jurist Holm Putzke told the FTD the decision could have far-reaching ramifications.
“As opposed to many politicians, the court was not deterred by fears of being criticized for anti-Semitism or hostility toward religion,” he said. “This decision could not only influence future jurisdiction, it could also lead the relevant religions to change their attitude with respect to the fundamental nature of children’s rights.”
The case that prompted the ruling took place in Cologne, when a 4-year-old boy, circumcised by a Muslim doctor, began bleeding two days after the surgery and needed to be brought into the emergency room.
The state prosecutor’s office learned of the case and sued, leading the district court to rule that the circumcision was a “severe and irreversible interference into physical integrity.”
Today, there are about 200,000 Jews in Germany, about 5,000 of them in the western city of Cologne.
Legal experts told the paper they assume that other courts in Germany could deal with similar cases and that the question of religiously motivated circumcisions will end up in the country’s Supreme Court.