Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Germany passes new law to protect circumcision

The German parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of a law that will provide legal protection for religious circumcision in the country. The vote passed with a large majority, with 434 parliamentarians of the 580 members of the Bundestag who were present for the vote voting in favor, 100 against, and 46 abstaining. Back in June, a regional court in the city of Cologne ruled that circumcision was a form of bodily harm and subject to criminal penalties, creating uncertainty as to the future legality of the practice in Germany for Jewish and Muslim communities who conduct religious circumcision. Following the court ruling, a private individual filed a criminal complaint in August against Rabbi David Goldberg, a mohel based in Hof Saale, Bavaria, for performing Jewish circumcision, brit mila, although Bavarian authorities had previously said that they would not enforce the Cologne decision in their state. Another complaint was filed against Rabbi Yitshak Ehrenberg of Berlin in July for causing bodily harm while performing circumcisions. Although both complaints were ultimately dismissed, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai publicly called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene against any measures that might criminalize circumcision in the country. The Cologne case involved complications surrounding the religious circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim child. The World Jewish Congress welcomed Wednesday’s vote but said that it was “saddening” that such an acrimonious debate had erupted “in Germany, of all countries.”

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