Claudia Mendoza: Protecting Circumcision

JLC's Head of Policy and Research Claudia Mendoza examines the implications of Germany's shifting legal stance on the key religious practice of circumcision.

Earlier this year, a regional court in Germany ruled that circumcision of newborn boys amounted to assault, prompting the JLC to participate in a Huffington Post debate on the issue.

This issue came to court after a doctor in Cologne carried out the circumcision of a four year old Muslim boy which led to medical complications. The court ruled that the religious practice had caused the child bodily harm. The German Medical Association then told doctors across the country to stop performing the procedure.

However, the German government has backed new legislation aimed at ending the dispute and the cabinet has announced support for proposals that would explicitly allow it (as long as it is carried out by trained experts, and parents are informed of any medical risks). The German parliament is expected to pass the law before the end of the year.

Leaving the widely accepted health benefits aside, freedom of religious practice is a cornerstone of liberal democracy. Those who deride religious practices as ancient and barbaric - seeing circumcision as easily replaced by a 'modern' alternative - are unable, or unwilling to tolerate religious values.