European government officials are attempting to respond to a court’s ruling on circumcision so that Jews and Muslims can continue to circumcise infant boys. In late June 2012, a court’s ruling in Cologne, Germany equated circumcision to a criminal act of inflicting bodily harm on boys without their consent. Internationally, criticism ran rampant, and legal confusion swelled. Hospitals in neighboring countries, although outside of the court’s jurisdiction, called for doctors to not perform any circumcisions until after the Cologne ruling and its effects were better understood.
Following this ruling, German lawmakers passed a resolution to ensure that circumcisions could be performed safely so as to not interfere with the religious rites of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. One rabbi told reporters that ritual circumcisions are “the root of the Jewish soul. It is a stamp, a seal on the body of a Jew.” Recently, Israel’s President showed support of Germany’s stance on circumcision, urging Germany to protect the ritual custom and passage of any legislation in order to do so. The American Academy of Pediatrics will also endorse infant male circumcision as a routine health practice in light of the Cologne ruling. However, those in favor of Cologne’s recent ruling argue that religion cannot mask violence against children, those of whom cannot consent to such practices.
Is the Cologne court correct? Should these infant boys be unknowingly subjected to a ritual practice that is being compared to female genital mutilation, which is banned throughout Europe? Should religious freedom trump this debate and silence the courts?