A selection of news relevant to EKD and of press releases of EKD's partner churches and church bodies. News used with permission from Ecumenical News International and other agencies.
German Federal Parliament calls for speedy legislation permitting religious circumcision
July 20, 2012
The German parliament has called on the federal government to present draft legislation on the religious circumcision of minors by the autumn. In a special sitting, a large majority of members of parliament (MPs) passed a resolution requesting that this be permitted.
A bill should ensure "that the medically correct circumcision of male minors without unnecessary pain is basically admissible". The resolution called for consideration of the child's welfare, physical integrity, religious freedom and the parents' upbringing rights.
The MPs were reacting to a decision by the Cologne district court in late June, according to which the circumcision of male minors was "physical injury" unless there were medical grounds for it. This had led to uncertainty among believers and surgeons, the resolution stated. Circumcision was a Muslim tradition, and for Jews it was an important rite of initiation into the faith community.
Deputy Christian Democrat group leader Günter Krings (CDU) from the governing coalition said that the resolution sent a clear signal to Jewish and Muslim communities in Germany, whose religious life continued to be possible and should not be made more difficult. His counterpart from the opposition social-democratic party, Christine Lambrecht (SPD), stated that the decision had given rise to legal uncertainty, which was unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue. Otherwise it would encourage back-yard circumcisions or even "circumcision tourism".
The initiative for the cross-party resolution was taken by CDU group leader Volker Kauder. It was submitted by the CDU, FDP (the liberal component of the governing coalition) and the SPD. At first, the Green Party had indicated a willingness to second the resolution. But the parliamentary group finally decided against this, calling for an intensive debate on the topic.
The majority of Green MPs voted for the resolution all the same. Parliamentary group leader Volker Beck made it clear in his speech that he was in favor of permitting religious circumcision. Moreover, he asked, "Would it not be strange if Germany were to become the first and only country in which circumcision was an offence?"
The Left party was against the project from the start and agreed with the Cologne decision. MP Jens Petermann called for the circumcision of babies to be relegated to the realm of the "symbolic", with the physical intervention being performed later with the boy's consent.
The president of the Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, hailed the federal parliament's decision as a "strong political signal" to Jews and Muslims. He hoped that the necessary legislation would indeed be presented and adopted in the coming months.
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) also emphasized the importance of creating legal certainty as soon as possible. The president of the EKD church office, Hans Ulrich Anke, stated that the EKD advocated balancing religious freedom and parental custody against the right to physical integrity, while upholding the principle of proportionality.
The German federal government has already declared its willingness to seek speedy legislation on the matter.
20 July 2012