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Religious Parents Do Not Have Right to Circumcise Sons, Says German Court

Court says its decision doesn't impair religious freedom because sons can later choose to be circumcised themselves.

A German appeals court has ruled that parents do not have the right to circumcise their sons for religious reasons because the parents' right to religious freedom does not justify the physical harm done to the human body.

The court, assessing a lawsuit brought against a Muslim doctor over a botched circumcision, said that circumcision "contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs," as well as causes "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body." Despite the millions of Muslims and approximately 100,000 Jews that call Germany home, the court said religious freedom would not be impaired by its ruling because children could later decide on their own whether to be circumcised.

Germany's Jewish council condemned the decision as "an unprecedented and dramatic intrusion on the self-determination of religious communities."

The ruling casts a legal cloud on doctors who perform infant circumcisions, but still gives male circumcision different standing in Germany than female circumcision because there is no law prohibiting it and the ruling isn't binding for other courts.

Prompted by a proposed ballot question in San Francisco last year, CT's David Neff has weighed in on criminalizing circumcision, arguing that America may have secularized the ancient Jewish rite but it is still inescapably religious.

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