AJC Berlin Applauds German Parliament Action Protecting Circumcision

Dec 12, 2012, 11:04 ET from American Jewish Committee

BERLIN, Dec. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC praised Germany's Parliament for approving a law, by a vote of 434 to 100, with 46 abstentions, to allow circumcision for religious reasons. "The Bundestag action is a welcome affirmation of Germany's commitment to religious freedom," said Deidre Berger, director of AJC's Berlin Office.  AJC is the global Jewish advocacy organization.

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"Circumcision is critical to Jewish and Muslim religious life," said Berger. "The German parliament's action should put to rest reprehensible allegations that Jewish and Muslim religious upbringing violates children's rights and endangers the welfare of children."

Today's vote followed a prolonged public debate prompted by a local German court ruling in Cologne in June determining that circumcision is a criminally liable procedure. While having limited jurisdictional validity, the Cologne judgment sparked national and global controversy on the legal and medical consequences of circumcision.

AJC Berlin's report, "Facts and Myths about the Circumcision Controversy," exposed significant distortions, fallacies and prejudices in claims made by anti-circumcision activists about alleged medical dangers of male circumcision.  Chancellor Angela Merkel quoted directly from the AJC Berlin report, and mentioned Deidre Berger by name, when speaking about the circumcision controversy during a recent awards ceremony at the Berlin Jewish Community.

"The notion that Jewish and Muslim males, together with up to a third of the earth's male population, have permanent psychological and physical damage is patently absurd," said Berger. "The new German legislation should once and for all consign the arguments of circumcision opponents to the dustbin of history."

Berger, however, expressed concern about anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments that surfaced during the public debate on circumcision.

"Serious media in Germany quoted individuals who claimed on the basis of flawed medical evidence that Judaism and Islam are primitive and archaic religions," said Berger. "Some even outrageously depicted German Jewish and Muslim citizens as foreign elements in German society."

Berger praised the German government and parliament for their efforts "to counter a misguided local court ruling.  The legislation is a victory for religious freedom and tolerance."

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser Schnarrenberger said in recent interviews that the legislation reaffirms existing practice regarding circumcision.

"If there is something to be learned from the circumcision debate, it is that religious freedom and diversity are core principles of a vibrant democracy," said Berger.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee