Challenge Cologne circumcision ban, German government urged
July 3, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
TORONTO – The Canadian Jewish community’s outrage has been communicated to the German government by B’nai Brith Canada regarding a Cologne district court’s ban on circumcision – a core, 5,000-year-old tradition of monumental significance to the Jewish faith.
The human rights organization has called on the German government to immediately step in and challenge the District Court of Cologne’s ban on circumcision.
Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, issued the following statement:
“Circumcision is not merely a tradition that has been carried out since Judaism’s inception; it is a fundamental principle of the Jewish religion. This is certainly not the first challenge to the Jewish people’s millennium-old quest for religious freedom; countless nations in history have tried and failed to prevent the continuity of the Jewish people and their traditions.
“We believe that the District Court of Cologne’s recent ban on circumcision flies in the face of Germany’s post-war legacy of religious freedom and harkens back to its dark past when institutional discrimination led, step by incremental step, to the Holocaust, the most heinous crime in human history. It is ironic that the current ban on circumcision has taken place in a city that itself saw the mass execution of 11,000 Jews during those dark days.”
B’nai Brith has also sent a call to action, asking members of the community to write an email message to German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her government to challenge this discriminatory ban.
The Cologne court decision is not the first time circumcision has been challenged.
A Norwegian political party said it will seek to outlaw circumcision in Norway.
“Circumcision on religious grounds should be a criminal offence,” Jenny Klinge, a spokesperson for Norway’s Centre Party, said in an interview earlier this month with the newspaper Dagbladet.
Klinge added, “Fortunately, circumcision is already illegal in females. The time has come for boys to receive the same legal protection.”
The Centre Party, a member of the Norwegian coalition, occupies 11 seats out of the 169 in parliament.
Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in Oslo, told JTA that he considers the issue “an existential matter” for the community.
“Banning circumcision would send a loud message that the Jewish minority is not wanted here,” he said. Norway has a Jewish community of about 700.
Last year, the government offered to regulate circumcision. The only stipulation was that medical personnel be present.
“We found the terms of the offer acceptable,” Kohn said. The government’s preoccupation with the issue started last year, after Norway’s Children’s Ombudsman proposed setting 15 as the minimum age for ritual male circumcision.
“In the aftermath of discussions, several parties have come to oppose circumcision altogether,” Kohn said. “Now we are seeing an escalation in the debate over the issue.”
A spokesman for the ruling Labour Party told Dagbladet that his party has yet to formulate a stand on the issue. The Centre Party has four government portfolios.
Norway is among a handful of European countries where the kosher slaughter of animals is prohibited.
Last year, in San Francisco, there was an effort to place a proposition on the November ballot banning circumcision on anyone younger than 18. The effort failed when a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that state law expressly preempted local jurisdictions from regulating health care professionals and had the proposition removed from the ballot.