German Court Rules Circumcision Bodily Harm

Greg Strand – June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Cologne, Germany: A circumcision by a medical doctor performed on a four-year old boy led to slight medical complications a couple of days later. The parents brought the child to the casualty department of Cologne’s University hospital. The hospital contacted the police, who, in turn, launched an investigation.

Here is the essence of the case and the decision (from the Guardian):

The ruling followed a lengthy legal battle, sparked when a Muslim couple decided to have their son circumcised, specifically for religious reasons, by a Muslim doctor in Cologne. The doctor, identified only as Dr K, carried out the circumcision on the four-year old boy in November 2010, before giving the wound four stitches. The same evening, he visited the family at home to check up on the boy. When the boy began bleeding again two days later, his parents took him to the casualty department of Cologne’s University hospital. The hospital contacted the police, who then launched an investigation. The doctor was charged with bodily harm, and the case was taken to court.

While the court acquitted Dr. K on the grounds that he had not broken any law, it concluded that circumcision of minors for religious reasons should be outlawed, and that neither parental consent nor religious freedom justified the procedure. It ruled that in future doctors who carried out circumcisions should be punished.

The court weighed up three articles from the basic law: the rights of parents, the freedom of religious practice and the right of the child to physical integrity, before coming to the conclusion that the procedure was not in the interests of the child.

It rejected the defence that circumcision is considered hygienic in many cultures, one of the main reasons it is carried out in the US, Britain and in Germany.

After much deliberation, it concluded that a circumcision, “even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent.”

It ruled the child’s body would be “permanently and irreparably changed”, and that this alteration went “against the interests of a child to decide for himself later on to what religion he wishes to belong.”

The doctor was acquitted, the court said, because he had acted “subjectively and with a clear conscience” and because carrying out the procedure had not been punishable at the time.

I do hope I am missing something important here. It does raise a couple of very important questions. How can this not be read as a statement about Judaism and her relgion and religious practices? How can this not bring up memories of the atrocities committed against the Jews simply because they were Jews? As John Piper stated, “When a German court rules circumcision illegal, it is too soon since Kristallnacht [the Night of Broken Glass] not to feel stunned.”

The title of the article in Haaretz (June 27, 2012) summarizes the sentiments of Jews and Muslims: “Jewish, Muslim leaders blast German court’s decision outlawing circumcision

Here are other reports: 

German court rules circumcision is ‘bodily harm’”, BBC News (June 26, 2012)

Circumcision ruling condemned by Germany’s Muslim and Jewish leaders,” the Guardian (June 27, 2012)

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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