Last year I wrote about the anti-circumcision campaign here in California, and now another chapter in the Foreskin Chronicles has opened up in Germany. Whereas the California campaign fizzled, the District Court in Cologne on June 26 banned the circumcision of boys for religious reasons. The court reasoned that the practice causes bodily harm and that the child should be able to choose his own religion when he is older.
Cologne’s judges have succeeded where the United Nations has failed since 1948—they’ve brought Jews and Muslims together. The national leadership of both faiths roundly condemned the ruling. Although Berlin’s Jewish Hospital suspended circumcisions, Angela Merkel vowed to overturn the ban, and the country’s lower house of Parliament followed suit. Despite this, the agitation crossed borders into Switzerland and Austria. Several Swiss hospitals have at least temporarily suspended the practice in response to the German court, while the governor of Vorarlberg in Austria advised his state’s hospitals to do the same.
Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the European Conference of Rabbis, called the ban “the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust.” This is ironic given that European officialdom often demands that Christian symbols and practices be removed from public life to accommodate Jewish and Islamic sensibilities.
One could argue that the court’s desire to safeguard infants’ religious freedom is a disingenuous attempt to insert the government into sectors of the children’s upbringing heretofore reserved to parents. Why limit it to circumcision? Perhaps education should no longer be made compulsory, but left to the children to decide whether or not they want to ruin their playtime with school. If the law still stands despite the European establishment’s fear of Jewish clout and Islamic muscle, we are entering a very different political era.
Prince Charles was apparently circumcised by Rabbi Jacob Snowman, MD, according to Haaretz. The same source claims that the tradition was brought to England by George I when he usurped the throne from James III. Others maintain that the royal clipping only goes back to Queen Victoria’s reign, where it was used either as a health measure or, according to the British Israelites, because she thought she was descended from King David. The tradition came to a halt when Charles and Diana refused to submit Princes William and Harry to the mohel’s knife. A picture taken of Prince William relieving himself while on an African trip, widely available on the Internet, corroborates this.
In the Episcopal Church, some say that likening circumcision to child abuse “echoes the ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe.”
Despite the opinions of German judges, Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, British royals, Episcopalian pundits, and even Franco-American writers, circumcision will continue to be a hot-button topic. Opposition to it will inevitably lead to charges of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. While the first charge can lead to ostracism, fines, or short jail terms in countries not particularly keen on freedom of speech, the second can be lethal. Circumcision’s opponents will continue to see the practice as a barbaric and unhygienic maiming of defenseless infants. As with all such social disputes, judges and politicians will see it as an opportunity to extend their power over their subjects’ lives.
I believe circumcision is a matter that should be left to the parents. But it seems ridiculous to quibble about their right to maim their children postnatally when they are free to kill them beforehand.
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