07.21.2012 06:47 AM

In Sunday’s Sun: don’t tear down that wall

The church should not dictate to the state. And the state has no business — none — dictating to the church.

If you disagree with that, or if you still need to be convinced that there is properly a wall between church and state, look to Germany. About two weeks ago, a court in Cologne ruled a doctor had caused “bodily injury” to a Muslim boy by circumcising him. In effect, the German court determined that circumcision amounted to a criminal act.

The Cologne case concerned a four-year-old boy whose parents had him circumcised, following which there were minor complications. The court held that the boy’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” outweighed his parents’ desire to follow the tenets of their faith. If the boy wanted to get circumcised later on in life, the German court declared, his religious freedom “would not be unduly impaired.”

Muslims and Jews — in Germany and around the globe — felt otherwise. As news coverage about the boy’s case spread, outrage grew. In the Muslim and Jewish faiths, circumcision is a solemn requirement. For Jews, it represents a literal commandment from God; for Muslims, it is a “sunnah,” or practice, of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Cologne court ruling is not enforceable in other German jurisdictions, but will almost certainly persuade German doctors to decline to perform circumcisions, fearing legal consequences. In Germany, many Jewish and Muslim parents have reported that they are now uncertain how, or if, they can get their sons circumcised.

The ruling “places an intolerable burden on the free exercise of religion by Jews and also by Muslims who practice male circumcision as part of their religious faith,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the legendary national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “An unprecedented and dramatic intrusion on the self-determination of religious communities,” said the leader of Germany’s Central Council of Jews in a statement.

Meanwhile, Jewish and Muslim leaders met a few days ago in Brussels to denounce the Cologne court decision. “Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths, and we protest in the strongest possible terms this court ruling,” the Muslim and Jewish clerics said. There are 100,000 Jews and four million Muslims in Germany.

Fearful that the court’s verdict could bring back unhelpful memories about Germany’s Nazi past — as it already has — Chancellor Angela Merkel said that, unless the decision is overturned, Germany would be regarded as a global “laughingstock.” In fact, it is worse than that.


  1. que sera sera says:

    In a modern world, how can your religious rights/freedoms include practicing your “rituals” on someone else’s body?

    Jehovah Witnesses’ religious beliefs do not allow blood transfusions. In Canada, where a minor child of a JW requires a blood transfusion, the state will step in on behalf of the child and legally allow medical intervention to include the taboo blood transfusion in spite of the parents religious beliefs.

    Regarding Harper and “Islamicism”, I suspect he never “refudiated” that comment. LOL!!

  2. Ty says:

    So any practice with any connection whatsoever to religion should not face action from a court?

  3. Les Smith says:

    I’ll have to disagree.
    I’d say the more dramatic intrusion on self-determination is imposed upon the child, who is forced to undergo ritual genital mutilation.

  4. Eric Weiss says:

    Forced circumcision (male or female) is barbaric. The state should step in when a parent is about to mutilate their child. They shouldn’t get a free pass just because their imaginary friend told them to do it thousands of years ago.

  5. frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    I agree the state has no business dictating re: religious or traditional rites. But if doctors become unable or unwilling to perform circumcisions, there is always the mohel. I dont believe there is a Muslim equivalent….http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/28632/making-the-cut/
    I think its wonderful Muslims and Jews are co-operating on this issue.

  6. dave says:

    When I first came across this, I wondered if the ruling also applied to female circumcision, also held by some to be of religious importance.
    I wonder now, if the decision were reversed, would that reversal have application to female circumcision as well as male circumcision.

  7. Eddie says:

    In his rush to condemn a judgement he didn’t read, Warren seems to have missed one of the most important fundamentals of this ruling. Circumcision is not banned in Cologne. Rather, infant and childhood circumcision is banned. Clearly, an infant boy is incapable of deciding what religion he wishes to join, and this judge does not endorse the practice that parents determine what religion a child will be marked by simply by the accident of birth. If a child grows into a boy who grows into a man who chooses to be Jewish or Muslim, he has the latitude to be circumcised, by consent. Infant circumcision may well be an exercise in the parent’s freedom of religion, but it leaves the victim no choice in whether or not to observe that covenant. The judge says religious observance is for an individual to choose, not for his family. I agree.

  8. dave says:

    I saw this decsion and the rumpus about it talked about in some German papers. Waht crossed my mind was whether or not the decision applied to female circumcisiion, which some people figure has religious importance.
    I also wonder, if this decision is reversed, would the reversal have an impact on female circumcision.

  9. ottawacon says:

    Where exactly is the line that you seem to be so comfortable drawing between this judgement and the outlawing of female circumcision?

  10. Mike Foulds says:

    I agree completely! The separation of church and state is in the best interests of both parties.

  11. Judy Torrance says:

    Don’t think this issue is quite as black-and-white as you portray. (1) Female genital mutilation is performed for cultural/religious reasons in some parts of the world. It is legally forbidden in Canada. Should male children be less protected? (2) Should a parent’s religious rights prevail over a minor’s right to physical security in all circumstances?

  12. dave says:

    I notice this caused controversy in Germany. When I read about this decision, one thing that crossed my mind was whether or not the decision would apply to female circumcision, also considered by some to be of integral religious importance.
    I also wonder, if the decision is reversed, if the reversal would apply to female circumcision.

  13. dave says:

    Excuse, folks, at first my comments did not show up.
    Ah, well, I understand that if we see something 3 times, it seems to be true.

  14. Jay-TO says:

    I agree with the courts. If Merkel does anything, it’s religious favoritism. Chopping off bits of babies is awful and should indeed be illegal along with forcing your belief system on an impressionable young mind. We ban spanking but it’s ok to chop of parts? Whatever. Stars shouldn’t sanction mental illness…

  15. Jay-TO says:

    Stars should read “states”

  16. Robbie says:

    As an evangelical Christian engaged in secular politics, I absolutely agree there must be a robust separation between state and church. The state has no more business in the vestibules and naves of a church than it does in the bedrooms of the nation; and the church has no business demanding the state endorse specific religious tenets over and above others matters of faith.

    What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 1 Cor 5:12

    But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law —settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he [Roman proconsul] drove them off. Acts 18:15,16

    Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

    And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:17

    Jesus said to him, “My Kingdom is not from this world; if my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting that I would not have been delivered up to the Judeans, but now my Kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36

    • que sera sera says:

      Unfortunately, it is the knaves of a church that increasingly draw the attention of the police, criminal & civil authorities, the press and the condemnation of secular society.

  17. Bruce says:

    Your argument rests on a misunderstanding of religious freedom, especially since you quote from the American tradition towards the end of your piece. Simply put: religious freedom is an individual, rather than a collective liberty, which is to say it has to do with the *personal* exercise of religious faith, and not the imposition of religious practices on others. We say people have the freedom to exercise their religion within the scope of their own lives, so long as they don’t try to impose their religious views and practices on other people, including their own children, over whom people are custodians and not masters. This is why we erect Jefferson’s ‘wall of separation’ between religious institutions and the state, so that religious people won’t seize the levers of state power in order to enforce their religions. The parents’ individual freedom of religion does not extend to a freedom to limit the choices of their children. Parents are of course free to teach their children their religious traditions, to raise children in their churches/mosques/synagogues and so on, because one day such a child will be able to make up her or his own mind about her or his religious faith. You’ve said this before about your own children. But what parents may not (ought not!) do is inflict something on their children which those children cannot later change. Children must be afforded their own choice about whether or not they wish to observe practices like circumcision.

    Think of the underlying principle for which you’re advocating: in your view religious freedom extends to the power to inflict an irreparable change to the body of another person who at the time of infliction is incapable of deciding on the matter for her or himself, but will later be able to do so. If you think that’s a principle worth defending, then you don’t think much of individual consent, and you’re not much of a democrat.

  18. Nurie Jahangeer says:

    Dear Mr. Kinsella,

    I am submitting this final comment on this article you posted. I trust that you will find it acceptable.
    I do believe that it conforms to rules of this web site. There is nothing race based here, in the sense
    of my launching ad homien attacks on any individual or group. The mention of race here, is in terms
    of my citing strictly neutral demographic projections. I am in fully agreement with your own op-ed
    in the Toronto Sun newspaper. Please let me know if my comments are unacceptable to you, and
    I will attempt to modify them.

    I believe that there should be a strict separation of religion and state. Likewise, the German state
    has no business telling Germany’s 4 million Muslims and 100,000 Jews that they are not allowed to
    circumcise their infant male babies.

    I am also disgusting and appalled by the not so subtle anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments
    being made on this forum, in response to this article.

    The German government would do well to keep in mind that the native, indigenous White German
    people are now officially projected to be a minority of the total population living in Germany by the
    end of the 21st century, owing to very low (well below) levels of fertility. Germany’s Muslim population
    (mostly of Turkish origin) on the other hand is growing in leaps and bounds. Germany’s non-White
    population has very high (well above) replacement levels of fertility. Any mainstream German
    political party which attempts to ban circumcision, and/or Halal/Kosher meat, Muslim Burqas,
    Jewish Yarmulkes, ect; as some anti-Semitic and Islamophobic German politicians wish to do,
    they will surely be consigned to electoral irrelevancy in the years and decades ahead.

    France’s 6 million strong Muslim population voted en mass for Socialist Hollande, over
    Conservative Sarkozy in the recent French Presidential elections, and are now widely viewed as
    a demographic/electoral kingmaker in French politics. The same situation is rapidly taking shape
    in both Germany and Britain.

    Indeed, many neo-Nazi and White supremacist political parties in Europe are saying they support
    a blanket ban on both Kosher and Halal meat, based on concerns over animal rights. However, this
    is widely regarded as an excuse to covertly attack Europe’s Jews and Muslims, with the aim of driving
    them out of Europe all together.

    Germany in particular, with its role in the extermination of 6 million Jews, should know better than to
    invoke bans on religious practices which are an essential part of Judaism.

    Nurie Jahangeer

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