Sometimes today you encounter stories that are truly jaw-dropping, like this one being reported by the Washington Post.
Headlined, "The Crime of Circumcision," it deals with a ruling issued by a judge in Germany that prohibits Jews from circumcizing their baby boys:
A district judge in Cologne, Germany, recently ruled that ritual circumcision is a crime, violating “the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity,” which outweighs other parental and religious rights. “This change runs counter to the interests of the child,” the court concluded, “who can decide his religious affiliation himself later in life.”
Circumcision is a rite central to the Jewish faith and is, in fact, the rite by which a male becomes part of the Jewish community.
The circumcision of infants is also expressly commanded by Jewish law, which requires the circumcision of baby boys on the eighth day after birth.
Unsurprisingly, the decision is being condemened by religious folks:
German religious figures from all the Abrahamic faiths criticized the Cologne ruling, with particular outrage expressed by Jewish leaders. Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called it “outrageous and insensitive” and warned that a general application of the decision would “coldbloodedly force Judaism into illegality.”
But hailed by anti-religious folks:
Though the ban directly applies in only one region of Germany, secular supporters count it a triumph and a precedent. One academic, Holm Putzke, celebrated the rejection of “religiously motivated violence against children.” “The court has,” he said, “unlike many politicians, not been deterred by the fear of being criticized as anti-Semitic or antireligious.”
The tone-deafness of such a ruling--given that it occurred in Germany--is startling. I mean, it's not like Jews haven't had the experience of persecution there before.
"Oh, but this is different," a secularist might say. "In the past there was Christian anti-Semitism in Germany. This is something completely different."
No, it's not. While Christian anti-Semitism was and is a real phenomenon--and while it enabled the Nazis to do what they did--Hitler wasn't a religious guy. In fact, he proclaimed his intention of destroying the Catholic Church. Secular anti-Semitism is just as much a part of Nazi heritage as its Christian equivalent.
Of course, practice on circumcision differs in the Jewish community, and there are uncircumcized people who profess a Jewish identity, but prohibiting infant circumcision is something that will make it harder for the German Jewish community to pass on its faith and practice. It's an impediment to the Jewish community, and it's hard not to suspect that as being the point.
It's also hard not to suspect that it's meant to strike more broadly than at the Jewish community. As the WaPo article points out, Muslims also commonly circumcize boys as a religious practice.
And if you think it may not have rammifications for Christians, think again: While this particular ruling focused on the child's right to bodily integrity and how this trumps the parents freedom of religion, on the grounds that the child can choose his religious identity later in life, it's easy for courts to do a bit of handwaving and conclude that the right that was originally in focus wasn't so much the issue after all and that a new concept that has been introduced into the caselaw deserves more attention: viz., that whole getting to choose your religious identity later in life.
In the kind of world where we're already dealing with nightmares of Orwellian secularism, is it difficult to imagine some judge in the future deciding that all children should have the ability to choose their religious identity later in life and seeing early religious initation rites--like baptism--as interfering with the unencumbered exercise of this right?
What do you think?