ADL: German Authorities Should Honor Their Word Not To Press Charges Against Those Who Perform Ritual Circumcision

New York, NY, August 21, 2012 … Following a complaint against a local rabbi in the Bavarian city of Hof for performing ritual circumcision, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today said it "fully expects Bavarian authorities to remain committed" to their pledge that the government will not press charges against rabbis who practice ritual circumcision on infant boys in keeping with Jewish tradition.

Bavarian prosecutors said this week that a doctor had sought to bring charges against Rabbi David Goldberg of Hof for performing Jewish ritual circumcisions.  Coming in the wake of a June 26 court ruling in Cologne, which effectively deemed the ritual circumcision of infant boys illegal and a form of "bodily injury," the attempt to formally press charges against a rabbi is another unfortunate outcome of the Cologne ruling.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

Circumcision is a fundamental Jewish rite.  The complaint by a private individual against a rabbi for performing a ritual circumcision is an unfortunate outcome of the terrible ruling in Cologne, which was an assault on religious freedom.

We believe it is unlikely, though, that the public prosecutor will bring charges because the Bavarian Ministry of Justice made a public statement several weeks ago that well-performed circumcisions were not criminal acts.  We fully expect the Bavarian authorities to remain committed to that statement.   Moreover, the flawed ruling by a judge in Cologne, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, that ritual circumcision is a form of assault and thus illegal, does not apply in the state of Bavaria.

A month ago the Bundestag overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the government to present at its next session draft legislation to ensure 'that the circumcision of boys, carried out with medical expertise and without unnecessary pain, is permitted.'  The resolution also recognized that 'circumcision has a central religious significance for Jews and Muslims.' This was the type of political response we had urged, following the Cologne ruling.

Discussions are ongoing between the Jewish community in Germany and the German government on the law and we are confident that they will come to a positive resolution to protect the freedom to perform brit milah, the Jewish rite of circumcision.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.