Thursday, June 28th, 2012
In a move that one rabbi called “fatal to the freedom of religion,” a German court has ruled that boys cannot be circumcised because the practice inflicts bodily harm on children who are not able to give their own consent for the procedure. The Guardian newspaper has more:
A judge at a Cologne court said that the circumcision of minors went against a child’s interests because it led to a physical alteration of the body, and because people other than the child were determining its religious affiliation.
Religious leaders said the court had stepped into a minefield with its decision, which undermined their religious authority and contravened Germany’s constitution.
Ali Demir, chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, said: “I find the ruling adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory against all the parties concerned.”
Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, called it “an egregious and insensitive measure” which amounted to “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities’ right of determination.”
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.”
Image: The German flag, via Shutterstock.
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Friday, March 2nd, 2012
The Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish high school in Houston, Texas, is back in the state basketball championship tournament after legal pressure led tournament organizers to reschedule the timing of the semifinal and championship games. The school made news this week when it bowed out of the chance to compete because the games fell on Friday evening and Saturday, which is the Jewish sabbath known as Shabbat.
ESPN.com reports that a group of parents filed a lawsuit asking the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) to reschedule the games to accommodate the religious requirements of the Jewish students.
After being notified the lawsuit had been filed, TAPPS director Edd Burleson said the association would reverse course and allow Beren (23-5) to play Dallas Covenant at 2 p.m. Friday at Fort Worth Nolan High School.
Should the [Beren] Stars win, they’ll start their championship game no earlier than 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Headmaster Harry Sinoff and coach Chris Cole only learned of the legal action Thursday morning, they said, and regretted that the situation reached the level of legal action.
“It’s a mixed emotion,” Cole said. “We feel like we’ve earned the right to play. Our focus all week has been trying to get TAPPS to reschedule the game times to accommodate us.
“At the same time, this was not the course of action that we wanted.”
Burleson said earlier this week that association bylaws prevented TAPPS from moving Beren’s game time.
The complaint says that the basketball team is “being denied, solely on account of their religious observance, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in their athletic conference’s state basketball championship tournament.
Image: Basketball in the net, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, March 1st, 2012
The Robert M. Beren Academy, a Jewish day school in Houston, Texas, has opted out of the state basketball championship game because the game falls on the Jewish Sabbath, CNN.com reports. The Orthodox Jewish school observes the Sabbath, called Shabbat in Hebrew, each week from sundown Friday to sunset Saturday, and the semifinal and championship games, which the school has qualified for, both fall on Saturday.
The school has reportedly appealed to the league for a change of time, but so far has been unsuccessful. Appeals are ongoing, though, as CNN reports:
“If we give up this opportunity for our religion it just shows how much we deeply care for it,” Isaac Buchine, a player on the Beren Stars, told KPRC.
“We are hopeful that the TAPPS league will move the games a few hours so that we can compete,” the school said in a statement posted on its website.
“This is a testament to our school and to Coach Cole for his support and dedication, that, independent of the desire to compete, is the desire to uphold our Jewish values,” the statement continued. “We are proud of who we are, and have the courage to act accordingly.”
By Wednesday, more than 5,000 people had signed an online petition, supported by the school, to move the Beren Stars’ semifinal game to Friday morning.
Image: Basketball, via Shutterstock.
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