Dershowitz claims that Germany’s ban on circumcision is anti-Semitic

There is one issue that unites Jews and Muslims: they both practice ritual circumcision of infant males, and both are opposed to the new German law that bans circumcision of infant males. Now I know this is a hot-button issue in the secular community, and, in truth, I don’t have a strong opinion—or any opinion—on the issue.  The fact is that scientific work shows that circumcision reduces the incidence of AIDS and papilloma-virus infection (the latter of which can be transmitted to women with more dire consequences), and I also know that it can be seen as a form of mutilation—though not nearly as vicious as female genital mutilation, often practiced simply to blunt female sexuality.  And, as a Jew who underwent the procedure before I could give consent (by a doctor, though, and I’m not sure my parents had any religious motivation), I don’t feel debased or deprived.

But perhaps one should wait until a boy is old enough to understand the procedure and make his own decision. The problem is that it’s more painful and intrusive when you’re older. But one thing I do feel strongly about: it should be done by doctors, not mohels, and never by the barbaric practice of using the mouth, which can infect boys with whatever diseases the mohel carries.

Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz feels differently: he sees German’s circumcision ban as a reflection of long-standing anti-Semitism, and decries German’s law in an article in the The Algemeiner, “J’acuse: Shame on Germany for circumcision ban.” His rhetoric includes this:

It’s not because Germans or Norwegians are better people and care more about children and animals than do Americans.  It is because they care less about Jews.  Or more precisely they care a lot about Jews.  They just don’t like them very much and don’t care if they are forced to leave the country because they cannot practice their religions there.

So let no one praise a nation that murdered a million Jewish babies and children for shedding crocodile tears over the plight of the poor little baby boy who, following a many thousand year old tradition, is circumcised a week after birth.  Every good person should condemn Germany for what really lies at the heart of efforts to ban circumcision—old-fashioned anti-Semitism, a term coined by Germans for Germans and against Jews.

History is not irrelevant in assessing current policies.  The history of Germany (and Norway) in prohibiting Jews from practicing their traditional rituals goes back to a time when overt anti-Semitism was not only acceptable, it was de rigueur.  Today, new words replace discredited old ones.  Anti-Zionism instead of anti-Semitism. The welfare of children instead of the banning of religious rituals.  But it’s all the same.  Anyone who falls for the new pseudo scientific nonsense about the evils of circumcision or ritual slaughter is as naïve or bigoted as those who fell for the old pseudo scientific racial claims of Nazism.

Indeed, there is an ugly whiff of “racial superiority” in the implicit assumption underlying these bigoted laws:  Namely, that Germans and Norwegians are somehow morally (if not racially) superior to other countries that permit such “barbaric” practices.

So let’s call a spade a spade and let’s call anti-Semitism by its true name.

. . . Some may suggest that the alleged science purporting to support these bans be challenged on the basis of scientific truth.  Perhaps.  But that too may play into the hands of those who would argue that even acknowledging a possible scientific basis for these bigoted proposals lends some legitimacy to them.  “Science” too was used to support Nazi racial studies.  Should German scientists now conduct “twin studies” on circumcised and uncircumcised siblings?  Why is Germany not willing to accept the conclusion reached by the American Academy of Pediatrics following a five year review of the best research, that “the health benefits” of circumcision – including reduction of HIV and papillomavirus transmission – “out weight the risks?”

. . .Shame on those Germans who would ban circumcision.  Shame on those Germans who do not care enough to rise up in anger against the pseudo scientific bigots who falsely claim to be interested in the sensitivities of children.  Praise for those Germans who do stand against the bigotry of their countrymen.

Let other countries with cleaner hands take the lead in conducting real scientific research and in seeking to protect the rights of children and animals.  The dirty hands and filthy past of Germany forever disqualifies that country from leading the effort to ban Jewish rituals.  For shame!

As I said, I don’t have strong feelings about the ban, though I think Dershowitz is overwrought here.  But, in the interests of not making any subject taboo (as Pinker’s video argued yesterday), could there be any truth in his claim that the ban partly reflects anti-Semitism? It’s up for discussion here. Again, stick to the issues and try to refrain from name-calling.


  1. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    No, basically. The old ‘anti-semitism’ card is bullshit, pure and simple. It’s the lazy man’s ways of deflecting (or rather, trying to deflect) perfectly valid and legitimate, serious criticism by raising the persecution flag and trying to claim that those who are questioning X, Y and Z have ulterior, hostile and prejudicial motives for so doing. You can see this vividly at work in even the most mild-mannered criticism of Israel, for example.

    If anything is about some of the most basic human rights – one of the most basic of all being that you get to choose what to do with your own body when you’ve come to the age of reason and are a competent consenting adult – then circumcision is.

  2. Griff
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I just don’t understand why it isn’t assault

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      It is assault, and thank goodness increasingly it’s coming to be seen as such.

      As for the reason why it’s not more widely seen to be so by more people in more places more of the time, blame both religion and/or cultural tradition, aka ‘habit’: “it’s what we’ve always done, just … just … just because, OK?”

  3. gbjames
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    “The problem is that it’s more painful and intrusive when you’re older.”

    How do we know this is true? (the “painful” part… I’m not sure what the “intrusive” part even refers to.)

    And, yes, Dershowitz is overwrought.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      ‘The problem is that it’s more painful and intrusive when you’re older.’

      No: it’s no more intrusive than when you’re eight days old (or whatever). More painful? Conjecture.

      The real problem here is the assumption implicit in such a statement that circumcision when older should be carried out as anything other than an absolute last resort (there are non-surgical alternatives: topical steroid creams and preputioplasty among them) as a surgical procedure for a valid medical, that’s to say genuinely therapeutic reason.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Infants are too young to complain about the pain in any way other than crying, so they can be safely ignored.

      (I understand that in the US doctors often use anesthetic when performing circumcision these days. That wasn’t always the case.)

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Simple: Monitor for elevation of blood pressure and heart rate: how high and for how long, what makes it worse and what makes is better. Adjust for confounding factors, like the needle sticks infants get for all sorts of other reasons, virtually all under the bottoms of their tender little heels, and for hunger, dirty diapers, etc., by having a control group, say, babies born of parents whose religion doesn’t allow any needlesticks, much less circumcision, and have the same conditions for diaper changes and feedings.

  4. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    How does involuntary religious identity trump rationality?

    In the developed world, with good hygiene, the health benefits of circumcision are often overstated as justification for an elective (by the parents) surgical procedure.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink


    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Sadly, as homelessness increases in the United States, good hygiene for the destitute is hidden in the blindless of the “normal.”
      Reminds me of Alan Grayson’s take on the Republican healthcare plan:
      1. Don’t get sick.
      2. If you do get sick, die fast.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink


      No body modification, especially sexual body modification, before the age of consent. If the kid’s old enough to use the equipment, then he’s old enough to decide if he wants to make changes to it.

      If this weren’t wrapped up in the trappings of an ancient religious tradition, it would be the subject of instinctual horrified shock. “You do what? To a baby’s what-what?” We’d be at a loss to describe the practitioners as sadistic, sex perverts, or both.

      And, no. Modern parents who have this done to their babies aren’t doing it out of sadism or sexual deviancy — of course not. They’re doing it for cultural and religious reasons — and generally trying to desperately ignore the sadism and perversion while making the decision and carrying it out.

      Remove those historical reasons, though, hypothetically, just for a moment. Now imagine this make-believe world in which there’s never been a cultural practice of circumcision, and imagine what the response would be to somebody who wanted to perform one on an infant.



      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        P.S.: For a parallel slightly more distanced and therefore easier to contemplate without the high-voltage emotions, consider foot binding.

        If the Chinese could grow out of that a century and a half ago, why can’t we in the West grow out of circumcision today?


    • Filippo
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Is circumcision covered by insurance in the U.S.? On what basis? Insurors won’t cover anything they don’t have to, won’t cover it for aesthetic, versus health-related, reasons.

  5. Splog
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’m confused. Is he for or against?

    • JBlilie
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink


  6. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    The fact is that scientific work shows that circumcision reduces the incidence of AIDS …

    I have no expertise on this but readers might want to read this before agreeing.

    The problem is that it’s more painful and intrusive when you’re older.

    How do we actually know this? Can an 8-day-old properly report? Note also that rates of complications with adult circumcision are skewed by the fact that adult circumcision is often done for medical necessity.

    My take on this: Your freedom to impose your religion ends where your child begins.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this. It’s nice to see some other researchers critical of the shameful work of Auvert, Halperin, Weller and colleagues. A good place to look for criticisms at what passes for epidemiology in Africa is here: publications 90 and above. In short, very few African studies properly control for anal and subcutaneous exposures, and the result has been devastating. For a reference more on point to circumcision (disclosure: and for which I am a co-author) see here.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        The basis of the HIV claim is three non-double-blinded, non-placebo-controlled (of course) Random Controlled Trials in three parts of Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Uganda) where more of the circumcised men have HIV than the non-circumcised. (In 10 out of 18 countries for which USAID has figures, the reverse is the case.)

        Random, in this case, means not a random sample of the population: all were (paid) volunteers to be circumcised, which would do some demographic selection. They were randomly assigned to be circumcised immediately or later.

        The circumcised groups had to sign a consent form that warned them against unprotected sex for six weeks. (The possibility arises that this habituated them to protected sex.)

        A total of 5,400 men were circumcised and similar numbers told to wait. After less than two years, each of the trials was halted prematurely “for benefit”. 64 of the circumcised men had HIV, and 137 of the contrals, and the relative risk ratio of ~60% was trumpetted world wide as proving that “circumcision prevents HIV” and mass (and sometimes forcible) circumcision campaigns begun, which are spreading to infant circumcision where men are not hurrying to have part of their penises cut off.

        One striking confounder is the high drop-out rates, several times the infection rates, which could easily conceal significant amounts of HIV among the circumcised men. Here is a graphic illustrating the issue.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for this. What should give folks pause (bit is never considered, because the orthodoxy is so ingrained in the public imagination) — is HOW WERE THE SEROCONVERSIONS SUBSEQUENTLY INVESTIGATED?

          When somebody gets HIV down there, it’s automatically because of “sex”. After all, 90% of all HIV transmission down there is due to “sex” (Jon Mann said so). Any differences in prevalence among the test groups are attributed to vag–>penis transfer of HIV.

          Puh-fucking-leeeese. If HIV was so easily transmittted penile-vaginally, we’d be awash in it… the royal family would be up to their eyeballs in it. All of Oprah Winfrey’s predictions (remember those?) would be true. We’d have no southern Cal porn industry left. And don’t tell me it’s because first-world society is wearing condoms; if that were true, we’d have virtually no chlamydia, HPV, trich, gonorrhea — and the US leads the first world in all of the above. Additionally, most of the secondary and tertiary waves wouldn’t be happening in predominantly gay men.

          No, the transmission patterns of HIV have more in common with Hep B than anything else. Something else is going on in Africa, and 30 years of piss-poor epidemiology has left us with little answers. I have only guesses… LOTS of them, but they are only guesses. No good data.

          • Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:14 am | Permalink

            They didn’t trace contacts, so we have no idea that the men got it heterosexually. In Uganda especially, Kenya almost as much, it is life-threatening to admit to sex with men, so that is sure to be underreported. There is also a huge issue of iatrogenic (doctor-caused) and nosocomial (hospital caused) transmission. Amateur “needle men” offer an injection for any ailment. The health resources are strained and instruments are re-used. It could well be that intact men are more likely to use these services for other, hygiene-related issues….

  7. truthspeaker
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Could there be truth to the claims? Sure. It is Germany, and anti-Semitism is alive and well there.

    Is it true? I don’t know. I just see another person saying it’s OK to hurt kids as long as it’s an old tradition.

    For the record, I was circumcised as an infant for non-religious reasons and it doesn’t bother me.

  8. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    One thing I forgot to add is that one primary reason why circumcision is less intrusive when a boy is older is that by the time a boy is approaching or into adolescence (the actual point is variable, needless to say, and occurs at different times in different boys) the foreskin is a freely-moving, loose fold of skin around the glans of the penis. All boys are born with the foreskin fused to the glans by skin tags or adhesions called synechiae: this is why parents are urged *never* to try to retract a baby boy’s foreskin forcibly at bathtime in the misguided belief that the glans needs cleaning. Synechiae dissolve gradually of their own accord as the years pass, but in a neonate the synechiae are still very much in place and the foreskin is still fused to the glans in much the same way that finger- and toenails are fused to the flesh beneath. Circumcision in a baby boy is not merely snipping off a little bit of free-moving skin: that skin has to be forcibly torn away from the glans to which it is still attached, leaving a raw, bleeding and open wound just about to be bathed in the baby’s piss and shit daily in its diapers (or nappies, if you’re British).

    If you’re a man and you’ve just winced and/or possibly crossed your legs, congratulations.

    • JBlilie
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      “All boys are born with the foreskin fused to the glans by skin tags or adhesions called synechiae”

      “that skin has to be forcibly torn away from the glans to which it is still attached, leaving a raw, bleeding and open wound”

      Are you sure about that “all” part?

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        ‘Are you sure about that “all” part?’

        Well, I was, admittedly, generalising, but only as much and to the same extent as I would be generalising if I said: ‘All babies are born with completely intact and functioning, umabiguous and gender-specific external genitalia.’ Are there exceptions to this? Yes, sure there are. Of course. Many of them? No, not very many at all.

        • JBlilie
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Interesting, never heard this before or had any other parent describe such a thing.

          It definitely does not conform to the condition I saw on my son post-procedure.

          • JBlilie
            Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            Not saying it isn’t correct — just never heard of it or seen it.

  9. JBlilie
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    As one circumcised in infancy:
    1. I don’t remember a thing
    2. Never felt a qualm about it
    3. No issues whatsoever
    4. Never met a guy who was troubled by being circumcised

    Anecdote, to be sure …

    A botched one, yes that’s bad — as is any botched medical procedure.

    And I can see the consent side as well.

    Certainly it is a cultural thing; and the medical reasoning (pro) seems to be entirely post hoc, though they seem to be some solid medical benefits (again, for a non-botched procedure.)

    I’m entirely opposed to FGM (and have written to all my law makers on this).

    I don’t feel mutilated, however.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      ‘4. Never met a guy who was troubled by being circumcised.’

      Plenty do: their testimonies aren’t hard to unearth at sites such as

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        So, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, while the guys who are circumcised from infancy and have no problem with it at all don’t count?

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          I think we do count, but it all depends on who is making the argument. Like some of the others who have commented, I was circumcised on religious grounds and I can’t say I have a problem with it. I’ve not read anything in the comments so far that would lead me to change my mind.

    • jose
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      That’s a bit like saying: there is only one political party in my country, but it doesn’t matter to me because it’s the one I would vote anyway.

      • JBlilie
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        What part?

        • jose
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          You didn’t have a choice about being circumcised, but it doesn’t matter to you because you don’t mind being circumcised.

          Thing is choice is supposed to be good, just in case some people aren’t as cool with it as you are.

    • JT
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m also circumcised and I’m very happy to be so. In fact, I have thanked my parents for it on several occasions. Every single friend I have who is circumcised says the same thing. Seems the only guys who ever complain about male circumcision are the uncircumcised ones. By the way, every girlfriend ive ever had has told me that they find uncircumcised penises horrific.
      If I ever have a son, he’ll be getting circumcised too. I resent having people tell me that I suffered child abuse whether I know it or not. Mind your own business and stay out of mine.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        Well done!

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        Here are more than 200 men who are not happy to be so. They wish their parents had stayed out of their business. Where circumcision is not customary, women do not find intact penises “horrific”, obviously. Nor did Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Bellini, etc., even portraying historical circumcised figures like John the Baptist as intact.

        • JT
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          This reminds me of the list creationists put out of scientists who dont believe in evolution.
          And here’s a list of 200 guys named Raymond who were circumcised and happy about it.
          Seriously. Mind your own business. What you should be saying is “I don’t think circumcision is something I’d do to my own children.” That’s fine. If you don’t like it, then don’t have it done to your own kids. But don’t you try telling me that because you don’t agree with it that the choice should be taken away from all parents. For Christ’s sake, some of you guys sound like pro-lifers sometimes…circumcision is evil and should be completely banned.

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            The call isn’t to outlaw circumcision.

            The call is for no body modifications before the age of consent.

            All these worries about the transmission of STDs are irrelevant until a child is old enough to engage in sex. So what’s the big upset about waiting until then, when the child can have a say in the matter?


            • Gary W
              Posted September 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

              The call is for no body modifications before the age of consent.

              Why? Parents make all sorts of decisions that surely have a far more profound effect on the future lives of their children than whether they are circumcised. The problem with waiting until the child is older is that the procedure is much more traumatic.

              • pulseteresa
                Posted September 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

                How do you know it would be more traumatic? In an adult it could be performed with considerably less trauma. A benzodiazepine sedative (which mot only sedates, but makes memory formation more difficult) could be used in addition to a local anesthetic and a strongish pain reliever and the patient could be sent home with a prescription pain reliever and an antibiotic to make the healing process more tolerable. If the man wants the procedure bad enough then whatever mild suffering he would incur should, if the above steps were taken to avoid pain and trauma (I don’t know whether they are or not, but if I were uncircumcised and decided I wanted to be that’s what I’d be asking my doctor for), be very tolerable.

                If I were uncircumcised I can’t imagine making the decision to be circumcised though. Any benefits, including those Jerry mentioned, are pretty dubious for a man living in a first world country. Condoms are more effective at prevention than a lack of foreskin.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

                If you and I had the opportunity, I would take you on a tour of some of the third world parts of this first world country. It is an eye opener.

              • Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

                There is no “decision parents make for their children” that is just like this one, to cut a normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable part off his body. It’s illegal to tattoo a child or to pierce his or her genitals, or to circumcise a dog or cat or a non-consenting man, or to make even a token ritual nick in a girl’s genitals. The question arises why it is still legal to do it to a baby boy, and that I can answer in one word: – “Tradition!”

          • pulseteresa
            Posted September 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

            Bit of an overreaction, JT. You responded as though you were being personally attacked. Shuggy merely pointed out some anecdotes (200 of them!) that contradicted your anecdotes. And to compare this to lists of scientists trotted out by creationists to say they don’t believe in evolution is ludicrous. There’s no comparison here because, unlike with evolution, there is no overwhelming amount of evidence that circumcision is, on balance, a good thing. You seem to be basing your future decision to circumcise your potential male offspring on a grand total of two shaky data-points (if they can really be called data, since they’re purely anecdotal): 1) You and every single circumcised friend of yours is glad they were circumcised; and 2) Every single girlfriend you’ve had has told you that they find uncircumcised penises horrific. A counterpoint to your first anecdote has already been provided and I’ll add my voice to those who were circumcised and would prefer that they had not been (there are sexual benefits to being uncircumcised – I like sexual benefits!:). With regards to your second anecdote, unless you’ve had girlfriends from a wide cross section of whatever country you live in (let’s say 100 women of various ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, etc) then this anecdote doesn’t hold any more water than you first one. (And I’m genuinely curious, did all, or even one, of your girlfriends actually use the word horrific to describe uncircumcised penises? “Horrific” brings to mind a response to such a penis that includes screaming, perhaps vomiting, and running away in, well, horror. Did they maybe say “ugly,” or “unattractive” instead?)

            You somewhat hilariously (given that you’ve posted your opinion on a public website that anyone can comment on and that Jerry is OK with civil disagreement) insist (twice!) that no one in particular mind their own business. I could find no comments in this thread of anyone telling you what to do.

            Also, what Ben said. What is wrong with waiting until your potential future son is old enough to make this decision for himself? Just because you and your friends have no problem with being circumcised doesn’t mean that your son won’t. You compare some of the commenters here (“you guys”) to pro-lifers, but if you’re pro-choice then why not let allow your (hypothetical) son to choose whether or not he wants part of his penis removed when he’s old enough to assess the facts about circumcision and make an informed choice of his own. After all, such a decision is really not your business, but your (hypothetical) son’s business.

            Just for the record have no problem whatsoever with you or any other guy being perfectly cool with having been circumcised. I will, however, point out that there are circumcised (genitally mutilated) women who also say they have no problem with having been circumcised. It’s the norm for the respective cultures so it seems OK – correct and proper even.

            • pulseteresa
              Posted September 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

              …Just for the record I have no problem whatsoever…

              So much for my preafrooding skills.

          • Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:24 am | Permalink

            The collection mainly exists to answer those who say “I’ve never heard of ANYBODY who didn’t like being circumcised”, or as you did, “I‘m happy therefore everybody is / should be.”

            You can’t just balance “circumcised and happy” against “circumcised and unhappy” becuase they have nothing to compare with.

            To really judge you need to find which is higher, the happy/unhappy ratio of the intact or the circumcised. No good studies have been done, but informal polls, such as this one at Burning Man 2011 uniformly show the intact aee much more likely to be happy than unhappy.

            We’re not so much concerned to take the choice from the parents as to keep it with the people most directly concerned, the ONLY people directly concerned, the men on the other end of the penises, when they are old enough. They almost invariably choose to keep it all. Even the AAP admits that.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted September 16, 2012 at 2:49 am | Permalink

            It’s illegal to tattoo a child or to pierce his or her genitals, or to circumcise a dog or cat or a non-consenting man, or to make even a token ritual nick in a girl’s genitals.

            *raises hand*

            I have many questions:

            1. Is it really illegal to tat your own kid? what if you want to inscribe them with their name and address, in case they get lost?

            2. It’s illegal to circumcise a cat?
            a. People circumcise cats?

            3. what country is this?

      • Richard Scalper
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        It will be up to merciful mothers to spare their sons this humiliation. With a few exceptions, most circumcised men are so narcissistic & defensive they’ll never own up to their loss.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          Oh, for crying out loud–this is a ridiculous comment. This thread is getting out of control, and I don’t want any more comments that don’t add to the discussion.

          Got it?

      • Peter Beattie
        Posted September 16, 2012 at 2:39 am | Permalink

        » JT:
        If I ever have a son, he’ll be getting circumcised too. … Mind your own business and stay out of mine.


  10. Pablo
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    In my experience, most contemporary Germans don’t subscribe to anti-Semitic views. On the contrary, they tend to treat the subject with extreme caution and political correctness.

    If there’s any hidden intention in this law is probably against Muslims, who are actually seen as a cultural and physical threat all over Western Europe.

    Besides, I wouldn’t take Dershowitz’s arguments on Jewish matters too seriously. His honesty remains in perennial doubt after the Finkelstein affair.

    • David M
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      What was the Finkelstein affair? I assume Norm Finkelstein?

      • Pablo
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes, there’s a ‘Dershowitz-Finkelstein affair’ article on wikipedia.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. It is the Dershowitz–Finkelstein affair of alleged plagiarism, and apparently Dershowitz is a political commentator.

      • Gordon
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        The later bit in the entry about Dershowitz’s role in having Finkelstein denied tenure is especially illuminating

  11. jose
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I read the article, looks like the author accepts his own conclusion as self evident. He says every thinking person will agree with him just by virtue of being thinking. He doesn’t quote the text of the law or the legislators, so there’s no way to know if he’s right without more info.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      That’s because he can’t imagine that any thinking person would prioritize the rights of an individual over cultural tradition.

      People like that sicken me.

      • jose
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Well, it’s plausible the ban is entirely because of bigotry. He could be right. The topic here isn’t really the idea of circumcision, but the law Germany made to ban it.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

          The topic here isn’t really the idea of circumcision, but the law Germany made to ban it.

          Germany did not make a law to ban it. (And this is a correction also to Jerry’s OP which states the same.) What happened is that a court ruled that circumcision was an “assault” and therefore banned under existing law.

          Afterall, if parents cut off the ear or little toe of a baby for no good reason, you’d hope that the courts would rule that an assault.

          • jose
            Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            Thank you! mea culpa por taking things at face value.

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

            And far from being antisemitic, the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) was put in place in 1949, at the same time as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and for ths same reason, to ensure that the horrors of 1933-45 could never happen again.

            Article 1
            [Human dignity]

            Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.
            The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.
            The following basic rights shall bind the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary as directly applicable law.

            Article 2
            [Personal freedoms]

            Every person shall have the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral law.
            Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity. Freedom of the person shall be inviolable. These rights may be interfered with only pursuant to a law.

            Article 3
            [Equality before the law]

            All persons shall be equal before the law.
            Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.
            No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.

  12. Jeremy Nel
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid if you want to call someone (let alone an entire nation) racist, anti-Semitic, or neo-Nazi, you’d better have some evidence.

    Any evidence.

    This man has none.

  13. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    At least Dershowitz isn’t calling for any embassies to be sacked.

    • Pablo
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      … yet.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Wow… the unwritten equivalencies implied by that….

    • Tim
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      …and he didn’t call for reinstatement of the draft or for a war on Christmas. Whew, I’m glad we cleared that up.

  14. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Just because those of us who were circumcized as infants don’t remember the procedure, doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt as much, or more, than having the procedure done later in life. Judging by how my young kids react to minor injuries that I would shrug off, or not necessarily even notice, it would appear that their pain tolerance is far less than mine. I also remember having to be held down in agony when I had stitches on my face as a kid, while a later injury as an adult was no big deal. If you wanted to extrapolate back to an infant, then you could make the argument that it was so traumatic that we blanked out the memory – I realize I’m stretching here, but I’m trying to illustrate the point.

    I’m a little curious how the procedure arose. It seems a rather extreme method of avoiding childhood urinary tract infections. I once heard a comment that basically wondered how you could have your ‘perfect’ newborn child in your arms, and think that you would do some surgery to ‘improve’ it.

    This is an interesting video on the topic:

    • JBlilie
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      As a young kid (10?) I had a serious infection in my dominant hand (not that it matters whether it was dominant or not — unless you lose it!)

      The physician lanced it with no anesthesia and inserted a rubber drain. This was an incision about 3 cm long.

      Now I am amazed that he did such a thing without anesthesia. (My earliest dentists did the same thing: Drilled teeth without anesthesia.) It hurt .

      • Marta
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I was a military brat. Dentistry for dependents was quite short on appropriate anesthesia, so I had some fillings and drillings without it, too.

        It’s decades later, and when I go to my dentist now, I ask for, and get, Valium prior to, and nitrous oxide during–and this for cleanings, mind, not for any heavy duty stuff which I haven’t had any of for many years.

        My dentist doesn’t find any of this unusual, and says that her most dentist-phobic patients are or were military dependents.

        Yeah. It hurts.

        • Filippo
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          WHEN was this minimal/no anaesthesia period?

    • Greg G
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      I’m a little curious how the procedure arose.

      An Egyptian myth is that Set killed Osiris and chopped him up. Isis gathered up twelve parts and put them back together except that a fish had eaten his penis. Osiris became the god of the afterlife and if he liked you, he would let you exist in the afterlife. Having part of your penis cutoff was thought to be a way that he might identify with you.

      Osiris is identified with the fertile Nile delta while Set is associated with the red sands of the desert. The Nile divides the land into twelve parts, which may have been the inspiration for the myth.

      The Hebrews may have adopted the practice but the justification was dropped when Osiris was dropped in favor of Yahweh. In Exodus 4:18-34, Yahweh is having a fist-fight to the death with Moses until Moses’ wife circumcizes their son and holds the foreskin next to Moses’ foot. Yahweh is satisfied but there is no real reason giving for why Yahweh was so upset. Also, “foot” is often a euphemism for “genitals” in the Old Testament, so Zipporah may have fooled Yahweh into thinking she had circumsized Moses in the original tellings.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        If circumcision did start before Judaism, then it rather fits what I know, having grown up Jewish, that the benefit was appreciated, while the pain and memory of pain diminished as much as possible by moving it near the day of birth. After all, the birthing process has got to hurt a lot, too, and nobody remembers or resents that.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          Prior to anaesthesia and widespread caesarian, vaginal birth was inevitable. The human body is adapted to it (more or less), the baby’s rather more than the mother’s it seems, judging by the way the skull flexes while the pelvis doesn’t. It has been suggested that the mother’s oxytocin also affects (and protects?) the baby. (My mother used to say that she didn’t need to smoke marijuana because she’d experienced plenty of time-dilation during childbirth.)

          No such mechanisms prepare the baby to have “the most sensitive part of the penis” (<a href=""Sorrells et al.) torn from the glans and then cut off.

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

            Actually, brains aren’t fully developed at conception. Evolution arranged that the full pain a baby could feel, coming though the birth canal, is limited by not letting the brain develop enough by gestation’s end to fully realize how painful birth is.

            • pulseteresa
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:45 am | Permalink

              Can you provide a citation or two to back up this claim about a baby not “fully realizing how painful birth is”?

              Also, does not “fully realizing how painful birth is” mean that the baby feels less pain or that it, on some level, doesn’t “realize” it’s experiencing horrible pain? If it’s the latter, could you please explain what you mean?


            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

              Actually I’m not sure that evolution did. It might have hurt like hell and still have no influence on ultimate survival rates or reproductive success (which is the main way by which natural selection operates). The limiting of pain may be more just a fortunate accidental side effect.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

                Recall the classic smack on the fanny that obstetricians are so known for, when delivering babies. That deliberate flash of pain is meant to stimulate the child into breathing, along with which comes crying. Were babies to cry automatically, it would put the weakened post-parturitional mother and newborn at risk of aleting predators. For that raeson, I think evolution sifted out those who developed the consciousness to receive and recognize pain after being born, rather than before. It’s not the flip of a switch, either.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

                They don’t do that any more.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 16, 2012 at 3:24 am | Permalink


                Okay, that (not alerting predators) is a possible mechanism by which evolution could generate the effect discussed. I couldn’t think of one, offhand.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

              Don’t you mean “at birth” rather than “at conception”?

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

        My question about the origins of the procedure was more about why someone would consider removing part of someone’s genitals rather than the mythology that surrounded it. Again if it was to minimize the chance of UTI’s then it seems a bit extreme. If it was to ‘prove how tough you are’, then I see that as more plausible, followed by rapidly reducing the age it occurred to infants to make it more acceptable to the rest of the tribe. It just seems a very weird custom to adopt.

        • pulseteresa
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:01 am | Permalink

          “It just seems a very weird custom to adopt.”

          I agree, Michael, it’s downright bizarre, in addition to being barbaric and completely unnecessary. But aren’t crazy religious beliefs enough to explain any weird custom?

          Or are you thinking that maybe someone thought it was a good thing to do for other reasons and only later adopted by religion and incorporated into religious myths?

          • Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

            As as aaside, ritual handwashing was part of the crazy religious beliefs in Judaism, probably over two thousand years before microscopes were invented, bacteria were identified, and the germ theory of disease thought up. Was this all before soap was invented? I don’t know. Still, I wonder, sometimes, whether this had anything to do with the popularity of Jewish doctors, starting so very long ago…

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

          I suggest it went from a coming-of-age ritual to an infant ritual in the ancient Middle East, as in 19th century USA, because babies can’t resist. That has still to happen in Africa.

    • suwise3
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      I also would like to know why the procedure came about, why the biblical mandate. As a feminist, this is *the only thing* I can think of that actually harms MALES and not females. I don’t what it was invented.

    • Pablo
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      The brain of a two-week old is incapable of forming the kind of memory it takes to actually “suffer” in the sense that adults or even toddlers do. You don’t need memory to feel pain but you certainly do to experience it. Otherwise, the very act of childbirth would be such an insufferable torture for the innocent newborn that nobody in their right mind would engage in reproduction anymore.

      Let’s face it, at that age they’re just a cute bag of reflexes so, if you absolutely have to go through circumcision, the sooner the better.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        I don’t share the belief that pain you don’t remember doesn’t count.

        • Pablo
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t say it doesn’t count. It most certainly does. At the physiological level, unconscious pain still causes a strong body response: stress hormones are released, immune cells are recruited, inflammation might be unleashed, etc. This stuff runs on its own and can have long-term biological consequences, including effects on mental health, but you can’t claim that you suffered the triggering event in the same way that a conscious adult would.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Your personal beliefs are one thing. Science is another. Try this: It basically says, a review of the literature clearly indicates that during gestation, pain might be felt, but it cannot be consciously appreciated. “It is therefore a mistake to draw an equivalence between foetal pain and pain in the older infant or adult.” Older is beyond the neonatal period, which is defined as the first 28 days after birth.

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

            By the way, please forgive the tone of my last comment. Your comment didn’t deserve that in a response. My bad.

            • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

              Darn! My bad, twice! I meant this apology to go after the part about anatomical naming, tip vs. foreskin vs. glans.

          • pulseteresa
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:24 am | Permalink

            The pain still occurred even if it wasn’t “consciously appreciated.” So is it OK for me to hurt someone’s dog because the pain won’t be “consciously appreciated”? And we’re talking a live, post-birth baby here, not a fetus (and a completely unnecessary procedure being performed on said baby).

            Why not let the baby become a man and decide whether or not he wants to be circumcised? If for some crazy reason his decision is yes then there are ways to keep his pain from being “consciously appreciated.” For instance, circumcision could be performed while the patient is sedated with something like Versed, which not only sedates, but interferes with memory formation, given a strong pain reliever in IV form, and a local anesthetic. Then send him home with Vicodin, or whatever pain reliever would work best for this type of pain. He’d have not only not have any memory of the procedure, but would probably not experience (in any way) much, if any, pain during the procedure. Sounds much better than chopping off the foreskin of a helpless infant who has no say in a decision that will affect the rest of his life.

            • Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

              You suggest dogs are not conscious. They are sentient beings. To treat them otherwise is cruelty to animals.
              You suggest a number of overlapping pharmaceutical approaches to molifying the pain of circumcision in an adult — when neonates have such inborn protection to a signficant degree, and can get by on less, because of it.

            • Pablo
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

              The dog example is inadequate because most, if not all, adult mammals do experience pain and can be traumatized by it on a conscious level.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Taddio et al. (Lancet. 1997;349:599-603) found “Circumcised infants showed a stronger pain response to subsequent routine vaccination than uncircumcised infants.” The body remembers.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

          If that were true, wouldn’t heel sticks for blood work cause the same result? I’ve not read the study, but it sounds questionable, from what you presented.

          • Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

            Not if cutting off a richly innervated piece of tissue causes markedly more pain than a prick with a specially designed needle on a relatively insensitive part of the body.

        • Pablo
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          That’s similar to my reply above but you can’t logically attach a value judgment to that result. What if such a heightened response to pain were actually beneficial? As a counterpoint, people that can’t feel pain are at constant risk of injury, which can be not only crippling but also life-threatening.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I’m a little curious how the procedure arose.

      One reason is perhaps that it has been used as a manhood test. I believe it was popular in Africa (IIRC, “Roots” – after the post-semitic religions arose, to be certain). It would be similar to how some cultures use very painful ants that literary will knock you out to pass a test.

      And then I would assume it got perverted by religions as everything else cultural.

    • Notagod
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      That’s what I’ve been thinking as well. As a kid I’d get scrapped or cut and it would burn like a jesus christ. Now when older the pain seems minimized and the blood is the big problem because it is inconvenient and a nuisance. Neither is my penis as sensitive as it was when younger. I assume that pain may well be even worse for a baby.

      Those that say they where circumcised as babies and are fine with that should be even happier to have the procedure done as a consenting adult. And they can report as to how it didn’t hurt at all, if they like, thus getting major chest bumps from all their adoring buddies. What manly man wouldn’t jump at the opportunity?

      I’m skeptical of the health benefit claims because there is such a religious tie to the procedure that there would likely be risk of testing bias. However, even if the health benefits are real that still doesn’t negate the victim being cut as a consenting adult. Manly men like pain right? That’s what they seem to brag a lot about. What the jesus man? They expect a baby to submit to a procedure that they wouldn’t submit to themselves?

  15. Sajanas
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I ran across a critique of the paper that claimed circumcision lowered the spread of AIDS, and it had some good points.

    -The men who were circumcised couldn’t have sex for two months. The study period was only for 6 months.
    -The men who were circumcised also received a class in HIV transmission and safe sex. The control group did not.
    -They claimed something (iirc) like a 50% reduction in rate, but it was going from an incidence of 2.4 to 1.2%. So, sure, it might be statistically sound, but its not like it puts the risk to zero, since sex without a condom, even while circumcised is still substantially dangerous. Claiming circumcision helps prevent AIDS may even increase HIV transmission, since people might not use a condom, thinking their lack of foreskin will protect them.

    But its been a while, and I didn’t have access to the whole paper, since I believe it was paywalled. Still, those seem like fairly common sorts of things people do to nudge their results in the direction they want.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      I think I read that same critique, Sajanas. It sounds very familiar.

  16. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I think the determination of whether something shows a bias against religion or anything else depends on whether there is evidence for or against the practice outside of religion. In this case, there has been much debate and medical examination on the benefits and risks of circumcision. While there is evidence for encouraging the practice in areas of high HIV infection, in other areas, the evidence mostly points in the other direction.
    Many Medical Societies around the world recommend against infant circumcision, and even the evidence cited by the AMA in their revised stance would actually suggest that circumcision be a decision best made by the person as an adult, rather than by the parents for an infant.
    Given all this, I do not see the any anti-semitism in the decision.

  17. Greg G
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    The fact is that scientific work shows that circumcision reduces the incidence of AIDS and papilloma-virus infection

    Isn’t this a reason to allow a man to decide to be circumsized if he chooses to be promiscuous rather than to do it to babies?

    • pulseteresa
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:31 am | Permalink

      If he wanted to be promiscuous, he’d be better off wearing a condom. They’re more effective and, obviously, less invasive than circumcision.

  18. Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Not at all!
    I admit that as German I am having problems anytime when the ‘anti-semitism’ card is pulled out. People should stop issuing gag orders anytime a German says or does something they don’t like. As mentioned criticism of Israel falls into the same category.
    That ban has nothing to do with anti-semitism. It might reflect some lack of information and or judgement but the initial motivation was to protect children from harm.
    Any kind of religious motivated ritual done with children unable to consent is unacceptable to me (that includes infant baptism as well) and if it inflicts pain it is even worse. If an adult makes a conscious decision for or against it that’s an entirely different situation.
    Germany has specific laws providing the right to manifest one’s religion or beliefs with a certain age. That legal framework had a great influence on this decision. As a lawyer Dershowitz maybe should do his homework first.

  19. Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    This WEIT site having heightened my attention to evolution, I now wonder, what if the validity of disease protection plays out, and those so closed minded and ignorant as to try to consider the developmental anatomy, neurophysiology, immunology, etc. near or at the level of an expert, or to believe those with actual expertise, wind up dying left and right from such diseases as cervical cancer, penile cancer, teriary syphilis, HIV, etc., etc., etc. Their choices would have then made them less viable.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      correction of type: “as to refuse, not “as to choose”

    • pulseteresa
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      Huh? Who are these “close minded and ignorant” people you speak of.

      As for the rest of your comment: Huh? I cannot figure out what you are trying to say.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Point apparently made, then.

        • Notagod
          Posted September 16, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Apparently not. But, what if the earf really is going to stop spinning tomorrow tomorrow?

          Then what, huh?

          And again, nothing you have considered negates the obvious, that an adult can have the procedure done with their own consent without the force of a parent.

  20. ManOutOfTime
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    In order for there to be “any” truth to the claim, we would have to come to a common definition of anti-Semitism. If one defines that as any policy that deprives a Jew of his or her right to perform a circumcision on an eight-day-old baby boy, then there is some truth. If one defines it as putting a secular definition of human rights above a given sect’s right to engage in any given ritual, there is some truth. I guess b that definition the infamous attempted ban on peyote use was anti-Native American then. And bans on female circumcision are anti-Muslim.

    Among thinking people, of course, the above definitions are hogwash. I do not believe for one minute though that the policy is a product of anti-Jewish animus, whatever the history of the Jewish Problem in Europe. There is just no way that is true. You might have a case if you could name a Xtian body-modifying ritual to which the government is turning a blind eye.

    Of course, raising children in guilt and shame in the name of fairy tales is far more damaging to humanity than is circumcision … eschewing condoms and depriving women of reproductive choice has on balance a far bigger negative impact on overall health.

    My strong preference would be for government to establish guidelines and practices for safe male circumcision so that it can only be performed by a surgeon. I myself have been circumcised twice: once in the hospital, and once by a mohel on the eve of my conversion to Judaism – a Tipat Dam or “drop of blood” circumcision, performed by a urologist in his office. If there is one thing Jews are good at, it is coming up with rituals that can fulfill mitzvot within contemporary laws and norms. Just saying.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      If you had not gone through the first hospital circumcision, do you know the extent of what would have taken place on your conversion?

      • ManOutOfTime
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        Oh I assume the Orthodox would want whole turtleneck removed by I was converting with Reform rabbis. No doubt I could have “made the cut” with the same procedure, pun intended.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          LOL! Good one. We need more humor in here.

          • ManOutOfTime
            Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            Thanks! I work for tips!

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        I think the Reform movement is divided on this one. Depending on who your Rabbi was you might not have been able to avoid having the full cut to make the cut, so to speak.

        • ManOutOfTime
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          For sure. And the Reform movement is (sadly) getting goddier all the time!

          This was 20-odd years ago and My rabbi was definitely of the modern – that is to say 1970’s – variety, would do dual ceremonies, gay commitment ceremonies, etc, which is why I’m sure he would not have insisted on anything too invasive.

          That moment when you realize you’ve been chatting with strangers about your penis.

  21. Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I have no opinion on whether it is anti-semitic.

    I was surprised at the total ban in Germany. That seemed a bit intrusive. My own opinion is that it should be a medical decision, not a religious decision nor a political decision.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink


    • CFM
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      We are not talking about a “total ban”, and there is no “new German law that bans circumcision of male infants” either.

      We are, at the moment, talking about a regional courts decision concerning one particular case. This decision is not binding.

      The court argued that purely religiously motivated circumcisions without medical reasons violate the infants right to his bodies integrity.

      A number of legal experts agree that the procedure, undertaken without medical reasons, does indeed violate basic human rights (and, as a consequence, is forbidden by the German constitution).

      Thus, the German parliament has now decided to pass a law specifically allowing religiously motivated circumcisions of male infants. The main reason, stressed by many politicians, is that they do not want to “make the existence of Jewish communities in Germany impossible”. In my opinion they are going to allow a violation of basic rights, as long as it is motivated by religion.

      Some argue that making such a law is very difficult, as the German supreme court will probably see it as unconstitutional.

      As a German, my answer to the question whether the regional courts decision was influenced by anti-semitism, or anti-muslim sentiments, is a resounding no.

      The majority of those now arguing for a ban are medical doctors, psychologists and psychatrists and legal experts.

      Nevertheless, the debate started by the courts decision has, from the outset, been characterized by accusations of antisemitism, xenophobia and such like.

      Interestingly, atheists and secularists have been singled out as main culprits by many (religious) commenters in the German media: The courts decision is seen as a sign that anti-religious sentiment is on the rise.

      The main humanist and atheist organisations here in Germany, that much is true, are indeed in favour of a ban.

      • Occam
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        I concur with CFM, unreservedly.

        I am doing so as a person of Jewish ancestry, the last of my lineage, as someone who has lived in Germany for many years, and as someone acutely allergic to the subliminal undercurrents of cultural anti-semitism that still exist in segments of German society.

        There has been only one decision, regarding one particular case, involving Muslim parents and a Muslim surgeon, in one regional court. Even the most paranoid sleuth could not detect a ppm of anti-semitism in that court.

        Ever since, an embarrassing number of public figures of all persuasions have been bending over backwards, advocating leeway for religious circumcision against the very principles enshrined in the German constitution, lest legal restrictions against the practice be deemed motivated by the slightest trace of anti-semitism. The fear of the spectre of Nazism is taking precedence over the achievements of the Enlightenment.

        But, as ever, first things first:
        The Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School should be bothered to check his facts before issuing such a sweeping indictment. Either he has failed to do so, or he has concocted his pamphlet against better knowledge. In any case, the Dershowitz rant is an epic failure, intellectually, politically and morally.

        And, by the way, a Harvard Professor masquerading as Emile Zola ought to be bothered to check the spelling of J’accuse.

  22. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Contra Dershowitz I would say that it is bigoted to allow body modifications before age of consent just because it is a religious practice.

    Another part of the cultural discussion besides any anti-semitism is the observation that it is only nations where the practice is popular that concludes that it is a good solution. And the investigations are described as mediocre at best.

    Other nations health services, like Sweden, conclude that the best protection against sexual diseases, and unwanted pregnancies, is condom use. It is very effective against HIV, and has no side effects at all.

    Finally, the question of anti-semitism is a fuzzy or misplaced one. Certainly it isn’t the main motivator as much as outrage that human rights of security of person are violated in the case of the defenseless.

    “Article 3.

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

  23. yellow2dog
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    “circumcision reduces the incidence of AIDS” is not proven, unless there is new evidence that I’m not aware of. The previous studies were very weak.

    • lamacher
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Not just weak – fatally flawed. And using a percentage reduction in the summary when the absolute reduction is very small is deceiving, and intentionally so. The studies are worthless.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Is that why the American Pediatric Association just published a change in it’s stance — toward circumcision?

        • Cliff Melick
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Not necessarily – physicans, especially clinicians – don’t always get things right.

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

            True. In this case, the latest publication by the American Pediatric Association is a correction on their previous anti-circumcision stand, based on extensive review of decades worth of peer reviewed literature. I believe I read tha the World Health Organization is also on board with this and has been for quite some time.

            • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

              Only a handful of more than 600 African HIV studies have properly controlled for anal sex or blood exposures (of all types). Sounds crazy, but 30 years in and the epidemiology on Africa is horribly flawed, with UNAIDS and the WHO leading the gaffes. You’d probably be surprised at how shitty the “science” is here.

              What makes it really bad is that repeated calls to study the problem with proper controls in place (for instance, tracing studies with testing of genetic variants or critical examination of serodiscordant couples or HIV+ babies born to HIV- mothers) have fallen on deaf ears. The question has been settled since Jon Mann’s pronouncement that 90% of HIV transmission is “heterosexual” (whatever that means). It has become a faith-based orthodoxy of its own.

              • Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

                If I recall correctly (and please pardon me for not looking this up), the American Pediatric Association reviewed some 5000 peer reviewed publications. I think they got farther than the handful of African studies.

              • Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                I do not know of the 5000 figure offhand. But 600 African studies is not a handful, by any means. Try reviewing them yourself, if you do not believe me. When you do though, ask youself the following critical questions: a) did the researchers control for anal exposures in how they defined “sex” (that is, did they distinguish specifically between what hole was used, or did they merely classify on the basis of gender of people involved in various partnerships) – and b) were non-sexual exposures considered, or did the researchers ASSUME “sex” (as they defined it) was the vector?

                If you do this honestly, as we did, you will find a handful of these passing the test. There are even counter-examples where studies assuming significance are later shown to be crap when one controls for non-sexual exposures. It really is truly shameful.

                By “African studies”, I don’t mean studies done by African researchers – I mean HIV studies assessing transmission vectors that involve African populations. Many of these are condom efficacy studies, studies of acceleration of HIV transmission in populations due to concomitant STD infections – that kind of thing. Essentially WHO/UNAIDS/CDC studies by multinational investigative teams.

              • Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                Yes, I realized “handful of studies” mistakenly referred to the better ones you found, among the ones you were able to scientifically tear apart. My apologies for the error.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

                s’allright, man… BTW, the 600+ is, to our knowledge, the census of such studies done. (we didn’t want to “cherry-pick”, after all). And most of the literature outside Africa uses the scientific consensus on how it is being transmitted — which is based on the flawed African studies.

                We even asked WHO people if they could clue us in on precisely WHERE Jon Mann’s “90% hetero” transmission figure came from. They couldn’t tell us. This figure is parroted by absolutely everyone when they want to appear knowledgeable about HIV transmission. And it is used to make policy affecting millions. (killing millions, actually – as scarce resources are going up the wrong tree)

                THIS is what post-modernists mean when they talk about reality being a social construction – and post-modernism makes me retch. What most of us think of as hard and fast truths about HIV are built on sand. This includes circumcision arguments, which are frankly (no pun intended) icing on the cake.

  24. Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Cutting off bits of babies with a knife is not anti-Semitic?

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      No. If you’re putting it in a sandwich, with lettuce, tomato, and mayonaise, it’s atheist for “lunch.”

  25. SLC
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    As Prof. Coyne is discovering, this is a subject that generates large numbers of comments, mostly based on no evidence.

    1. As a starter, AFAIK, circumcision has not been banned in Germany. There was a court decision in Cologne which only applies to the German state in which it is located (much like a court decision in Illinois applies only to Illinois). AFAIK, the practice is still legal in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, etc.

    2. The incidence of the procedure in the US used to be almost ubiquitous, at one time reaching some 90% of the male population (it’s now down to some 50%). This is quite unlike Europe in which the procedure was almost entirely restricted to Jews (and more recently Muslims).

    3. I agree with Prof. Coyne that a mohel should only be allowed to perform the procedure if he/she has received sufficient medical training. It doesn’t require a brain surgeon. In US hospitals, the procedure is usually performed by an intern or 1st year surgical resident. The practice of sucking up the blood should be absolutely banned as a health hazard. No exceptions or excuses. The proposed law in New York City requiring written parental consent doesn’t go nearly far enough. A mohel who refuses to accept the ban should be arrested and charged with child endangerment.

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      In Australia, circumcision was the default position, performed in hospitals. I think the political debate really began in the late 70s.

      • Steve in Oakland
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:33 am | Permalink

        It wasn’t that long ago that most people, at least those in rural areas, which most people were, were born at home. Circumcision was not even considered.

        As for most comments being uninformed, there are places to get informed. One is

  26. Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    An old moel (Jewish extpert in ritual circumcision) was walking toward the home of a new baby boy, one day, to perform the act, when a guest for the Bris (ritual circumcision) ran up alongside him.

    “Rabbi”, he puffed, out of breath from running, “can I ask you a question?”

    “Of course”, answers the moel. “What is it?”

    “You’ve been doing circumcisions for decades! Longer than I’ve been born. In fact, if you recall, you even did mine. So, what do you do with all those little bits of foreskin, accumulated after all these years?”

    The moel pulls his wallet out of his pocket. “I had them sewn into this.”

    “But — wait! That’s only a wallet! Surely there are enough foreskins to make something larger than a wallet!”

    “Ah, yes,” said the moel. “When you rub it, it becomes a steamer trunk!”

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      David Lloyd George is alleged to have said of one of his political colleagues, “When they circumcised Herbert Samuel, they threw away the wrong bit.”

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Remember the old fake Saturday Night Live ad for Firestone tires? Shock absorption so smooth you could safely do a bris in the back seat?

  27. gillt
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a tawdry argument that infant circumcision is somehow robbing men of their rights. At least it does no more than other preventative health decisions our parents make for us, many of which have life-long effects: vaccines, braces (teeth, legs, back), fluoridation, all sorts of elective/corrective surgeries, nutrition…

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink


    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      At least it does no more than other preventative health decisions our parents make for us …

      The evidence for preventative health benefits from circumcision is very dubious; even if there are benefits they are minor.

      Further, any supposed health benefits do not accrue until the kid is near-adult, thus there is no harm in waiting until the kid can make his own choice (this contrasts with the other procedures you mention, such as vaccination).

      Lastly, circumcision is not a minor thing. It produces a major change in the feel and function of the penis. (Men who were circumcised as infants, and have no experience of having an intact penis, may simply not realise this.)

      Earlier campaigns leading to routine circumcision in English-speaking countries talked about “hygiene” reasons — this was a euphemism for wanting to stop teenagers from masturbating.

      • darrelle
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        It is not my intent to argue for or against circumcision, but the following does not seem to make sense.

        “It produces a major change in the feel and function of the penis. (Men who were circumcised as infants, and have no experience of having an intact penis, may simply not realise this.)”

        I am not sure exactly what you mean by function, but in regards to feel you are talking about sex, correct? I don’t see how someone who has not been circumcised would be able to know what differences in feel a person circumcised at birth might experience compared to themselves, either. Something like a statistical increase in erectile dysfunction, or maybe inability to achieve orgasm for males with successful (no complications) circumcisions would be pretty good evidence. Responses from circumcised and non circumcised males to questions about how intense their orgasms are would not be very solid.

        I can certainly imagine that a person circumcised after becoming sexually active would experience a distinct change, but I think that is a very different situation.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          As you say, it’s really hard for most of us to compare. Some people circumcised after maturity report a significant reduction in sensitivity and feel; others report no difference.

          You can also find plenty of testimony that circumcised men are indeed less sensitive, which leads to prolonged intercourse, to the benefit of the female, who thus prefer circumcised men.

          It is also the case that with an uncircumcised penis the skin tends to slide over the shaft and glans, and this skin-over-glans sliding is often felt to be the most sensitive and intense feature of penile feel. In a circumcised penis the skin and shaft tend to move together.

          The point is not that one condition is vastly better than the other, it is that the change in function and feel is indeed major and significant, and concerns an activity of major importance to most adult lives.

          It is thus not something to be done lightly purely for “tradition” or for very marginal and dubious health benefits, it is something that a male should decide for themselves at an appropriate age.

      • gillt
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink


        1. Can you point to some science that calls into the question the other well-accepted science that has established the health benefits conferred by circumcision. The obvious one would be HIV prevention but also HPV and syphilis.

        2. Puberty hits well before what most of us consider adulthood…males become sexually mature in their mid-teens, when parents are still calling the shots. Additionally, your second point is splitting hairs, since many of the health decisions made by parents and pertaining to their offspring do, like I said, have permanent and lasting effects throughout life.

        3. Circumcision is a minor thing…from a medical standpoint. From a lifestyle perspective, the benefits (STD prevention) outweigh the risks (alleged loss of a fraction of sensitivity during sex) in my opinion. With that said, I think parents should be informed that they can opt-out of having their children circumcised while still being a good default preventative health decision for hospitals to take.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:10 am | Permalink

          On the HIV issue, read this blog post and this paper that it refers to. I’m not an expert on this, but it seems to me that the critiques have merit and the claims about HIV prevention are dubious.

          I think parents should be informed that they can opt-out of having their children circumcised while still being a good default preventative health decision for hospitals to take.

          Other than the recent US advice, most medical associations in the Western world do not recommend routine circumcision. Thus large numbers of medical professionals are not convinced that any benefits outweigh the risks, or that any benefits are sufficient to impose it routinely.

          It’s notable that the US decision is largely about whether this is covered by insurance, which muddies the water and prevents a purely medical stance. The US is also out of line with other Western nations in having long had a very high rate of circumcision and is the most religiose Western nation.

        • pulseteresa
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:04 am | Permalink

          A botched circumcision is not a minor thing…from any standpoint. And your assertion that circumcision is a minor thing overall is merely your opinion. Many others would disagree with you. It is unnecessary. Condoms work better at preventing disease transmission than having a portion of one’s penis removed.

          • Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            What you undermine as “merely your opinion”, referring to my comments, is based on science, which is based on evidence and logical conjecture still under study and examination. It is not “merely” mine, then, but that of quite a number of experts of varying degrees. Your emotionally loaded vocabulary and descriptions shine in contradistinction to this.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

          See the literature I linked to above, as well. (incl. “Circumcision as a Faith Lift…”)

          We rely on our scientific process to guide us — and things went completely astray with regards to HIV, when we considered ecological evidence to be “good enough”. First world scientists doing second-rate science in third-world countries… that’s where we are now.

          • gillt
            Posted September 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

            I’m sure South Africa will be surprised to hear of it’s new Third World status

            • Posted September 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

              According to the original and still-common definition of the Cold-War-era terms, South Africa is and always has been a Third World country.

              The First World is the United Sates and its NATO and other allies.

              The Second World is the Soviet Union, China, and their allies.

              The Third World is everybody else, including India, Mexico, the Muslim nations, and basically all of Africa and South America. It originally also included Scandinavia, from the time they were fence-sitters.

              Since most of the Third World even then was comprised of under-developed and impoverished nations, the term has since tended to take on that meaning…but that meaning also destroys the meaning of the First and Second Worlds.

              These days, it’s probably better to speak in terms of the developed world, developing nations, and poverty-stricken and / or war-torn regions. South Africa would be an advanced developing nation or a poorer developed nation, depending on what perspective you have.


              • gillt
                Posted September 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

                No disagreement here

    • JT
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink


  28. Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see how this could even be a debate without religion as the catalyst.

    There is no other circumstance in which would say that one citizen has the right to cut off the a piece of another without consent.
    If there was a religion cutting off infants’ earlobes we’d all be crying ‘barbarians’- but because a persecuted religion is involved, suddenly it’s a ‘debate’.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of ears, I read that a Berlin court is now considering a ruling against pierced ears in young girls.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        I’d totally support that. In fact, I’d say keep children’s bodies and minds free from mutilation or religion until they’re 16 and can choose for themselves.

    • RFW
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      There’s a “primitive” tribe – I think maybe the San people in the Kalahari desert – whose custom was to hemi-castrate young men because with only one testicle, a man can run more freely in the pursuit of prey.

      Good? Bad? Who knows?

      • Occam
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:12 am | Permalink

        Actually, it was the extension to hunting of an originally musical tradition. In early hunter-gatherer societies, performers thus treated were known as doing Music Minus One.

        Human progress being unstoppable, as Steven Pinker pointed out, the practice was doubled up from the mid-16th century onwards, resulting in the most breath-taking soprano and contralto arias of the Baroque opera and liturgical music.
        The technical term for it has not yet garnered the universal acceptance it should have: Music Minus Two.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      Just curious: Would you also leave supernumerary digits intact (extra fingers, thumbs, toes, or useless parts thereof)? Removing them from hands is usually cosmetic and from feet is usually for wearing shoes. In general, would those reading this vote to leave such digits in place or remove them in infancy?

      • mark d.
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        > Would you also leave supernumerary digits
        > intact [etc]

        This is just obstructive trolling, isn’t it? Now he’s trying to imply that there’s some relation between an operation done to correct an abnormal feature that’s highly visible and an operation done to alter a normal feature that’s essentially non-visible. Ludicrous.

        The poster’s other points are mostly beneath contempt as well. I call troll.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          No, not trolling. I was asking seriously. In early elementary school, a classmate had two thumbs with duplicate thumbnails, and back then, no one did surgery to fix them. Decades later, in med school and internship, if a newborn had an extra digit on the pinky side of the hand, and it was floppy, the treatment was to tie suture around it so as to strangle its blood supply and let it turn dry gangrane and fall off. If the extra digit were more substantial, an orthopaedic consult was called, parents were given the pros and cons, and everything was more formal. At least, that’s how I remember it. Later, it seemed the trend was such that my early childhood classmate, had he just been born nowadays, would have had corrective surgery in infancy to negate the risk of being teased in school. When we were kids, though, no one teased him about it, and I doubt the deformity turned too many girls off, when he grew older.
          Personally, I think the answer depends on the functional results, either way.

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

            I have been a bit grumpy and off, today, though, so no surprise to be called a troll. I might even have earned it.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:21 am | Permalink

        That’s a most absurd and misleading analogy. The foreskin is not ‘useless’.

        • Explicit Atheist
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          The foreskin is non-essential and the benefits versus costs trade-off does not clearly favor keeping the foreskin because of various infection risks that the foreskin facilitates. The real issue here should be regulating circumcision to ensure that there is pain relief and hygiene.

          As of 2010, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians state: “it is reasonable for parents to weigh the benefits and risks of circumcision and to make the decision whether or not to circumcise their sons.”

          the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated that a systematic evaluation of the medical literature shows that the “preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure” and that the health benefits “are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns,” but “are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns”.

          The above statement was also endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

          The American Urological Association (2007) stated that neonatal circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages as well as disadvantages and risks, stating that “while the results of studies in African nations may not necessarily be extrapolated to men in the United States at risk for HIV infection, the American Urological Association recommends that circumcision should be presented as an option for health benefits.”

          World Health Organization says:

          There is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. Three randomized controlled trials have shown that male circumcision provided by well trained health professionals in properly equipped settings is safe. WHO/UNAIDS recommendations emphasize that male circumcision should be considered an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence.

  29. DV
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    If it is anti-Semitic, so be it. If Jewish identity includes participation in ritual mutilation of babies, then there’s something wrong with Jewish identity.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      ‘If it is anti-Semitic, so be it. If Jewish identity includes participation in ritual mutilation of babies, then there’s something wrong with Jewish identity.’


      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Would both of you please do yourselves a favor and read? Science, I mean… See that nice post someone input, a little while ago, about the latest in literature on circumcision and disease, including urinary tract infections in babies?

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          docatheist, you sarcastic tone is not appropriate when medical professionals debate and dispute this issues.

          For example, here is Australian medical advice on the issue, which says:

          “Some research in North America has shown that boys, who were circumcised as small babies, have less chance of developing urinary tract infections in the first year of life than those who are uncircumcised (there is no difference in older boys). However, the numbers of uncircumcised boys who will get urinary infections is small. If 1000 well boys are circumcised, 8 infections will be prevented, but 20 will have a complication related to the circumcision. So the risks of circumcision surgery outweigh the benefits.”

          Anyhow, the usual medical response to an infection these days is not to cut the body part off and throw it away, it is to give antibiotics.

          A more relevant statistic would the number of children who suffer long-lasting and serious medical conditions as a result of being uncircumcised. I suspect that this number is very small. (Especially since, if circumcision is warranted for good medical reasons, one can then circumcise.)

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

            “If 1000 well boys are circumcised, 8 infections will be prevented, but 20 will have a complication related to the circumcision.” Big “IF”, there. Just waht is the rate of complications after circumcision? Your source doesn’t really say.
            On the other hand, perhaps you could consider the frequency of catheterizations needed in infants with urinary tract infections, and the pain involved, there. Actual studies have been done on that pain,showing topical and intra-urethral applications of lidocaine help (though no benefit to repeated applictions). As an intern, I had to do this procedure on adult males, including inserting lidocaine into their urethras — not dripping it onto the meatus (opening) but using a needle-less syringe to fairly inflate the passage with lidocaine gel so a catheter could be passed. Are you sure a urinary tract infection in an neonate is so very benign?

            • Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

              Here’s an additional study, this time not of infants but of adult Australian men:

              “CONCLUSION: Among Australian men, being circumcised, or not currently living as married, were associated with increased prevalence of urinary symptoms.”


              • Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

                I don’t understand your point. Adult men who are circumcised and married get as many UTIs as adult men who are uncircumcised and not married? If I got that right, it could suggest circumcision is so popular amongst the ladies that marriage doesn’t slow those men down.

            • pulseteresa
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:12 am | Permalink

              “Just waht is the rate of complications after circumcision?”

              Um, it’s right there in the bit you quoted at the start of your comment: 20 out of 1000.

        • DV
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          why is the supposed medical benefits even being put out as a justification? does that even make sense to mutilate babies in order to prevent some small chance of future condition happening?

          • Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

            Yes. Many thanks to the one who posted the Australian radio broadcast link. It’s on here, somewhere. In the comments section, a physician provides data on deaths due to unrinary tract infections, happening only among uncircumcised infants in the large number of cases to which he refers, versus the good outcomes and lack of UTIs among circumcised infants. He’s not theorizing. He’s seeing the cases. Prefentable death is an important reason to look at circumcision with, at the very least, an open mind.

          • Explicit Atheist
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

            Because even the characterization of a surgery as “mutilation” requires empirical evidence to support it. Medical dictionaries utilize the word “essential” in their definition of mutilate. So if the empirical evidence does not support the assertion that the foreskin has the attribute of being essential then it is wrong to say circumcision is ” mutilation”.

  30. RFW
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Some Appalachian states have (or had) laws against snake handling. The US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal against a lower court’s decision upholding such a law.

    Freedom of religion refers to opinion and belief, not to actions. No matter how sincere your belief that such-and-such action smells good in the nostrils of Dog, the state may legitimately forbid that action.

    No handling snakes. No burning newborns alive as sacrifices to Baal. And no oral suction after circumcision by a mohel.

    Frankly, imo the law should stipulate that circumcision, being surgery, can only be done by a licensed physician. The ultra-Orthodox Jews would scream, but this is 2012, not 1351, and it’s time to stop barbaric, medieval practices like lay circumcision.

    Religious requirements can still be met by those who care by employing an observant Jew as the surgeon, someone who knows the right prayers to say over the child.

  31. Zash
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    If you want to understand the germans read this:


  32. Rhetoric
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    You know the state of affairs is truly, completely, fucked when chopping the tip of the penis off of a BABY isn’t immediately condemned.

    “The fact is that scientific work shows that circumcision reduces the incidence of AIDS and papilloma-virus infection ”

    So why are we circumcising INFANTS? I really wouldn’t think it was such a big deal if the justifications for it weren’t so fucking stupid.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Or, when someone describes a surgical procedure in such an obviously incorrect way. The tip, aka “glans” is not cut off. Wherever you got that idea, that was an antisemitic slur and slant, and you fell for it. Many do, so you’re not alone, but you are here, on a blog where truth and intelligence, in the form of knowledge based on factual evidence, count.

      • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Or, when someone describes a surgical procedure in such an obviously incorrect way. The tip, aka “glans” is not cut off.

        Given that the foreskin is part of the penis and, in the flaccid state, is at the end, why can’t it fairly be called the “tip”? Your response seems an over-reaction.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          Ever heard of the science of anatomy? It provides specific names to specific parts of specific bodies. Your suggestion that the “tip” include something that is not at the actual tip all the time is exactly why anatomists don’t call the foreskin “the tip.”

          • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

            Yep, anatomy gives specific formal names, such as “glans”. “Tip” is not one of these names. Hence your insistence that you can’t colloquially use “tip” to refer to the foreskin seems overly argumentative.

            • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

              Will you continue to call it “the” tip during an erection, then, when the foreskin no longer reaches over the glans? Blurring vocabulary is the work of propagandists, not scientists.

      • pulseteresa
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:19 am | Permalink

        I call bullshit on your suggestion of antisemitism here. It’s an absurd response on your part, doc. And then you have the temerity to imply that you are more intelligent than Rhetoric.

  33. Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    ‘Frankly, imo the law should stipulate that circumcision, being surgery, can only be done by a licensed physician.’

    … with the proviso that the surgery can only be performed as a last resort when all other conservative treatments have failed and, above all, for a valid medical reason.

    ‘The ultra-Orthodox Jews would scream’

    Don’t they always?

    ‘but this is 2012, not 1351’

    It’s worse than that, I’m afraid. If you’re an ultra-Orthodox Jew it’s still only 5772.

    ‘it’s time to stop barbaric, medieval practices like lay circumcision.’

    Remove the word ‘lay’ and replace it with words such as ‘religious’ and ‘routine’ and I’d be in complete agreement with you.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      The ultra-othodox scream when women in Jerusalem aren’t ‘properly’ covered- they also scream if they sit in the non-designated section on the bus.
      It’s time for Orthodox religious people to just shut up- whatever their religion is.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I would choose the circumciser with the most experience and fewest bad outcomes. MDs aren’t perfect, either.

      • pulseteresa
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:23 am | Permalink

        Why would you choose a circumciser at all? It’s an unnecessary procedure. Condoms are much more effective at preventing the spread of STDs then the removal of part of a penis.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          Yes, yes, you keep saying — or, rather, — writing that, as though none of us got it the first time. Mind if I ask whether you’ve studied histology, embrylogic development, neurodevelopment, extremity amputations, and other overlapping and related areas of medical science? Because it can be difficult to explain, otherwise, that based on these, circumcision makes sense, the sort of sense that leads to doing research to find out whether such logical conclusions play out in reality. That is why the research has been done: because of a scientific rational which logically suggested benefits as finally respected by the American Academy of Paediatrics.

  34. John
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Dershowitz sounds like an anti-German bigot.

    • Steve in Oakland
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      That’s because he is.

  35. Doug
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Dershowitz claims that anyone who opposes circumcision or ritual slaughter on the basis of “pseudo-scientific nonsense” is naive or bigoted. There may be some (disputed) benefit to having one’s foreskin removed, but can cutting the throat of a sentient mammal really be seen as anything but barbaric? The fact that unnecessary pain has been inflicted in this way for a very long time does not seem to strengthen the morality of the practice. Quite the opposite.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Do you really think to win this argument by mixing in a totally different one? That the two are related by Judaism suggests an ulterior motive.

      • Doug Gray
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        You might ask Dershowitz that question. He mentions ritual slaughter in the section that Jerry excerpted above. The same accusations are levelled at anyone who objects to either.

        • Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          Ah, another redirction, this time suggesting that two wrongs make a right.

          • Doug Gray
            Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            No idea what you are on about. Dershowitz mentions ritual slaughter as a second practice whose critics are naive or bigoted. My point was that the health claims for circumcision can hardly apply to ritual slaughter, and as a cultural practice it is even harder to defend. A rather simple point, really.

            • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

              Not well enough to continue, tonight. Maybe someone else sees what I did and would like to step in. Night, all.

              • pulseteresa
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:25 am | Permalink

                I doubt it. You’re seeing things that aren’t there.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                Did you intend for that to be an ad hominem attack?

      • pulseteresa
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        Wow, another accusation of antisemitism. You’re looking awfully hard for comments to be offended by. Meanwhile, your comments border on the obnoxious…and paranoid.

        Is it antisemitic if I state that Judaism, like all religions, is utter nonsense, has had a harmful effect on humanity since its inception, and is filled with stupid, pointless rituals? Am I antisemitic simply for criticizing Judaism?

        I don’t hold your opinion to be truth – of course! – but I’m curious as to what your opinion is about my above statement.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          You ask my opinion and reiterate the request after clarifying that you won’t believe whatever it is. Yeah. Right.
          I believe it’s time to call ‘troll” on you. From redundancy ad nauseum to lack of scientific basis to go with your emotional responses, to your ad hominem attacks, it is time to call “Troll.”

  36. Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I’ve already gone on record that it was a reasonable decision, and since the judgement was made in the case of a Muslim child, why should it be considered antisemitic, and not say, islamophobic? I don’t think it’s either. I think, for what it’s worth, that parents should not be allowed to baptise their children — which, in Christian theology, is indelible and makes you a Christian — and promise that they will become Christians. Certainly, parents may teach their traditions to their children, but whether they decide to opt in should be a matter left up to them. Of course, that would be impossible to enforce, and would contravene liberal conceptions of liberty, but in the case of genital mutilation, unless it is being done for a medical reason (as it sometimes is), there is no more good reason to do it to boys than there is to do it to girls. I think Dershowitz is over the top here, but knowing how easily religious sentiments are aroused, I’m not a bit surprised.

    I do take his point, however, that

    The dirty hands and filthy past of Germany forever disqualifies that country from leading the effort to ban Jewish rituals.

    If anyone were to do this, it would have been better coming from the US or Britain, Australia or New Zealand. The German past, while thankfully now past, still casts a huge shadow.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I think, for what it’s worth, that parents should not be allowed to baptise their children — which, in Christian theology, is indelible and makes you a Christian — and promise that they will become Christians.

      I’m normally pretty anti-religious, but I would not go that far. Sure, Christians might regard it as indelible, but non-Christians don’t, so if the kid decides he’s not a Christian then it’s not indelible, indeed it’s something that had no effect on him whatever.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

        Of course, I agree, my point was just a simple, “It’s wrong to make promises about your children’s adult beliefs, and doing so in the context of a religious ritual is perhaps slightly worse”. I do say that it would be wrong and impossible in any event to enforce such an “over the top” position. Nevertheless, the harm that believing that your children are, though a purely symoblic ritual, made one with Christ, is considerable, and has a tendency go skew people’s lives, because baptism is different to simply passing on a tradition. It is to induct a person, in a physical way, into that tradition, and they will be reminded of it in years to come, and challenged to live their lives in the light of it. I know. I was there!

  37. Ian Liberman
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone read that the American Academy of Paediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists indicates evidence showing health advantages for male circumcision. They both list urinary infections, HIV, prostate and penile cancer and sexually transmitted disease and much of it effective when the procedure is given at birth. Also side effects are listed as minor at birth but not adulthood. If the procedure is given for religious or medical reasons , we should not be discouraging it and I personally support it for both reasons, only because of the medical benefits. I am an atheist and I feel if religion can provide , in some way, a positive medical result then go for it. We do this with vaccinations and the medical societies have actually stated in new guidelines ,just like the vaccines that the advantage outweigh any harm from the procedure if done by my medical personal. It is all outline here with links.–new-u-s-guidelines-for-male-circumcision-show-health-advantages

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      I knew someone would bring this up.

      My alter ego has annotated the AAP policy in detail here:

      Perhaps most striking about the AAP’s new policy is what is NOT in it:
      * the word “condom” (in three pages about STDs and HIV)
      * the word “botch” (or any mention that one clamp-maker has gone out of business after losing millions to the families of botch-victims)
      * any figure or estimate for major complications or deaths
      * any numerican comparison of benefits and risks
      * any reference to the structure of the foreskin, such as
      * the word “frenulum”
      * the words “ridged band”, which was first described in
      * Taylor et al.’s groundbreaking paper, The prepuce: Specialized mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision Journal of Urology (1996), 77, 291-295
      * the key conclusion of the Sorrells study (Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis BJU International 99 (4), 864-869), that “circumcision ablates [removes] the most sensitive part of the penis (the study is cited, but only its references to other parts of the penis are considered)
      * any consideration of the human rights of the person being circumcised
      * any consideration of men who hate having been circumcised.

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Does anyone read the comments above on precisely this matter before posting?

  38. Steve in Oakland
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Dershowitz is a mixed bag. His innocence project has freed many a wrongfully incarcerated person, but he gets a little weird when he gets into issues like circumcision.

  39. Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Read Constatine’s Sword if younwant to understand te depths of European anti-semitism. Europe, as a whole, should simy take a hands off policy towards the Jewish religion, because their motives can never be pure. Most of them aren’t even aware of the deep rooted anti-semitism embedded in their psyches.

    Not only the NIH but WHO, the UN health organization, is extolling the health benefits of circumcision to combat HIV infection throughout sub Saharan Africa, and no one has ever accused the UN of being apologists for Jewish cultural institutions.

    As for mohels, in New York City where I live, our Jewish Mayor Bloomberg has just passed legislation to ban certain circumsition practices of the ultra orthodox community that are not only unsanitary but are borderline pedophilia. So conscientious legislators could take up this issue, but Europeans should never be trusted on matters of Semitic religious practice.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      They are extolling the health benefits in regions of high HIV prevalence of circumcising adult volunteers (though that is undergoing interpretation creep as men inexplicably fail to volunteer to have [the best] part of their penises cut off) and in some countries they are moving to cut babies.

      The UN as a whole can not be accused of being an apologist for Jewish cultural institutions, but it will never act against male genital cutting – the one issue that can unite Jews and Muslims – the way it has against female genital cutting (no matter how minor, surgical and sterile). Some of the main movers and shakers in circumcision promotion, notably Daniel Halperin, are Jewish, and Halperin says his descent from a ritual circumciser has “destined” him to promote it.

      The trouble is that “Semitic religious practice” in this case, and very few quite like it, impacts on non-consenting people in a very intimate way.

      • Gary W
        Posted September 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        WHO reports that:

        There is conclusive evidence from observational data and three randomized controlled trials that circumcised men have a significantly lower risk of becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus

        It also cites studies that found that circumcision “can help prevent urinary tract infections, inflation of the glans and foreskin, penile cancer, some sexually transmitted diseases such as chancroid and syphilis, … and from passing on HPV which causes cervical cancer to female partners.”

        Do you have any evidence that WHO’s position on circumcision is politically motivated rather than a sincere medical judgment?

        • Tumara Baap
          Posted September 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

          Opponents of routine male circumcision do not dispute the possible health benefits for which there is good evidence. On the contrary they implore you to sift through the data with a fine tooth comb. In most instances, the medical benefits really are marginal. In others areas the extrapolation of what happens in a heterosexual epidemic prone areas of Africa to U.S. is clearly misguided. If one must make comparisons, try Western Europe where circumcision rates are much lower. Most reasonable thinking adults would rather pop on a condom than contemplate self-mutilation. So it’s not that anyone claims health benefits are nil. It’s that you’re better off pulling of all of your babies nails with a plier and be assured of better hygiene down the line. It’s a question of when is that threshold crossed where basic rights such as the ability to give consent to what’s done to one’s body is justifiably given short shrift. It’s a question of whether you have been culturally inured to what would otherwise be a wrong. I wonder… Most of you would go ape-shit at a dad who takes his baby to a tattoo parlor. But mutilation of a sexual pleasure contributing organ? Oh, no particular strong opinion on that one way or the other.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          Look at those weasel words “can help prevent” with no figures. In fact, the Number Needed to Treat for UTIs is well over 100, for penile cancer over 1000, and syphilis, for example, is pretty much a lost cause as far as circumcision is concerned.

          Look at the shroud-waving of “HPV which can cause cervical cancer”. (I have another post on this page about the Castellsagué study, the mainstay of the HPV claim.)

          The WHO policy emerged from a closed-door, invitation-only meeting of unnamed “experts” in Monteux, Switzerland in 2007, and a detailed handbook for doing it suspiciously soon after, suggesting it was a rubberstamp affair.

          Sorry, but it looks as though the WHO was hijacked. There is a small pro-circumcision community – not a conspiracy, they openly publish together – and it is rare to find a pro-circumcision study with none of these names: Robert Bailey, Stefan Bailis, Ronald Gray, Daniel Halperin, Godfrey Kigozi, Jeffrey Klausner, Brian Morris, Stephen Moses, Malcolm Potts, Thomas Quinn, David Serwadda, Aaron Tobian, Maria Wawer, Jake Waskett or Helen Weiss, on it.

          Your Appeal to the WHO’s Authority fails.

          • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            Yes, about that HPV thing. As a woman who cares about her health, and who appreciates that men can carry the disease without ever knowing, while women can (and I’ve know women who did) die from it, I’ll stick with circumcised men. After all, I know where all those “cut off nerve endings” wound up regenerating…

            • Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:41 am | Permalink

              You seem to be confusing HPV with cervical cancer. HPV is a very common virus, that the body gets rid of quite quickly. Only some strains are implicated in cervical cancer, and only partially. Some of the studies claiming to show a circumcision connection did so by data-mining the locations on the penis where they found HPV; overall, there was no difference.

              If you want to avoid cervical cancer, you’d be far better not to smoke and to stick to one (faithful) man.

              If you ‘know where all those “cut off nerve endings” wound up regenerating…’, do tell, because my understanding is that they don’t regenerate.

    • SLC
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      The law proposed by Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t go far enough. It only requires consent from the parents to the mohel sucking the blood. That practice should be absolutely banned, as I stated previously, no excuses or exceptions. Violators should be charged in criminal court with child endangerment and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  40. mark d.
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Another example of the same tactic…

    In a debate earlier this month with Dawkins filmed by the BBC […], Sacks reportedly complained that Dawkins’s 2006 book calls the God of the Old Testament as the “most unpleasant character in all fiction.”

    God is “jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully,” Dawkins, who is a professor at Oxford University, wrote then.

    Sacks called that antisemitic.

    “There are Christian atheists and Jewish atheists, you read the Bible in a Christian way. Christianity has an adversarial way of reading what it calls the Old Testament – it has to because it says ‘we’ve gone one better, we have a New Testament.’ So you come prejudiced against what you call the Old Testament and that’s why I did not read the opening to chapter two in your book as a joke, I read it as a profoundly antisemitic passage.”

    Dawkins dismissed Sack’s allegations, calling them “ridiculous.”

    “How you can call that anti-Semitic?, a stunned Dawkins reportedly said. “It’s anti-God.”

    Sacks responded that what Dawkins wrote was “anti the Jewish God”.


    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      “Sacks responded that what Dawkins wrote was “anti the Jewish God”.”

      Teehee! Shades of “We all worship the same God“.

      Sacks seems to think that the Christian God of the Hebrew Scriptures is not the same as the Jewish God of the Hebrew Scriptures. Sophisticated TheologyTM indeed!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:21 am | Permalink

      I’ll believe that’s antisemitic when someone points to a passage in The God Delusion that says nice things about the New Testament god.

      Or to put it another way, it seems Rabbi Sacks managed to read The God Delusion and completely miss the point.

  41. Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s a barbaric act committed on defenseless babies.

    Religion give permission for all manner of barbaric acts and this is just another example of people wanting to do horrific things in the name of religion.

    I ignorantly circumcised my sons, I was stupid and believed that it was like a dew-claw on a dog and had no use and was better removed.

    Now I know better, now I know that it is a precious body part that should never be removed for any reason.

  42. pktom64
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m certainly being picky and definitely not adding anything important to the conversation but if you’re gonna paraphrase Zola, at least Spell “J’accuse” correctly.

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s pretty rich of Dershowitz to steal the mantle of Émile Zola for what is just a rant.

      Zola’s “J’accuse!” blew the lid off the scandal in which (Jewish) Alfred Dreyfus was publicly humiliated and spent five years in solitary confinement on Devil’s Island for a treason which the military knew to have been committed by Ferdinand Esterhazy, and convicted again on more, fabricated charges.

      The only thing Dershowitz’ rant and Zola’s broadside have in common is the title (almost) and an accusation of antisemitism.

  43. Randy
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    “The problem is that it’s more painful … when you’re older.”

    Is it? I’m not aware of the evidence. I think it’s more likely that newborns don’t form memories as well, so we don’t remember as adults. But as adults, what medications might be applied to reduce the pain of circumcision, as compared to what newborns get? I think it’s likely to be much less painful.

    As for intrusive, “surprise circumcision” is always more intrusive.

  44. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    See C. Hitchens at :

    at 4:49

  45. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    To circumvent circumcision, the court has circumscribed circumcision within the circumference of Cologne under the circumstances of being an infant. As the evidence that this is anti-Semitic is purely circumstantial, Dershowitz should be more circumspect, though one certainly cannot accuse him of circumlocution.

    After circumcision, one can still circumflect the penis around the circumference of most small objects, though doing this in public may circumagitate the sensibilities of the populace, causing people in the future to circumnavigate your neighborhood.

    Who knows? If we let the Germans do this, next year they may ban circumareolar breast augmentation.

  46. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I might add that quite often describing Alan Dershowitz as overwrought is a bit like describing Shakespeare as articulate.

  47. Richard Scalper
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    They brand men like a herd of cows. “Neonatal post-traumatic stress disorder” — the recurrent American nightmare for boys. American men are such wimps to let their sons be subjected to this absurd surgery. If it were women tied down & cut, the Feminists would be howling all over the world. The male genitals are a cheap commodity. There is no argument too absurd for the circumcisers. They insult the appearance of the intact penis, claim that circumcision heals everything from body warts to HIV, and draw an illogical distinction between female & male genitals. Circumcision is the mark of a slave, not a free man.

    Top Ten Tortures Less Painful Than Circumcision 10. Get waterboarded. 9. Pull out your fingernails. 8. Eat a pile of steaming bear crap. 7. Skin yourself alive. 6. Fall into a vat of molten iron. 5. Get run over by a train. 4. Go through a sausage grinder.
    3. Saw off your legs. 2. Poke out your eyes.
    1. Go To Hell


  48. MM
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    NOT a new law, just a court decision !
    The decision bases on our constitution.

    §1 says the dignity of humans is not to be touched
    $2 says that the integrity of the body is not to be touched.

    later in $4 comes the freedom of religion.

    • MM
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      I forgot to mention the court decision was
      based on a case where the circumcision
      of a child of MUSLIMS by a DOCTOR lead to complications. So there needed to be a clarification on liability issues.

      Of course there is antisemitism in Germany, much to the regret of the majority of population,but to connect this with the court ruling is absurd.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Thank you. Your view fits that of the German citizan and immigrants I’ve met, here in the US, including students. The sensitivity is appreciated, at least by those of us who understand.

        I wonder if the 4th item on the German Constitution came about because of the Nazis’ use of humans as experimental aninmals and the tattooing enumeration of dehumanized prisoners. That, too, would make sense.

  49. Dawn Oz
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    This is a discussion today on Australia’s RN (Radio National) where a doctor working in sexually transmitted diseases interfaces with a person from the ‘no circumcision’ group. Only 12mins.

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink

      PS – just read the commentary.

  50. apucalypso
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Never mind the fact that I think religious considerations shouldn’t even play into the discussion, I recently read an article by a Jewish historian, who argued that a case can be made, based on scripture, that circumcision isn’t required for a man to be a Jew. Additionally, he mentions some quotes from the old Testament that indicate that the ritual was controversial even back then.
    For those who speak German:

  51. Hans-Peter Wheeler
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Hi, I live in Germany. There is no new law prohibiting circumcision in Germany. The constitution states that the intactness of a child`s body is a fundamental right.
    A lower court in the county ob Cologne, in a circumcision case, had ruled that circumcision is a violation of this fundamental right. The child’s welfare is more important than religious freedom.
    Doctors are now refusing to circumcise children, until the German government “untangles” this mess. It’s not a matter of antisemitism, since the government is desperately trying to find a legal way, in order to make an exemption for circumcision due to religious rites.

    • Zash
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Hi, i live in Germany too.
      Its not so easy as you think …
      Most doctors refused to circumcise long before the courts ruling. Its an internal debate for doctors and detectives ( )since 2008.
      If you read the link i postet at position 31 you can get more info why.
      The government isnt trying to make an exemption due to religious rites, they are trying to get it into the parental rights law, so everyone can muti… err … circumcise his child for whatever he wants … religious, asethetic, hygienic or whatever reasons.
      Religious freedom in germany dont belong to groups or organisations, it belongs to every individual person, and even some parents dont want to hear that, children are persons too! So the parents right of religious freedom cant override the childrens right of religious freedom and the childrens right of bodily integrity!
      But the government has to count other laws too, for example the article 3 of the german law: all humans are equal infront of the law!
      art 3.3 says: Noone may be favored or discriminated because of his gender! (shorter version)
      If the government really wants to allow a Typ 1a circumcision of boys, it must allow a Typ 1a circumcision of girls as well!
      I dont think that the cologne ruling is a mess btw, but yes, it has nothing to do with antisemitism.

      Sry for my bad english btw i learned it in school but im not using/training it in my normal life.

  52. Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Is there any evidence that the procedure is more painful when you are older? It sounds like some of that undated ‘babies don’t feel pain” crap that resulted in neonatal surgery without analgesic.

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      You could ask my ex-husband. He had it done under local anesthesia, only, even assisting the surgeon, during the procedure, performed in a treatment room in the office. The surgeon used chromic cat gut for suture, causing excessive and prolonged inflammation which led to scarring, including around the severed nerve endings. I don’t recall neonates needing or getting sutures. I do know, from surgical experience, that inflammation due to trauma, including surgery, seems exaggerated during young and middle adulthood compared with the very young and very old, especially when it comes to the extremities.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Asking your ex would be a waste of time, without having the ability to ask babies who have undergone the procedure.

        Painful experiences during developing periods can have critical and long term impact on the brain. And ignoring the cries of a baby is a lot easier than the loud complaints of a whiny adult.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          So, you can’t ask a baby, but you speak for babies as though you could, did, and know exactly what they have gone through. Interesting.

          • Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            the evidence shows they experience pain. The evidence show that permanent behavioural and anatomical changes. Religious stupidity can’t make those findings go away.

            • Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

              Please provide at least one of the peer reviewed, published, scientific articles backing up your claim.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                As a scientist, I find nothing more annoying than people like you who wax authoritatively without knowing anything.

                Biol Neonate 2000;77:69–82
                Adv Neonatal Care. 2002 Oct;2(5):233-44; quiz 245-7.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                Browser results:
                “Your search – Biol Neonate 2000;77:69–82 Adv Neonatal Care. 2002 Oct;2(5):233-44; quiz 245-7. – did not match any documents.”

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                holy shit, you can’t even find a paper with directions

  53. exsumper
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    It is a gross calumny to suggest that this ruling was prompted by German anti-semitism. That is a stick that they’ve been beaten with for far too long. Most young Germans I’ve met, are heartily sick of being unjustly tarred with the sins of their grandfathers; who incidently are mostly dead now. The ruling applies to all faiths.

    I was most disappointed to see you adopt an accomodationist stance, in suggesting that circumcision was medically justified as a measure to prevent Aids and Papilloma virus?

    In a truly rational world medically unjustified circumcisions would be banned, and the doctors who carried out such procedures would be struck off and denounced as the quacks they are.

    You should condemn Alan Dershowitz for his unjustified and grossly insulting attack on the German people and their legal system.

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      You might want to keep reading through the comment section…

  54. germanguy
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    This ban is definitely not antisemitic! If you read the court ruling, it is a dispassionate reading of German law and constitution, which defines any medical procedure as assault unless the patient consents. As there are no immediate medical benefits to circumcision (all the potential benefits are for sexually active adults, and advocated by WHO for certain African countries with high HIV rate and lacking knowledge of HIV prevention).
    If you supporters of the ban, among them many doctors and pediatricians, they also argue with the law and with the interest of the child.
    There are two important human rights in the German constitution, freedom of religion (the parent’s, not the child’s obviously, if circumcision is legal) and the right of everyone, especially children of bodily integrity. There is a conflict betweens these two values in case of involuntary circumcision of children, and the brave judge in Cologne picked the right side. The antisemitism analogy is just ingenueous and stupid.

    Just to give you a picture of the mindset of opponents of the ban, read this German article and watch the video: (in German, google translate works well for it)
    To give you a summary: A German Jewish doctor, member of the German Ethics Council, consisting of (hopefully) competent experts elected by our Government to discuss the ban, shows a short snippet of a circumcision video at the meeting of this Ethics council, to show them how it is performed and that its just no problem at all, piece of cake. What he does not tell everyone, is how the original video continues. Quote from the article with googletranslate:

    “Nobody smiles.
    With the end of his section, the video is not yet finished. Men are more around the baby. Now viewers can see how the drops of blood are “removed” as Latasch had said in his statement to the Ethics Board. One of the men grabs a glass and takes a sip of wine in the mouth. Then he bends down to Jacob, who is still lying there naked. With his face is the man between Jacobs legs, touching the penis of the child with his mouth and sucks the blood from the wound. It is a ritual of the ultra-Orthodox. For them, it is to be circumcised, even if that child has been infected with herpes. Some suffered as a result of the infection permanent brain damage. Others died. As mayor of New York a few years ago, the rabbi asked to give up this ritual, he had little success: This type of pruning is safe and would remain in place, he was told.”

    Here’s the original, disgusting video:

    So an unbiased local judge ruling in favor of a child’s right of bodily integrity is an antisemite, but this guy is deemed professionally and morally competent (by our government) to discuss and advise our Governemnt?

    • Explicit Atheist
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      The rabbis who claim the circumcision should not be regulated to ensure hygiene and pain control are clearly wrong and should be ignored. No religious beliefs or practices can posiibly trump the welfare of children and not following proper medical standards for hygiene and pain control clearly endangers the children.

      Legally blocking the circumcision of children should likewise require evidence that circumcisions which comply with medical hygiene and pain control standards undermine the welfare of children. Without a consensus among the experts that circumcisionS do more harm than good overall, I don’t see a proper justification for any judge to rule that circumcisions be legally blocked.

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Wow, that was far simpler, faster, and perhaps could also be called less invasive than what I’ve seen in medical settings! It wasn’t like an adult circumcision, at all. The baby fell right back to sleep within a minute or so, too. Yes, he awoke and cried when the man holding him disturbed his nap with singing, but then, he went back to sleep and slept through more of that, too.

      What shocked me, LOL, was the bare hands. I’m so used to surgical gloves! And disposable ones, too. When I was young, 15 or so, I had a job washing, drying, powdering, folding, and autoclaving surgical gloves…. They weren’t so disposable, then.

      I agree that no one should be touching lips to the fresh wound (just a few drops of blood, not even 1 cc, from what I saw). The orthodox Jews I have met, all around the US, no longer allow that — it’s old school. I’ve heard of others who insist on it, and their mohels are tested for any sign of transmissible virus frequently, besides the fact that they are the ones living in relatively closed communities.

      For the first six months of life, babies’ immunities are bolstered by immune complexes floating around in their blood, received while in the womb, from their mothers, whose immune systems are no longer naive. With breast feeding, more such complexes are transferred. As long as the mother isn’t infected with and transferring contagious viruses in her milk (like HIV can be transferred), the baby is pretty safe from common microbes.

      • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if the lips-with-wine-to-wound part of the ritual (having originated so long before germ theory, etc.) uses the alcohol in wine as an antiseptic and anesthetic, and the lips for topical application of antibodies and such. I’ve always heard such of dog saliva… Never bothered to look it up, I confess…

  55. Explicit Atheist
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    There are two possible valid reasons to legally block circumcisions (rather than regulate it as a medical procedure similar to the way other equivalent minor surgery is, or arguably should be, regulated).

    1) Normal function is lost (a.k.a. protecting “bodily integrity”).
    2) The risks to health outweigh the health benefits overall.

    These are both determinations that can only be made by survey and demographic studies (not personal anecdotes) that objectively measure and compare relevant outcomes between circumcised and uncircumcised boys and men. I search in vain for a consensus among the experts that either 1) or 2) is true. Instead, what I find is significant evidence that both 1 ) and 2) could be false. Most people here appear to argue for 1), but substantial evidence for 1) is particularly difficult to find and is not cited by anyone here.

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      For your 1) The key evidence is the Taylor study of rhe foreskin’s structure, and the Sorrells et al. study of its sensitivity. (Beware of imitations: Masters & Johnston, Payne and Bleustein ignored the foreskin.) (And admittedly anecdotal but collected over centuries evidence that the function of the foreskin is erogenous.
      2) These have never been properly measured, and certainly not by the recent AAP policy.
      But you seem to be missing 3) Regardless of 1. and 2. people have a right to determine for themselves what normal, healthy, non-reenewing parts of their own bodies may be cut off them. I left off funcational here, because the earlobe, for example, has no known function. Would it be legitimate for parents to cut off a baby’s earlobe/s in the name of religion or any other non-rational excuse?

    • germanguy
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:03 am | Permalink

      to 1):

      Normal function does not have to be altered to argue with a violation of bodily integrity. Any irreversible modification of one’s body without consent is such a violation.

  56. barael
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, it’s all those sexually active toddlers who are responsible for transmitting HIV. Therefore suspending their human right to bodily autonomy is completely justified.

    • Explicit Atheist
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Governments are obliged to respect freedom of conscience and therefore they should not make a religious practice illegal only because the belief behind the practice lacks justification in evidence. To make a religious practice illegal requires good evidence that the practice is objectively harmful.

      • Zash
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Its the oppsite way then your talking.
        If someone wants to practice a religious ritual he/she must prove good evidence that this ritual isnt harmful.
        Otherwise all rituals/actions would be allowed until someone prove that its bad!
        I think you dont really understand whats bodily integrity means in germany. Its not only if the funcion is lost, if it were that the circumcisions of women in all forms would be allowed. What funcion would get lost to circumcise a girl/woman ? Then you must cut the vagina of a woman that function is beeing lost and not “only” the labia or clitoris! What function has the labia or clitoris ? (FUNCTION) If sexual pleasure is a function for you then the foreskin with +-20000 nerve endings has a sexual pleasure function too!
        Bodily integrity is a main term in germany, you cant get a scissor and run on the street and cut the hair of somone who walkes there … that is falling under bodily integrity in germany too. All where you lose body substance is falling under bodily integrity in germany, without exceptions!
        And with the health benefits outweighting the health risks its the same way, if someone is wanting to circumcise he/she must prove that it outweights it, not the other way!
        If you had read the link i postet under position 31 you could see that for our doctors here in germany the benefits are not outweighting the risks.
        In germany its not about if it is or is not harming bodily integrity (it is thats clear for us, body substance is lost) its the question if parents can give consent for their child for this partial-amputation.

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          There is a common misconception that cutting the foreskin — and those nerve endings you mentioned — means that the nerves attached to those endings are gone. Indeed, this is no more true than cutting the end off a piece of string makes the entire string, no matter how long it is, disappear or die off. The endings which concern so many are dendritic branches off the cell body, and that cell body is far closer to the spine. You have to kill or cut away the cell body to guarantee loss of sensation. Babies are so plastic, so busy growing and remodeling everything, even their bones, that they have no trouble regrowing the specialized structures at the new (cut) ends of the dendrites, so that sensation still carries, just from a slightly different location: the shaft of the penis, where the cut was made.

          • Zash
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            If that is true, whats the problem to cut little baby girls ?
            If a Baby is so plastic, so busy growing and remodeling everything, even their bones … bla bla bla … the sensation still carries at a slightly different location, closer to the body of the baby girl, where the cut was made.
            Next time think if your argument, and that are nearly all arguments for circumcision, is counting for girls too!
            On women its counting for lower her sexual sensation but on men its not ?
            In germany we call that double standard and its not accepted here anymore!

            • Explicit Atheist
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

              I don’t know what he is talking about regarding babies being “plastic” and I also don’t know what you are talking about regarding male circumcision interfering with sexual function. The consensus within the medical communities world- wode as I understand it is that female circumcision significantly impairs sexual function while male circumcision does not (for either the male or the female).

              • Zash
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

                Your not completly right.
                The consensus within the medical communities world- wode as I understand it is that female circumcision significantly impairs sexual function.
                Thats right, but its no medical consensus that male circumcisio is not.
                If you would finally read the link i postet we could avoid useless discussions on this topic. Pls read:


                Thats not someones opinion on circumcision from somewhere irrelevant on the world, if you want to talk about circumcision and the decissions in germany youve to read that, because its the opinion from the child-docs here in germany.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

                Forces applied to tissues result in change of tissue conformation, and the change is considered either elastic or plastic. Just like with a rubber band, elastic change is temporary, bouncing back to original conformation. Plastic change results in permanent deformation — for better or worse. Plastic also suggests the ability to change and adapt after damage, to maximize function. See also “neuroplasticity” — and try to side step the websites filled with nonscientific woo, as you go.

            • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

              Female genital mutilation is not done on neonates. Female anatomy puts the damage on thicker tissue, causing more tissue damage. The location is outside the vagina, while the urethra is inside, so urine running over the open wounds would cause additional pain, inflammation, swelling, and based on the anatomy, I suspect swollen-closure of intertriginous spaces increasing the risks of fungal and bacterial infections. The penis, in comparison, is “right out there”, as it were. Now, if you want to argue Muslim males being circumcised later in age, I would have to ask, does the world-wide increase in Muslim population through birth, in excess of the rates of increase of other religious groups, suggest any loss of function to you? Including the function of pleasure?

        • Explicit Atheist
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          To start with a general ban on all religious rituals, and then require that each religious ritual be approved by government, is to give government authoritarian power and to demote freedom of conscience to a privilege instead of a civil right.

          There is international consensus within the medical communities that female genital cutting as commonly practiced 1) has zero benefits and 2) significantly interferes with sexual function. The same World Health Organization that encourages male circumcision says this about female genital cutting “strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.”.

          • Zash
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            There is no ban for all religious rituals in germany, but every ritual has to operate in the borders of the main law of germany.
            Rituals have no autorization to nullify other main laws, like the law for bodily integrity!

            Really … tho WHO … lets see:

            In the book on Traditions that affect the health of women and children, which was published by the World Health Organization in 1979 it says:

            With regard to the type of female circumcision which involves removal of the prepuce of the clitoris, which is similar to male circumcision, no harmful health effects have been noted.

            So much for your WHO, if it wouldnt change her statements like other people their socks i could perhaps believe them in this matter.

            Zero benefits ?

            Some “educated” doctors see that different:

            Female circumcision has not been prescribed for no reason, rather there is wisdom behind it and it brings many benefits.

            Mentioning some of these benefits, Dr. Haamid al-Ghawaabi says:

            The secretions of the labia minora accumulate in uncircumcised women and turn rancid, so they develop an unpleasant odour which may lead to infections of the vagina or urethra. I have seen many cases of sickness caused by the lack of circumcision.

            Another benefit of circumcision is that it prevents stimulation of the clitoris which makes it grow large in such a manner that it causes pain.

            Circumcision prevents spasms of the clitoris which are a kind of inflammation.

            So think twice who you trust and who not!

            • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

              Seems I would have heard of this, if it were true. I am both a woman and a physician, with sexual education, and I do mean actual education, starting in my teens. Do you have peer reviewed, published, scientific literature to support these claims recommending amputation of the clitoris and labia? This, I’d like to see.

              • Zash
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

                Thats stupid what the doc is saying of course … im not for circumcising of girls, but not for boys too!
                I just wanted to make clear that everyone can say something to justify themself.

            • Explicit Atheist
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

              That sounds like benefits for particular atypical conditions, not benefits that generally apply to females, particularly in the last two scenarios. I have never heard of spasms being called a type of infection, maybe there is an infection that contributes to spasms? The foreskin appears to provide a path for some infections which is considered to likely be a general property of foreskins. Maybe one day doctors will be able to assign different risks to different males but for now it is a risk for males generally rather than a condition that is identified only later in life.

              • Explicit Atheist
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

                Zash wrote “Thats stupid what the doc is saying of course … im not for circumcising of girls, but not for boys too!
                I just wanted to make clear that everyone can say something to justify themself.”

                Which is why we need consensus opinions from the experts, not outlier opinions of particular doctors or small groups of doctors. That all opinions are not equal and some doctor’s judgements on some questions are unreliable is not a good reason to disregard the expert consensus entirely.

              • Zash
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                Explicit Atheist wrote “Which is why we need consensus opinions from the experts, not outlier opinions of particular doctors or small groups of doctors. That all opinions are not equal and some doctor’s judgements on some questions are unreliable is not a good reason to disregard the expert consensus entirely.”

                That would be nice if we could get a consensus of the experts entirely, but that is fantasy in my eyes.
                My first question is: what is an expert ?
                Is an african or islamic human not an expert if he/she circumcised hundreds or thousends of little girls ? Is a human only an expert if his ethics is accepted by the majority of other humans ?
                In the case of girls circumcison, do you think well ever get consensus of all the “experts” ? I dont think so, its forbidden in (nearly?) all the world, but in some african and islamic cultures its happing today.
                I dont think its different for the boys, well never get the consensus from all of this “experts”.
                BTW, germany dont need all the consensus … why should it ? As far as i know germany is a sovereign state, if here the most people, docs and politicans are for regulating or banning circumcision itll be this way.
                Sweden has his own law that is regulating circumcision, for girls AND for boys, google it if you dont believe me.
                Norway is trying to ban it.
                Sweden wants to ban it now too.
                Denmark is investigating the matter right now.
                All sovereign states, i dont believe that we need a consensus with all “experts” in the world to ban circumcision, why should we ?

            • Filippo
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

              Do you agree that amputating the clitoris – female genital mutilation – is effectively analogous to amputating the glans of the penis?

              Ah, Islam – “submission.”

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Did you miss the part about potentially fatal urinary tract infections in neonates? If so, keep reading. It’s buried in the comment section, but it’s worth finding.

      • Zash
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Did you miss to read the statement from the german child-docs ?

        Point 5:

        But what about the health advantages that the advocates of circumcision keep invoking? The answer is surprisingly clear: There is no credible evidence for any health advantages of circumcision! Every study that tried to establish such advantages in the past has meanwhile been falsified.

        If you think all other medical organisation in the world are wrong and only your multi billion dollar circumcision industry in the us is right its your choice, but dont expect that others believe that too 😉

        • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

          Your mind is made up, so we’re done.

          • mark d.
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

            Yesterday I thought this individual was just trolling. But the sheer desperation of the obstruction and distraction apparent in these posts makes me think more of actual illness. I hope the individual has friends. Know what I’m saying?

            • Zash
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

              Wow, insults … no arguments anymore ?

              • mark d.
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

                It wasn’t an insult. It was coded advice. Something is wrong. It’s painful to see.

              • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                “Coded advice.” Is that like manipulation? Or more like bullying? It appears you were trying to humiliate and intimidate me into shutting up. Honestly, you’d do a better job if you only provided scientific evidence to support your opinion. If your evidence were sufficiently convincing, I’d reconsider my position. Of that, that’s how scientific and rational minds work.

              • mark d.
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

                I don’t have any further comment.

            • Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

              LOL! What a childish maneuver you just employed. Well, it’s out there, now, dude.

              • whyevolutionistrue
                Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

                This is the 65th comment you’ve made on the thread; time to consider hanging it up, please. I don’t like commenters taking up more than 20% of a thread and this is over the limit.

          • Explicit Atheist
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            The German Association for Pediatric Surgery decided in 2008 against male circumcision for non-medical reasons. They instructed their members not to circumcise any male absent medical evidence that it is needed for that individual.

        • Explicit Atheist
          Posted September 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          Regarding the 2008 German Association for Pediatric Surgery decision against male circumcision, it is my impression that results of studies published over the last four years have tended towards being more favorable for male circumcision. I would not be surprised if the German Association for Pediatric Surgery were to one day revise their 2008 decision against male circumcision to express a more neutral or nuanced perspective on this issue.

          • Zash
            Posted September 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, could be, but most likely not.
            Whatever, if such a high law is touched (art. 2.2 of our basic law: Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity. Freedom of the person shall be inviolable. These rights may be interfered with only pursuant to a law.) there wont be double standard. If Type 1a circumcisions will be allowed through a parental law then itll be for all children, boys and girls.

            If our government tries to make a new law to allow Typ 1a circumcisions only for boys our judges of the Federal Constitutional Court will laugh their ass off and reject it!
            Ok, perhaps not this way, thats my interpretation 😉

            • Explicit Atheist
              Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

              Gender equity would be legally relevant if the outcomes were the same for both genders.

              • Posted September 16, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

                What the outcomes are depend on how much and what is cut. Female genital cutting doesn’t have to involve the clitoris at all. Commonly the clitoral hood, the embryological analogue of the foreskin (though not as richly innervated).

                Yet the laws on FGC don’t concern themselves with outcomes – they pretty uniformly outlaw ANY non-therapeutic genital cutting of females.

  57. Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    On Tuesday, a panel of child-protection leaders presented the Bundestag with a petition signed by many doctors calling for the law to be upheld. Most of the presentation was in German, but one eloquent speaker, Eran Sadeh, from Israel, spoke in English.

    (His Hebrew words at the end mean “I hereby call Jews in Israel and anywhere in the world: learn about the advantages of an intact penis, learn about the disadvantages of a cut penis, and join the unstoppable movement of tens of thousands of Jews all over the world who welcome their sons to the world without violating their bodily integrity, without hurting them, and without putting them at risk. There ends a year and its maledictions and a new one begins with its blessings. Happy New Year”)

    He surely gives the lie to the claim that the movement against circumcision is antisemitic (of course you can always fall back on “self-hating”).

    Internationally, there are some 80 known celebrants of Brit Shalom, non-surgical naming ceremonies, more than 40 of them rabbis, one of the rabbis a professor of religious studies, in 30 US states and several other countries including Israel.

  58. Posted September 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    You also mention HPV. The main evidence that circumcision has any effect on this is a meta-analysis by Xavier Castellsagué et al. of seven studies in five countries, two each in Spain and Colombia, one each in Brazil, Thailand, and the Philippines. Only in the Philippines is circumcision prevalent, so demographic factors could be the real issue.

    None of the studies taken alone found any signficiant difference in HPV between circumcised and non-circumcised men. Only by pooling the studies could Castellsagué et al. find any effect, and that a weak one: the association between circumcision status and HPV status rests on
    1 circumcised man in Brazil who didn’t have HPV
    1 circumcised man in Colombia who didn’t have HPV
    3 circumcised men in Spain who didn’t have HPV
    nobody in Thailand, and
    1 intact man in the Philippines who did have HPV.

    And this association is essential to their thesis, because nowhere is the direct association between circumcision status and cervical cancer significant (except in a high-risk subgroup of men – why the men? – with multiple partners, early sexual debut and the use of prostitutes, that seems to have been devised on an ad-hoc basis – data-mining?)

  59. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Are we done yet? Has anybody changed their minds? I see the same people posting again and again here, which is a sign that things are winding down. If you’ve posted more than ten times, I urge you to move on. PLEASE!

    • Posted September 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Well, this is the first comment I am posting, and (parts of) the thread changed my view on at least one important related issue: I now realize that the often cited statement, that circumcision is correlated with low incidence of HIV and/or HPV, is based on rather dubious evidence.

      • Steve in Oakland
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        I learned that people like Dershowitz can do good things [like his Innocence Project] but still be blinded by religious bigotry and hatred, in this case playing the anti-semite card right out of the gate.

        • Posted September 16, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

          That’s essentially my take on Dershowitz as well. Harvard lawyer without a point, in this case.

          • mark d.
            Posted September 16, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

            Can we please not ignore the fact that Dershowitz is an energetic liar for Israel? To hear and read him on the world’s second most destructive rogue state, there’s not a thing Israel ever did that wasn’t just, proportionate and lawful; a person Israel ever killed who didn’t fully deserve their own murder; or a country ever attacked by Israel that wasn’t asking for it…

            Essentially, Dershowitz is a lobbyist — and, as such, a puke who lies for a cause. The article at the top of this thread — sub-rational, misleading, ill-informed, dishonest, exaggerated, rabble-rousing — is pretty standard Dershowitz slop.

  60. jmsteixner
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    This is my first post and I admit to only having skimmed the thread so I may be repeating stuff that has been said, but there’s a couple of points to note:

    1) As others have noted, we’re talking about a court decision, not a new law. Furthermore, Germany has a Civil Law system, in which precedents don’t carry the same force as in a Common Law setup. I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the next time a similar case is brought to court, it could still be decided in the opposite way until and unless there is either a Constitutional Court decision or a more explicit law to clarify the issue. The decision does demonstrate that there’s at least *a* potential interpretation of existing laws under which infant circumcission is illegal, and might thus deter some parents (and, maybe more effectively, doctors) if they’re unwilling to carry the case to the Constitutional Court.

    2) The case that was brought to court was about a Muslim family, not a Jewish one, and as someone who’se been following the ensuing debate in the German media to some extent, I testify that whatever amount of portraying the “Other” as inherently and irredeemably barbaric has been going on was almost exclusively directed at Muslims, and the key witnesses that were handed around in the media saying they have been circumcised and feel mutilated were ex-Muslims.

    That said, I do feel that the entire debate displays a fair amount of cultural chauvinism. Not that I think infant circumcission is worthy of protection – in an ideal world, nobody would have their genitals or any other body part irreversibly transformed without informed consent absent very good medical reasons, and I myself am glad not to be circumcised. “But that’s what’s normal in our society/social group” isn’t a good enough argument. “People will find it gross if you don’t do it” (as seems to be a common argument by proponents of circumcission in the US, exemplified upthread) isn’t either. But neither the court’s ruling, nor the subsequent debate, were about surgical alterations with no other purpose than fitting an arbitrary social norm in *general*. It’s only about alterations with the purpose of fitting a social norm that happens to be held by a minority. Right as we speak, and as prominent voices bring up the “barbarism” of the Turkish ethnic community in Germany for practicing infant circumcission, intersexual babies (with “ambiguous genitals”) *routinely* have their genitals amputated. There isn’t any other way to call it, the procedure involved typically entails cutting off the dangling parts as to produce something that from the outside loosely resembles female genitals. Yes, the numbers are small, but the procedure is orders of magnitude more barbaric by any objective standard I can imagine, so if we want to be serious about “social norms are not a good enough reason to mutilate kids”, as opposed to “*their* social norms are not a good enough reason to mutilate kids”, we have to include it in the debate.

    Ironically, because those who’ve been most vocal against circumcission have mostly argued on a no-special-treatments-for-religion basis, restricting our attention to one but not the other is arguably a case of giving religion special treatment. If we say, as I think we should ultimately, that social conventions about how people’s genitals should look like are not a good enough reason to cut them up, this should hold irrespectively of whether those conventions’ rationalisations involve explicit references to supernatural entities.

    • mark d.
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      > intersexual babies (with “ambiguous
      > genitals”) *routinely* have their genitals
      > amputated.

      That point is disingenuous, and plainly an attempt to muddy the water. The issue of non-consensual surgical modification of ‘intersexed’ babies is an exceedingly hot one within medical and activist circles known to me: it certain is no longer considered ‘routine’ to intervene surgically. In fact, the movement against ‘automatic’ intervention is, as far as I can see, rather *stronger* in regard to ‘intersex’ than in regard to circumcision — because *the medical and moral issues aren’t clouded by the identity politics of a powerful lobby*.

      Cleft palate? Then operate. Normal genitals? You need consent. Intersexed genitals? You still need consent. The ‘faith of your fathers’ need not be consulted in any of those cases.

      • jmsteixner
        Posted September 16, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        “Cleft palate? Then operate. Normal genitals? You need consent. Intersexed genitals? You still need consent.”

        That’s exactly how I wish it were, as I have stated. But while we are not there yet, I am of the opinion that an intervention that frequently involves amputating large parts of a childs genitals should be given priority. And while my understanding of the current situation in Germany / Central Europe is that the parents aren’t any longer *pressurised* by the medical establishment to have an intersex child’s genitals modified, they will still get the procedure done if they so decide, and while I don’t have any good numbers, my impression was that it is performed more often than not. If you want to claim that we’re “already there” with respect to intersexed genitals making an exclusive focus on circumcision rational, it would have to be the case that “adjustments” for non-medical reasons do not happen at all anymore, even at the explicit request of the parents. This seems wrong.

        The discussion in this thread, though, isn’t about whether circumcision is good or bad, on which we agree, but rather, as per the blog post: “could there be any truth in his claim that the ban partly reflects anti-Semitism?” The way the issue is being treated, and which parallel scenarios are or are not included in the discussion, would seem to be relevant to that question. Yes, circumcision is bad, but at the same time, yes, the debate as it has been unrolling in the German media over the last few months *also* “partly reflects” cultural chauvinism (though, I would claim, more prominently Islamophobia than Anti-Semitism).

        “The ‘faith of your fathers’ need not be consulted in any of those cases.”
        Agreed – but this should hold whether the faith of the fathers makes the proposition that this is what you need in order to enter a covenant with an imaginary being, or that you need to be either clearly male or clearly female to be a normal human being. Neither is a good enough reason, but in the actual debate that is going on in German-speaking media (and in the wording of the court ruling itself), only one is questioned, coincidentally also the one that is strongly associated with certain ethnic minorities while the one that is implicitly shared by majority members virtually gets a free pass.

  61. Peter Beattie
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Overwrought? As with apparently anything to do with Judaism and/or Israel, Dershowitz is an unhinged bully. Literally the only argument he uses in his vile, hateful rant is the one about circumcision having health benefits. This argument, as even a little research on Wikepedia would have told him, is bogus as well as completely irrelevant, since the German court’s decision was about “religiously motivated” circumcisions. If you are having your 8-day-old circumcised because you want to follow some ‘religious’ custom, then that has precisely nothing to do with health considerations.

    To add idiocy to injury, he then even uses that spurious “scientific” evidence in an argument from authority: ‘this study says X, so who are you to argue with that?’ It is not even ironic that, in the same breath, he points to Nazi use of ‘authoritative science’ as being of unspeakable evil.

    And what is up with the frothing-at-the-mouth denunciations of Germany and Norway and his completely nutty exhortation that it should be left to “countries with cleaner hands” to further the cause of human rights—he means his own country, of course, which arguably got even closer to the goal of exterminating an entire race of people who were just in the way of the Exceptional and Chosen People.

    Finally, he has the gall to talk about “the so-called rights of young children not to be circumcised”. You know what, Mr Dershowitz, help yourself to a nice can of Go Fuck Yourself. To contemptuously dismiss the rights of children to bodily integrity because your favourite delusions are just so much more worthy of your attention is a prime example of religiously perverted and disgustingly immoral thinking.

  62. Posted September 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Lots of comments already, but maybe someone will read this. Most of the valid points have been made already.

    I’ve lived in Germany for almost 30 years and have followed this debate closely. The opposition to circumcision has nothing at all to do with anti-Semitism. On the contrary, the fear of being labelled anti-Semitic has suppressed it in the past. However, it is a fact that any criticism of Jews or Israel or anything related is often immediately objected to on the grounds that, if it comes from a German, it must be anti-Semitic.

    Start at a barbaric crime. The guilty person happens to be Jewish and claims that he can’t get a fair trial in a German court, for historical reasons, and/or wants a reduced sentence because of the Holocaust. Cannibalism? Rape? Armed robbery? Most people would say that he is wacko. Tax evasion? Corruption? Where does one draw the line? Cutting pieces of his son’s penis off?

    As many have pointed out, if any sect or cult did this, or cut off earlobes or whatever, opposition would be massive and the people would get arrested.

  63. Eifelginster
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Activists File Complaint Against § 1631d BGB

    December 2013 — German intactivist movement tries to tackle circumcision law. Since december 2012 a circumcision law (§ 1631d BGB) principally allows parents to circumcize their son as desired. Now activists against HGM or any ritual mutilation (i. e. FGM and MGM) have written a petition to the German Supreme Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and demand that the § 1631d BGB is declared as not being in accordance with the German constitution. Instead they call for an end of all circumcisions done without medical necessity.

    27. Dezember 2013
    an das

    Beschwerde gegen das Bundesgesetz über den Umfang der Personensorge bei einer Beschneidung des männlichen Kindes

    Die Beschwerdeführer legen daher gegen dieses Gesetz Beschwerde ein und beantragen durch eine einstweilige Anordnung nach § 32 Abs. 1 BVerfGG diese Vorschrift sofort außer Kraft zu setzen, um alle medizinisch nicht erforderlichen Beschneidungen, insbesondere Rituale wie Metzitzah B’Peh, pria und Praktiken wie im folgenden Link beschrieben, die sicherlich mit einer Zirkumzision lege artis nicht zu vereinbaren sind, trotzdem aber durchgeführt werden, zu verbieten bis das hohe Gericht über die Verfassungsbeschwerde entschieden hat.

    Die Beschwerdeführer beantragen zudem, die nicht medizinisch indizierte MGM an nicht einwilligungs- und urteilsfähigen Jungen auf die Liste der Auslandsstraftaten zu setzen, um sowohl Beschneidungstourismus zu verhindern als auch die gegebenenfalls erforderliche Strafverfolgung ortsunabhängig zu gewährleisten.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Ok, so there are at least two things the two antagonists have in common, circumstances and aversion to pork.

  64. Eifelginster
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Europa 25 Jahre nach dem First International Symposium on Circumcision. Genital Intactness statt Beschneidung auf Kinderwunsch

    Vortragsskript von Edward von Roy
    Köln 14. Februar 2014

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