BERLIN (Reuters) - An unnamed doctor in Germany has filed charges against a rabbi for performing ritual circumcisions on infant boys, a prosecutor said on Wednesday, two months after a court in Cologne angered Jews and Muslims by banning the practice.
In a move likely to compound Jewish leaders’ fears that the Jewish way of life in Germany is under threat, a doctor in the German state of Hesse filed a charge against David Goldberg, a Jewish spiritual leader in the Bavarian town of Hof.
The office of Gerhard Schmitt, the local chief public prosecutor, will review the charges and decide whether to open a case against the rabbi. Schmitt said it was too early to say whether the case had merit or not.
“Charges have been filed but no investigation is yet underway,” Schmitt said, refusing to reveal who filed the charges, citing standard legal practice. “It really has to be examined in detail - this is a very, very complex issue.”
The complaint comes after judges in the western city of Cologne banned the practice on June 26, triggering a fiery public debate and a parliamentary resolution calling for a law formally legalizing religious circumcision to be approved.
“This criminal complaint is an attack not only on one rabbi but against the entire Jewish people,” Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, two officials with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, said in a statement.
German politicians have overwhelmingly condemned the earlier court ruling, underscoring sensitivity about any suggestion of intolerance in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.
“We cannot put Germany’s reputation as a land of religious tolerance at risk,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday while travelling in Lichtenstein. “Jewish and Muslim traditions must not be restricted by legal uncertainties.”
If passed, a new law would overrule the decision of the Cologne court and legalize religious circumcision.
Lawmakers met the chief rabbi for Israel’s Ashkenazi Jews, Yona Metzger, this week to discuss the furor.
Goldberg, who hails from Israel but has lived in Germany for the past 20 years, told Reuters he had not performed the ritual in Germany since the Cologne court reached its decision in June, but said this was due to low demand for his services rather than apprehension over legal uncertainties.
Goldberg said he has performed more than 4,000 circumcisions in his lifetime - none of which resulted in complications.
“I’m hoping for a law to be passed that permits everything again,” said Goldberg. “Then this will all be over.”
The Cologne court that ruled in the earlier case did so after a Muslim boy suffered bleeding after being circumcised.
Editing by Andrew Osborn