We’ve previously discussed a German judge forbidding the circumcision of minors. Now, a Norwegian non Jew/Muslim is telling those major world religions how to practice their faith. From the Haaretz story:

Norway’s ombudsman for children’s rights has proposed that Jews and Muslims replace male circumcision with a symbolic, nonsurgical ritual. Dr. Anne Lindboe told the newspaper Vart Land last month that circumcising boys was a violation of their right to decide over their own body. “Muslim and Jewish children are entitled to the same protection as all other children,” Lindboe said, adding that the practice caused unnecessary pain and was medically unbeneficial. Lindboe, a pediatrician, was appointed ombudsman in June. Her predecessor, Reidar Hjermann, proposed setting 15 as the minimum age for circumcision. According to Jewish religious law, Jewish babies must be circumcised when they are eight days old.

First, circumcision after the start of puberty is far more risky and complicated than infant circumcision. But more fundamentally, religious liberty is one of the world’s most important freedoms. For you secularists who don’t care, it seems to me that means that you only care about liberties you want for yourselves–which isn’t freedom at all.

But if we believe that religious liberty is fundamental–it is, after all, a core part of the Universal Declaration on Human rights–then Jews and Muslims have a right to circumcise their children. Indeed, it is a religious imperative. Here’s the Jewish perspective. From, “The Sacred Rite of Circumcision,” by David P. Goldman:

To say that life is sacred means in plain English that our lives belong not to us, but to God, so that it is not within our purview to stifle newborns or expose our senile grandmothers. We make something sacred by giving it to God and receiving it back from him, as Abraham gave and received his son Isaac. Circumcision of Jewish infants reenacts Abraham’s sacrifice: The infant boy is given to God and enters into covenant with God, by which we affirm the sanctity of his life.

That is the origin of the sanctity of life in human history. The Jewish people have upheld it for nearly 4,000 years…

God’s love for Abraham extends to his descendants, and circumcision denotes the transformation of Jewish flesh to a holy vessel for God’s presence in the world. As theologian Michael Wyschogrod wrote in The Body of Faith: God and the People Israel:

The God of Israel confirms man as he created him to live in the material cosmos. … There is a requirement for the sanctification of human existence in all of its aspects. Israel’s symbol of the covenant is circumcision, a searing of the covenant into the flesh of Israel and not only, or perhaps not even primarily, into its spirit. And that is why God’s election is of a carnal people. By electing the seed of Abraham, God creates a people that is in his service in the totality of its human being and not just in its moral and spiritual existence.

It doesn’t matter whether the Norway ombudsman or any of us agree. Circumcision is a sacred duty for Jews, a rite that brings the infant into the community. I assume the same is true for Muslims. In the name of freedom, government must leave it alone.

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Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC