Austrian province suspends religious circumcision

By Jamie Michaels, July 25, 2012

The governor of Vorarlberg, the westernmost federal state in Austria, has told hospitals in the province to suspend religious circumcisions until the legal situation is clarified.

Markus Wallner’s instruction came in the wake of a German regional court ruling last month that the practice amounted to causing criminal bodily harm. The judge reached the verdict in the case of a young Muslim boy who suffered medical complications following a ritual circumcision.

Mr Wallner referred to his own instruction to Vorarlberg doctors as “precedence-setting judgement”.

The move will not affect religious circumcisions performed outside Vorarlberg. Muslims will be most affected by the decision, since they make up 8.4 per cent of the province’s population.

Last week, two hospitals in Switzerland, the Zurich University Children’s Hospital and the northern St Gall teaching hospital, also announced that they were delaying religious circumcision until further notice.

The Bundesverfassungsgericht, Berlin’s Federal Constitutional Court, has yet to rule on whether ritual circumcision is protected under the principle of religious freedom in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has claimed that Germany would become “a laughing stock” if it were not to overturn the ruling.

Last updated: 10:51am, July 25 2012